New Saudi leadership opens avenues for Middle East friendship

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By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
@JacobAndrewBaum

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own. 

In recent history, U.S. relations with the Saudi Arabian government have been characterized by a trade-off between emphasis on human rights and security. During President Barack Obama’s administration, Saudi leaders rejected U.S. proposals for increased unity in the Middle East, not receptive of the administration’s emphasis on human rights in the region. U.S. aspirations for peace seemed to bounce off a regime that saw historical ties between the United States and Israel as a deal breaker to peace talks in the region.

Since the Arab Spring began, however, a multitude of factors presented an opportunity to create a long-absent strategic relationship with the Saudi government.

At the expense of international promotion of human rights, President Donald Trump has taken a brute-force approach to U.S. relations with nations in the Middle East. His emphasis on combating terrorism, over all other priorities in the region, could pose a problem for the U.S., but a new set of circumstances  is making multidimensional collaboration more likely.

On June 21, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, as the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The addition of  a moderate, millennial force in the Saudi government could mark a turning point towards a more collaborative and cooperative Middle East. Prince Mohammed has expressed interest in diversifying the Saudi economy and prioritizing human rights and freedom of expression in the country.

With the rise of ISIS came the urgency necessary for the U.S., Arab League and Israel to collaborate on common security concerns. And while before, Saudi Arabia refused to recognize Israel, there is talk that bilateral economic relations are growing between the two forces.

Trump has stumbled upon an opportunity to institute lasting change in the region, accelerate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and push for better cooperation between Western nations and the Middle East. As long as he moderates his often-controversial rhetoric, Trump can push his way into the hearts moderate, modern Arabian leaders, like Prince Mohammed, who admire his authoritarian tendencies.

There is a long way to go towards Middle East cooperation, but the rise of Prince Mohammed opened a small, undeniable path to that partnership.

Jake is a recent graduate and an international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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