In the heart of the tumultuous Middle Eastern political tapestry lies Saudi Arabia, a nation whose diplomatic posture often finds itself in a quagmire of historical allegiances and modern-day pragmatism. A captivating focal point of the Kingdom’s diplomacy is its stance towards Israel and Palestine, which on the surface, may appear contradictory, yet when delved into, reflects a complex narrative rooted in self-preservation and strategic alliances. The foundation of modern-day Saudi emerged from the embers of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire, post the cataclysm of World War I. The unification of Hejaz and Nejd under the royal banner of the Al Saud family marked the genesis of a centralised monarchy amidst a landscape often characterised by fragmented power centres. This consolidation wasn’t merely a geographic unification but symbolised a pronounced departure towards a dynastic political ethos. The political narrative of the Kingdom is heavily embroidered with the primacy of familial reign. This dynastic ethos isn’t unique to Riyadh but resonates across the broader Middle Eastern political landscape. The linchpin of this political model is the preservation and perpetuation of the ruling family’s hegemony, a goal that historically superseded ideological or religious affiliations. This is illustrated starkly in the Saudi conquest of fellow Sunni Muslim and Arab territories, reflecting a ‘command and conquer’ doctrine that prioritised power consolidation. Fast forward to contemporary geopolitics, Riyadh finds itself ensnared in a complex web of strategic alliances and rivalries. A quintessential illustration is its adversarial posture towards Iran, rooted in the fear of a burgeoning Islamic democratic model that could potentially galvanise grassroots movements against monarchical regimes in the region. This strategic rivalry extends to historical animosities with figures like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, who were seen as threats to the monarchical order. Now, the Saudi stance on the Israel-Palestine conundrum is a masterclass in realpolitik. While the external narrative often championed the Palestinian cause, a deep dive reveals a nuanced approach characterised by a lack of direct military intervention against Israel. This pragmatic stance underscores a reluctance to antagonise key international players like the USA, a crucial ally and armaments supplier. The Saudi-American alliance is a cornerstone of Riyadh’s diplomatic manoeuvring, forged in the crucible of military and economic symbiosis. The kingdom’s lack of a military industrial complex necessitates an external armaments supply, with the USA emerging as a pivotal partner. This alliance invariably influences Saudi’s diplomatic posture towards Israel, steering it towards a path of pragmatic diplomacy. As we dissect the layers of the Kingdom’s diplomatic playbook, what emerges is a nation steadfast in its pursuit of stability and preservation of its monarchical hegemony amidst a turbulent geopolitical realm. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a seemingly enduring conundrum, is but a tableau against which Riyadh’s pragmatism is starkly illuminated. While the public rhetoric may echo sentiments of solidarity towards Palestine, the actions or rather the inaction on the military front against Israel, betray a profound understanding of the global political chessboard. Saudi’s abstention from direct military engagement with Israel isn’t a mark of apathy, but a calculated stance borne out of a necessity to maintain cordial ties with the U.S., a superpower whose support is indispensable. This complex dance of diplomacy also unveils a tacit acknowledgment of Israel’s permanence in the region, an acknowledgment that possibly steers Riyadh towards a future where dialogues could replace discord. Moreover, the cautious Kingdom’s approach towards Israel contrasts sharply with its vehement opposition to Iran, a regional adversary. The essence of this discord is not merely ideological but rooted in a fear of systemic contagion. A successful Iranian model of governance blending Islamic tenets with democratic ideals could potentially embolden internal factions, igniting the sparks of reform that could challenge the monarchical status quo. This discourse underpins the quintessence of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy – a meticulous blend of pragmatism and realpolitik, aimed at navigating the murky waters of Middle Eastern geopolitics while ensuring the sanctity and longevity of the Al Saud dynasty. As the sands of the Middle East continue to shift, Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic prowess will be continually tested. The kingdom’s ability to balance its traditional alliances with its regional adversaries’ burgeoning influence, all while navigating the global geopolitical currents, underscores a nation in a relentless quest for stability amidst an ever-evolving political panorama. In conclusion, the Saudi narrative is emblematic of a broader Middle Eastern dialectic, where past legacies intertwine with present pragmatism to shape the contours of a future yet uncertain. Riyadh’s stance is less about taking sides in a historical conflict and more about forging a path of survival and stability in a region perennially on the brink. The nuanced dance of diplomacy orchestrated by the Kingdom is not merely a testament to its strategic foresight but a compelling narrative in the annals of Middle Eastern geopolitics, echoing a reality where survival necessitates adaptability, and alliances are sculpted in the furnace of expediency rather than ideology.
Alasan Ceesay is a Cambridge Scholar,Entrepreneur , & British Army Veteran of Afghanistan