Alwaght- The US Senate has recently rejected bill blocking the US-Saudi arms deals, paving the way for a new deal of $1.5 billion. The new arms contract with the kingdom is to create 11,000 jobs for the Americans. The deal is being justified by the US while the evidences of the battlefield show that a humanitarian crisis and a damage to the US national security are both taking place simultaneously as a result of a Saudi war on Yemen.
Three matters can be raised here: First, Saudi Arabia is not qualified enough to pledge commitment for protecting the civilians and guaranteeing provision of necessary arrangements to allow humanitarian aids reach the Yemeni people. Second, the current bill disregards the strategic grounds that dictated formation of a Saudi-led Arab conflict to attack Yemen. Third, a Yemen with strong and stable central government as well as an administrative structure is crucially significant for the US national security.
As for the first argument, although it is important to call on for Saudi Arabia to respect the humanitarian standards in its campaign in Yemen, the kingdom is seriously and realistically trying to reduce the human fatalities in Yemen war. The US that in the anti-Yemen Riyadh-based command center of the Arab coalition is taking a front-seat role can confirm this issue. That’s why the kingdom declined to take many actions against the Ansarullah movement.
Additionally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has confirmed that Saudi Arabia accepted 41,000 Yemeni refugees. They have full access to the healthcare, education, and the Saudi Arabian job market. Just unlike the half a million Syrian refugees who are existing in Saudi Arabia, the Yemenis in the kingdom are not branded refugees, rather, they are called visitors. This branding derives from an Arab world’s historical sensitivity in general and Saudi Arabia’s in particular over the term “refugee”. The sensitivity dates back to 1948, the year Palestine was occupied by the Israelis, and many Palestinians were pushed out of their homes as refugees. The UN reported that the kingdom has offered extendable 6-month residence to 465,400 Yemenis. These people are not yet registered as refugees in the Saudi Arabia but the Saudi government has facilitated access to healthcare system, education, and labor market. Riyadh has recently announced that 285,000 Yemeni students have registered in the Saudi Arabian public schools and are receiving free education. The same chance was given to 141,000 Syrian students. From the $730 million aids that were donated to Yemen in 2015, $253.1 million, or 34.6 percent, were paid by Saudi Arabia. The other countries hosting the Yemeni refugees also receive aids from the kingdom. For example, Djibouti was paid $15 million to provide prefabricated homes for the Yemeni refugees.
The second argument is ignoring the international, regional, and domestic strategic backgrounds of Saudi Arabia for forming the Arab military coalition to intervene in the neighboring Yemen. The US’ attempts to create an allied axis in Asia is marred by a strategic vacuum in the Middle East. The allies of Washington feel that the US is no longer a trustable ally. As a result, they have no way ahead but taking the initiative by themselves.
This international situation has prepared the grounds for an array of serious changes in the Middle East. The expansionism is boosted in the region, particularly in Iran. Following breaking out of isolation as a result of lifting the economic sanctions, Tehran by use of its influence in the regional states has turned into an influential player on the global stage. The Islamic Republic also has in hand non-governmental players like Lebanon’s Hezbollah whose behavior is under full control of Iran. These are posing big threats to the sovereignty as well as security of the Arab world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. The Iranian policy has reduced the Arab states to Sunni and Shiite sects. The Arab countries’ being sectarian can allow Iran to continue considerable sway in the domestic policies of the Arab countries and at the same time be strong and influential in running its foreign policy. Some Western sides unconsciously turned into active factors serving the Iranian expansionism. On the other side, the West also reduced the Arab countries to simply Sunni sects and so deepened the sectarianism in the region.
These two international factors are accompanied by some internal factors inside the kingdom. Entry of the third generation of the royals to the leadership stage and also founding the Allegiance Council are both indicating change in the power nature and structure inside Saudi Arabia. This is a change in the nature of power because the new generation is not connected to two fundamental experiences of the royal elites. The first experience came from the war of union between 1902 and 1932 that led to forming the third Saudi government. (First government was founded 1744-1818, the second one 1824-1892, and the third one 1932-2006). The second experience dates back to power struggle between King Saud and King Faisal between 1956 and 1964. The two experiences have produced a complicated system of union and values, something the members of the third generation of the royals have failed to touch. This makes it not unlikely to see crucial changes in mechanism of rivalry and alliance in the body of the ruling family. This signals a change in power structure because in 2006 the Allegiance Council was formed to pick king and crown prince. With regard to the legal priority, at the present time, choosing a prince as the deputy crown prince is indicative of existence of a balance of power and also rise of a new power. The first legal limit ahead of the king is that only the Allegiance Council is qualified to determine a successor for the king. The Council’s law can only be altered by vote. 2004 was start of the fourth government of Saudi Arabia.
With rise of the fourth government, the Kingdom used the horizontal power-sharing that requires long and boring discussions to make decisions. As a result, the reactive policies, which are currently in the hands of the three vertical powers of the defense ministry, interior ministry, and the National Guard, are exercised quietly so that the big decisions and aggressive play are contained. Riyadh now is moving from taking strategic gestures towards taking the initiative and moving ahead.
In the third argument, the opponents of the arms sales deal between Washington and Riyadh believe that the US-led Arab military coalition harms the national security of the US because it gets its credibility from its fighting Al-Qaeda in the region. The Arab coalition is included in the least concerns of the US about its credibility in the region, especially after the problems that sparked following the issue of drones in Iraq. Additionally, the members of the Arab coalition since 1996 have been under Al-Qaeda threat. Al-Qaeda in Yemen was very close to assassinating the current Saudi princes. That is why the Arab countries are involved in anti-Al-Qaeda fighting, not only in Yemen but also elsewhere. Many of the attacks that were threatening the lives of the Americans, the British, the French, and the Germans are now eliminated thanks to the Saudi seriousness and determination in this fighting.
No fight against Al-Qaeda in Yemen has the chance of success without reliance on two elements: a strong central government, and a practical governing structure. These two are vital for the security of the region. If the military capabilities of Saudi Arabia become weak, the chances of another player takes over the mission of stabilizing the region will be close to zero. Riyadh is the only power in the Arab world that other Arab countries stand under its leadership. This leadership not only derives from the kingdom’s stability and a confidence to it but also it is motivated by diplomatic, economic, and military strong points. The monarchy was founded in the Arab royal families since Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties.
Blocking deal for US arms sales to Saudi Arabia will threaten the sovereignty of the Arab world, as well as security and stability of the region, and at the same time the balance and security of the region and the Washington’s interests will be endangered.