US Secretary of State Antony Blinken came in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday on a mission to repair Washington’s relationship with Riyadh after years of deterioration on problems ranging from Iran to regional security to oil pricing.
During his journey to Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital, and the seaside city of Jeddah, Blinken is anticipated to meet with key Saudi officials, including the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MbS. On May 7, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan visited Saudi Arabia.
The top U.S. diplomat’s June 6-8 visit to the world’s largest oil exporter comes days after Riyadh pledged to further cut oil production, a move likely to add tension to a U.S.-Saudi relationship already strained by the kingdom’s human rights record and disputes over America’s Iran policy.
The aims of the trip include regaining influence with Riyadh over oil prices, fending off Chinese and Russian influence in the region and nurturing hopes for an eventual normalization of Saudi-Israeli ties.
Speaking at the pro-Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, Blinken said Washington had “a real national security interest” in advocating for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but cautioned that it will not happen quickly.
Discouraging a closer Saudi-Chinese relationship is probably the most important element of Blinken’s visit, said Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at Washington-based think-tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
“[Blinken should explain] why Chinese interests do not align with Saudi Arabia, and why closer relations in a strategic way inhibit closer relations with Washington,” Goldberg said.