‘Saudi Express’: East to West

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi WHAT is behind the Saudi diplomatic blitz? Many wonder. Saudi leaders are traveling the world, from Beijing to Washington, through Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bandar Seri Begawan and Tokyo. Saudi ministers are parachuting into one capital after the other. From Baghdad and Beirut, to Berlin and Paris, and on to Asia and America. Adel Al-Jubeir, Khaled Al-Falih, Adel Fakeih, among others, are showcasing Saudi vision to the world, and hosting the world in Saudi Arabia. An enemy should worry. A friend would be happy. And for those on the sideline, it is high time to jump on board. The “Saudi Express” train is taking the Arab and Muslim Ummah to a new world order. We leave behind the “Arab Spring,” the inner fight and the sectarian divide. We concentrate on eradicating terrorism in the name of Islam, poverty and backwardness. Our aim is to develop our nations, cooperate with the developed nations, and establish an environment of peace, tolerance and enlightenment. The message the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, has been carrying to the world is what Islam all about. “The challenges facing the Islamic nation, particularly, and the world generally, topped by the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism, the clash of cultures, non-respect for sovereignty of countries, and interference in their internal affairs, necessitate that we stand united in confronting these challenges and coordinate stances and efforts to serve our common interests and international peace and security,” the king told the representatives of the nation of 200-million Muslims in the Indonesian Parliament. That was on the second day of his landmark visit to the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. He has voiced similar views in every country he visited. The other message Saudis carried to the world is that of economic cooperation to benefit all people of all nations. The revival of the Silk Road Economic Belt that would connect the world’s oldest continents—Asia, Africa and Europe, via the Arabian Peninsula—exemplifies this vision. Some 100 billion dollars worth of investments and business agreements were signed during the Asian trip alone, most notably joining China’s project to explore the moon. Nicholas Borroz and Brendan Meighan of US “Foreign Affairs,” write: “Saudi King Salman’s ongoing visit to Asia, through which he hopes to attract Japanese and Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia, is another indication of how committed the country is to reforming its economy. This trip, along with a host of fiscal modifications at home and the impending initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco, the country’s national petroleum and natural gas company, underscore the Kingdom’s recognition of its need to escape dependence on oil …” The message Prince Muhammad Bin Salman carried to the US is the same message of peace, development and cooperation, the King has. Under the title “the Saudis are coming: Seven things Team Trump needs to know,” Fox News editor wrote, “When Saudi Arabia’s young and dynamic Deputy Crown Prince, son of King Salman, arrives in Washington this week, he’ll seek to both reaffirm the strong security alliance with America and to impart a powerful message of how the Kingdom is changing. “After eight years in which the Saudis watched as the Obama administration seemed to pivot towards Iran—a country where “Death to America” is still shouted daily in the streets—this is the moment for a reset on national security issues, with an eye toward the exciting social changes happening in the Kingdom,” the editor concluded. This means a new military, security and financial strategy to contain Iran and its terrorist militias and allied organizations, such as Hezbollah, Ansar Allah, Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi. No more leeway, secret understandings, ransom payments and hidden agendas. The Trump government is sending crystal clear messages that America is siding again with its traditional and time-tested allies, to face all dangers, especially those presented by the world’s No. 1 terrorism sponsor—Iran. Economic cooperation was very much on the table as well. Saudi Arabia is to put up to 200 billion dollars in US-Saudi joint fund investing on US infrastructure, as well as, in the energy, industrial and high-tech sectors. This comes under the new Saudi Sovereign Investment Fund, estimated at 2 trillion dollars. Part of Saudi share would probably be transferred from other investments in US bonds. Hopefully, this kind of investment would very much increase the return while stay low-risk. It may also mean immunity to JASTA law. The “Saudi Express” has already started its journey and mission to connect to the world. All nations seeking peace and prosperity are welcome on board. Terrorists and their sponsors are not invited. They won’t probably be around, anyway, when the express reaches its next distention! — Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi