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Is US planning to downgrade relationship with Saudi Arabia?
The new stand of the US marks the departure from the policy of earlier administration.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, during a news conference, told that the President of the United States Joe Biden will only communicate with Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in an effort to recalibrate the relationship with Kingdom. Citing the reason for it, she said that the communication will be counterpart to counterpart.
This statement by the Press Secretary triggered an speculation that the US-Saudi relationship is being downgraded.
The new stand of the US marks the departure from the policy of earlier administration. Trump used to communicate with Crown Prince of Mohammed bin Salman and give much importance to Saudi Arabia while deciding the policy for the Middle East.
Apart from the decision to communicate only with the King Salman, other warning signs include holding on key weapon sale to Kingdom, reversal of Trump’s designation of Ansarallah (the Houthis Movement) as a foreign terrorist organisation and specially designated global terrorist group.
According to a report in CNBC, Torbjorn Soltvedt, principal Middle East and North Africa (MENA) analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, the snub to de facto leader is a warning for Saudi Arabia.
The decision to sideline MBS is not surprising for those who have listened to the Biden’s debate in early 2020 as he had made his stand clear on the gulf country.
However, the relationship between the two countries is not entirely broken as the US wants the Kingdom to defend Iranian aggression and end the war in Yemen.
Apart from regional counter-terrorism partner, the Kingdom is also the preeminent weapons customer of the US.
Saudi analyst Ali Shihabi who is close to Saudi Royal family said that it is practically not possible to sideline MBS as he is not only the de facto leader but also the defence minister of the Kingdom.
Although the King is functioning, the day-to-day is handled by the crown prince, he added.
As both countries are dependent on each other, they may remain key partners while addressing many issues. However, the US-Saudi relationship may not be at the same level as it was during the Trump administration.