The Saudis are betting on China, amid doubts about Biden

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Karen Elliott House, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports that Saudi Arabia is moving away from the United States and heading towards Red China. “Call it, we are doing it with China,” says a senior Saudi adviser, who labels China “a strategic partner”.

To some extent, this embrace of China, the power it has become, was to be expected. The Chinese want Saudi oil. In fact, China is now Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner due to its thirst for that oil. For its part, China sells weapons to the Saudis and invests heavily in the Kingdom’s digital infrastructure.

But Joe Biden also contributed to the move away from the United States. According to House, former editor of the Journal, “doubts about the trustworthiness of the Biden administration are omnipresent and are easily expressed.”

These doubts are based largely on the policy of the Biden administration. House explains:

While the Biden administration formally supports the partnership with Saudi Arabia, the actions are not followed up. The United States has largely cut offensive arms sales to Riyadh, pulled out the Patriot defensive missiles that protect the kingdom from attack, and has so far failed to come up with any strategy on how to deal with a nuclear Iran. The Saudis believe the Iranian bomb is imminent.

He also complains here that the United States pretends to want peace in Yemen, but will not act to prevent the flow of arms from Iran to the Houthis.

(Emphasis added)

Biden’s negative approach to the Saudis is based in part, I assume, on disgust for the Kingdom’s human rights, including the killing of the boy who sometimes wrote columns for the Washington Post, a key ally of Biden. To some extent, it may also have to do with the administration’s desire to appease Iran, the main enemy of the Saudis in the region (and ours as well).

I have no doubt that the human rights situation in the Kingdom is abysmal. But, as the Trump administration understood, Saudi Arabia remains a major player in the Middle East and a counterweight to our sworn enemy with a terrible human rights record: Iran.

To waste our alliance with Saudi Arabia and push it more firmly into China’s embrace of human rights abuses is amateurism.

I also suspect that, aside from any political concerns, Biden simply fails to inspire confidence in the Saudis. Like any sensitive nation, Saudi Arabia wants to be on the good side of the “strong horse”.

It was reasonable to consider an America led by Donald Trump as such. It has always been difficult to see an America led by Joe Biden like that. After the fiasco in Afghanistan, it’s next to impossible.

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