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3 Nov, 2021 13:09

Saudi ex-spy chief warns America: trust in the US is waning

Saudi ex-spy chief warns America: trust in the US is waning

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief has claimed that the US’ military and policy failures in the Middle East have caused the Gulf states “strategic confusion” over the Biden administration’s commitment to the region.

Two failed military campaigns in as many decades have brought Washington’s influence into question, Turki al-Faisal said on Tuesday, citing the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover in August and the planned departure of combat forces from Iraq.

Noting that the relationship between the US and the Gulf states was “imperative to peace and stability in the region,” al-Faisal – a former ambassador to the US – warned US President Joe Biden to “weigh [the issues] carefully” before taking “any steps ... that impact this historical bond,” and suggested “[building] on it” to create a “new security structure for the region.”

This failed experience in Afghanistan and, I would say, semi-failed experience in Iraq, are responsible for the perceived failure or defeat of a great power, the US, and the greatest military alliance, NATO, in sustaining a regime and project of their creation.

After its run as the “dominant power for the last seven decades,” al-Faisal said “doubts” about the US were “accumulating” and causing “strategic regional confusion” that, in turn, would lead to “more conflicts and crises.” He added that the Middle East greatly feared the “danger” posed by this confusion.

In previous remarks criticizing the US pull-out from Afghanistan, al-Faisal described it as a combination of “incompetence, carelessness, [and] bad management.” He also warned that the stockpile of weapons and military tech that had been left behind could end up being used against Riyadh.

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These latest comments are in keeping with al-Faisal’s recently expressed views about the strained relationship between Riyadh and Washington. In a CNBC interview in September, he called on Biden to reconsider US plans to withdraw its defense equipment from Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the US deployed two Patriot missile artillery batteries in the kingdom, following attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

Several media outlets have reported that the Pentagon has decided to draw down its air defense assets from the region, including its missile batteries. But al-Faisal told the network this was far from “indicative of America’s declared intention” to do “whatever it needed” to help Saudi Arabia defend itself.

While the country would prefer US assistance, al-Faisal said it would seek “other support” to bolster its defenses against alleged missile and drone attacks by Iran and by Houthi combatants in the Saudi-led coalition’s ongoing military intervention in Yemen.

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In February, Biden ceased US support for “offensive” Saudi operations in Yemen and suspended a multi-million-dollar Trump-era arms deal with the kingdom that reportedly involved precision-guided weapons. This was in keeping with his 2019 campaign pledge to turn the long-time US ally into a “pariah,” following the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

However, the president appeared to walk back on this promise in September, after the US State Department signed off on a new $500 million military contract with Saudi Arabia that will allow its military to maintain its fleet of Apache and Blackhawk helicopters despite their prior deployment in Yemen.

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