Fearing US Policy Shift, Saudis Start Talking to Enemies

Saudis make a big move from confrontation to negotiation

Saudi Arabian foreign policy in recent years has been informed by having absolute, unquestioned US support. This has driven mounting hostility toward Iran, and was why the Saudis figured they could declare Qatar “the enemy” with impunity.

Saudi officials are starting to second-guess themselves, however, between the US not scrapping ties with Qatar, and not unilaterally attacking Iran any of the many times the Saudis argued there was a pretext to do so. This has forced them to revise a very confrontational foreign policy to one with negotiation.

That’s a huge shift, and the most apparent signs of a Saudi shift are recent negotiations with Qatar, and a recent willingness to directly talk peace with Yemen’s Houthis are years of war.

While some analysts are presenting this as the “fault” of President Trump not attacking Iran back in September, when he blamed them for a drone strike on the Saudis, it isn’t at all clear why this is a bad thing in the first place.

It isn’t clear anyone benefited from Saudi Arabia believing they could declare Qatar such an enemy that they could blockade them and threaten to dig a channel along the border to turn Qatar into an island, or that diplomacy as such was beneath them. Diplomatic engagement might even end the Yemen War, which is something much of the world has been calling for for a long time.

It’s unlikely that President Trump did this by design, as his statements have repeatedly been that support of the Saudis is unchanged, and he keeps throwing more US troops at Saudi Arabia to “protect them.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.