The Saudi’s lack of beforehand knowledge about the assassination, and their tepid response to it, may signify tension in future of Trump-MBS relations.
Saudi Arabia has taken a more neutral and tempered tone about the assassination of Solemaini than was expected, especially compared to Israel.
In the days after, Saudi Arabian media said very little, about it. Netanyahu, on the other hand, was drooling at the thought of war with Iran.
“‘The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not consulted regarding the US strike,’ a Saudi official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
“‘In light of the rapid developments, the kingdom stresses the importance of exercising restraint to guard against all acts that may lead to escalation, with severe consequences,’ the official added.
“Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry echoed a similar call for restraint at the weekend and King Salman emphasised the need for measures to calm tensions in a phone call on Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Saleh.
“In a separate phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed ‘the need to make efforts to calm the situation and de-escalate tensions’, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.”
Typically, I don’t trust what Saudi Arabia says at face value. I still have some skepticism of their statement regarding this.
However, their response is subdued and pensive in a way that seems like they really didn’t know. I would expect Saudi Arabia to be more clever about it if they were playing coy.
We also know that US legislators didn’t know about it either. But some people did…
“Days ahead of the assassination of high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official Gen. Qasem Soleimani, President Donald Trump was dropping hints to guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, telling them to expect something ‘big’ very ‘soon’ in Iraq. ‘He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’’ a source who was at Mar-a-Lago told The Daily Beast.
“The Trump administration also forewarned Israel of the intended killing. ‘Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago,’ said journalist and commentator Barak Ravid, who has sources within Israel’s government, according to the Los Angeles Times. Another source, an Israeli army officer, told the paper that the attack ‘did not come as a surprise.'”
Ultimately, there’s not a ton that we can glean from this information, but I have some speculation.
Mostly, I think this signifies potential tension between the US and Saudi Arabia. That’s not to say the US-Saudi relationship is going anywhere, but the US approach in this situation is different than normal.
It’s impossible to reduce the American foreign policy position, because different US government agencies have supported basically every faction there, at different points in time, except for Palestinians maybe.
But generally, the US goal is to clamp down on any nations or factions that challenge US hegemony.
Saudi Arabia wants to enforce their own hegemony in the Middle East, and specifically wants a right-wing Sunni dominated Middle East.
In other words, the US wants to enforce their hegemony on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia wants to enforce there’s. This isn’t deep analysis, this is simply the nature of hegemonic regimes.
Normally, both of their goals overlap. They are symbiotic with on another. The US uses Saudi Arabia to help reinforce their hegemonic goals in the Middle East and vice versa.
So while a US-Saudi split is by no means imminent or likely, this situation does show a tension between them. I can imagine the Saudi government feels like this is the US carrying out their hegemonic regime without them.