Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

In 1973 then US President Richard Nixon weighed military seizure of Saudi oil fields during the famous oil embargo. A few months later, Saudi Arabia welcomed a huge number of Americans who arrived to work at the Saudi Aramco oil and gas installations in Dhahran, Abqaiq, Udalyah, Shadgam and Ras Tanurah. They were not US Marines but petroleum engineers and technicians hired by Saudi Aramco for its fast expanding infrastructure.

Later, the number of Americans in the Kingdom reached 50,000. They came to Saudi Arabia to help boost the country’s development process.

On the other hand, a few months after the American threat to invade and seize Saudi oilfields, tens of thousands of young Saudis were sent to the US to attend top American universities and thousands of military personnel were sent for training at the most secretive and biggest military bases in the US.

Interestingly in the 1950s, more Americans were born at Dhahran hospital than Saudis. The bottom line is that the Saudi-US ties are close and strategic that an annoying midnight call cannot change the nature of the relationship.

Military analysts or political planners did not establish these ties. It was simply started by geologists who saw the world’s future lying beneath the surface of the earth. And it wasn’t only Saudi history that changed in 1938, but the entire world saw a global power shift. The entire dynamics of global politics experienced a paradigm shift. National interests became the key to establishing and maintaining ties. This is exactly what Saudi Arabia should do. We should look after our interests.

Last week a lengthy article was publish in the Atlantic magazine written by Jeffery Goldberg, which I had to read twice just to make sure I did not missing anything.

Many US allies including Saudi Arabia were mentioned and criticized in the article. Should we consider it the Obama doctrine or just an annoying midnight call?

In my humble opinion, we should see this as a political reality. In the past, US policies were usually seen through the prism of Arab-Israel issue. But, very recently we heard about serious plans from President Obama to interfere in the Israeli election just to see Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu being defeated. But, Netanyahu won the election and subsequently gave a speech at the US Congress and received an electrifying response. So, what is real story behind what President Obama words to an American journalist? Are US strategic policies toward allies tossed around to journalists or is it just a change of political mood?

A few days after the publication of the article, it was announced that Obama would be visiting Saudi Arabia. I wasn’t surprised at all. This is why we can look at what Obama told Goldberg as a midnight call from a wrong number. But we should look at it very closely and work from there. The bottom line is that we Saudis have to look at many things from the inside and remove obstacles to the growth of our country.

Most important is to eradicate all forms of corruption from our society. When a country is secured from within, a foreign president’s doctrine will have no impact on those people. As for the US ties with others, it is a reality we have to live with and adapt. National interests dictate relations between countries. It is important to give priority to our national interests over friendships. We Saudis have to speak louder and clearer to the world. If we don’t speak for ourselves, nobody else will. President Obama’s views should serve as a wake-up call to all of us and we should join hands to strengthen our country.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. A Wake-up Call to the Middle East reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.