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U.S.-Saudi agreement UPSC NOTE

 Evolving relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia 

  • Over eight decades of eventful ties between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have had their ups and downs — from the oil embargo of 1973 to the Jamal Khashoggi assassination in 2018

  • However, two images of this relationship remain iconic: the first is of the meeting between the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Al-Saud in 1945 aboard a U.S. cruiser beginning seven decades of an unbroken bilateral bromance. 

  • It was underpinned by an understated but seminal “oil-for-security” symbiosis

  • The second iconic frame is the fist-bump of July 15, 2022 in Riyadh between U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), symbolising a more equal and largely transactional partnership.

  • Now, Riyadh and Washington are on the verge of a new and enhanced relationship, tentatively titled Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA)

Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) and its potential implications 

  • The SAA could have three interlinked components: bilateral, regional and global

  • At a bilateral level, it would codify the current implicit bilateral alliance into a strategic defence pact modelled on the U.S.-Japan treaty committing the Pentagon to come to the Kingdom’s rescue in case of an attack

  • The U.S. would also equip Riyadh with means to defend itself which would include the state-of-art F-35 stealth fighters

  • More surprisingly, Washington, a non-proliferation hawk, seems to be agreeable to providing Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology for peaceful use

  • At a regional level, Riyadh wants a ceasefire in Gaza and some movement towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem

  • As a quid pro quo for Riyadh’s maximalist demands, Washington reportedly has put forth a daunting wish list of its own

  • It wants Riyadh to recognise Israel and have full normal diplomatic relations

  • It also wants the Kingdom to ring-fence its foreign policy to avoid getting too close to Washington’s rivals, specifically, Beijing and Moscow.

  • While the precise economic underpinnings of the incipient SAA are not known, they are likely to be quite substantive. 

  • Although the U.S. is no longer dependent on Saudi oil supplies, the two sides are unlikely to abandon their long-standing coordination to balance the global market between the U.S. need for cheaper energy with a Saudi quest for higher oil revenue

  • The SAA is likely to ensure that the lion’s share of the projects under MbS’s Vision 2030 goes to American companies.

  • The SAA project faces two formidable odds on its way to realisation. 

  • First, the past decade has seen a rise in the bilateral trust deficit

  • In 1990-91, the U.S. deployed troops to evict Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait poised to threaten Saudi Arabia

  • However, when Saudi Arabia’s largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq and Khurais was attacked in 2019, the U.S. did practically nothing

  • Moreover, the U.S. banned the supply of some weapons during the Yemeni war, citing their possible misuse

  • The U.S. perceived ambivalence towards Iran in general and the signing of the nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in particular, was also seen as a sign of U.S. unreliability

  • The second major obstacle that the SAA faces is the ongoing Gaza conflict which has made it politically inopportune for Riyadh to agree to any reconciliation with Israel. 

Impact on India

  • India, a large neighbour of the region with well-known stakes in the region, needs to watch the emerging Grand Bargain carefully. 

  • An SAA would be in India’s overall interest as it would hopefully enhance regional stability, create economic opportunities, promote the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and free the U.S. to follow its Indo-Pacific Strategy more vigorously

  • At the same time, India needs to pursue its own “Act West” policy without waiting for a third iconic image of Israeli and Saudi leaders shaking hands 



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: U.S.-Saudi agreement UPSC NOTE
U.S.-Saudi agreement UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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