The Speech of HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal "The Regional Security in the Middle East and the Role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Supporting it"
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, Most Merciful May Allah Peace & Blessings Be upon You All,,,
At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Qi Qi Chenhong; President of the Chinese Institute of International Studies, and his Excellency the Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom, Mr. Chen Weiqin, for their generous invitation to participate in this forum. Thanks are also due to Mr. Chen, Deputy Foreign Minister, for his exhaustive speech.
The recent threats to the Middle East, the widening circle of regional conflicts, and Iran's attempts to expand its political and military influence are challenging not only for the security and stability of the states of the region; but also at a greater level affecting the security and economy of the world order, and its stability. This requires the concerted efforts of several international and regional parties to address it.
The revolutions that have ravaged some Arab countries, a decade ago, and the ensuing consequences, and the uprisings that now exist, have clearly and unmistakably changed the strategic environment in which the countries of the region coexist. Similarly, the U.S. and Russian policies towards the Middle East over the past two decades have resulted in significant changes in how regional powers deal with these international powers, and with each other; which means that the security of the Middle East faces a major challenge and the regional equilibrium of power at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. It is currently in the process of formation, just as the image of the new international order is also in the process of being shaped and transformed, after being dominated by uni-polarity for more than two decades.
The importance of our strategic region dictated, in terms of position and a wealth — and it is a real importance — and this has forced it to be vulnerable to the world's strategic volatility, and to compete among its great powers for influence and natural resources. This importance was reflected in the keenness of the overwhelming major powers in the region, to have security and stability for investments, particularly in our Gulf region. However, there is fluidity in the nature of changes in the international system and the change in international strategies, particularly the U.S. strategic retreat, thus calling for Russian intervention in Syria, and encouraging Iran and Turkey to fill the vacuum left by this retreat.
The Iranian threat is real, whether it is in its pursuit of political hegemony, its interference in the internal affairs of our countries, the dissemination of its sectarian ideas and the attempt to export them to us, its support for sectarian terrorism, its relentless pursuit of nuclear technology, possibly nuclear weapons, or the ambiguity of its intentions and plans. All attempts over the past 40 years to rationalize the policies of Iran's leaders have been in vain. Although we are not hostile to Iran, and we do not want for it, or its people, any harm, as neighbors and Muslims, but maintaining our regional security requires us to seek to counter this threat and achieve a balance of power with it.
The imbalance allows Iran's leaders to exploit all the loopholes to sneak inside our region. Since its founding, Saudi Arabia has played an effective [active] role in the region and the world, in line with its national interests, and the international interests, under the realm of cooperating with regional and international parties to ensure peace and security in our region, which is of great importance to the global economy. However, this has not prevented the existence of various threats and risks that collide with Saudi will [determination], to maintain the integrity of international navigation and energy flows in this region.
The attacks on two Aramco oil facilities in Baqiq and Khreis, Saudi Arabia, have undoubtedly revealed Iran's behavior, seeking to create geopolitical instability in the region. Iran's intervention in Yemen and the Red Sea region is also a definite threat to the international corridor and an obstacle to world trade. In this context, Saudi Arabia senses its responsibility to secure these corridors in the service of regional and global peace. Although the Kingdom would not hesitate to defend its interests and respond to such attacks with equal strikes, as they an attempt to undermine the sovereignty of a neighboring state, it considered, at the same time, that working for peace, taking into account the willingness to defend its sovereignty in these circumstances, would make the region and the [entire] world avoid more tremendous geo-economic & political disruptions. From this point of view, we can see trends in the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, with the recent and unprecedented wave of security threats, reflected in three main axes: First, Iran's ambition to control the region's capabilities and its countries. This, although it began with the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the overthrow of the Shah regime in 1979, has evolved as it violates the sovereignty of the states of the region, extending its influence through its arms to assert itself as a regional power, whether with its effective control in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, or with the support of the Houthis in Yemen, or by penetrating the main ports in Bab al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, and threatening freedom of navigation in the Gulf waters.
The Iranian leadership boasts of what it calls its control over four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and San'aa), and the people of these countries have expressed their rejection of Iranian intervention during their existing uprisings, through their slogans they launched in their uprising against the Iranian leadership.
Second: Weakening the Arab regional system by spreading further unrest, which led to the expansion of the circle of strategic competition between regional powers in the region, not to mention the project of Turkish expansion and aggression on Arab territory in northern Syria, which is a dangerous escalation that threatens the security and stability of the region, as it negates the positive role that Turkey is expected to play in enhancing the region's security and stability. In addition, Turkey is seeking to expand into the Red Sea and the Gulf region, and other international and regional powers by building military bases in the Horn of Africa on the banks of the entrances to Bab al-Mandab. Third, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a real challenge to the security of the region. This conflict has been, and continues to be, the cause of many Arab projects that have stalled over the past 70 years and other international projects on the future of the region. Without a just solution that responds to the demands of international legitimacy, this region will not stabilize, and will remain vulnerable to all the bad prospects, as its extensions extend to the entire Arab world.
The solution to this conflict is not in our hands alone, but also it is an international responsibility, and ignoring the resolution of this conflict by the United States and the other actor countries, shall contribute to the continuing instability. In this regard, I can refer to the fate of the regional projects that were put forward during the post-Madrid period, and then the Oslo Agreement, where they were suspended because of the lack of progress in the peace process. Everyone here knows that the Arab States welcomed the peace process launched in Madrid to resolve this conflict within the limits of international legitimacy and United Nations resolutions, and entered into negotiations with Israel to reach the desired peace. Not only that, but also participated in all multi-party efforts and negotiations to create the right conditions and mutual trust. Some have gone too far in their relations with Israel to encourage them to commit to the path of peace. The just peace never materialized. All the efforts that have been made about the future of this region and the negotiations on the engineering of a new future for it have gone unheeded by Israeli intransigence.
The continuation of this conflict will continue to be a threat to the security and stability of the region, even if Israel and its allies believe that the instability of the region and what is currently taking place there is not directly linked to this protracted conflict. This justification is an escape from the benefits of peace. We must not give Israel the opportunity to take advantage of the situation in the region to disavow this fateful entitlement, and any progress in relations with it should be linked to demonstrate its sincerity in taking concrete action towards peace. Fourth: The Aggravation of the Phenomenon of Terrorist Movements in the Region: Terrorism remains a threat and a strategic challenge for the Arab countries and the region as a whole, especially as it is wrapped in the cloak of our Straight Religion, which is trying to kidnap it, and without facing a real confrontation at all levels and addressing its causes our countries would not enjoy settlement & stability. This terrorism is not only terrorism of ISIS or Al-Qaida and their branches, but also the terrorism of all sectarian extremist forces and militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other States. This cross-border terrorism poses an existential threat to the concept of national State in our region. It is also fed by the oppression and persecution of Muslims in the East and the West.
The Arab revolutions have led to widespread chaos and the spread of extremist and terrorist movements, which in turn have found fertile ground in some fragile or weakly organized states. Some regional and international actors have also played a major role in feeding and strengthening terrorist movements, supporting, financing and employing them to serve their expansionist agenda in the region. The terrorist phenomenon has escalated to threaten countries, States and territories; even they threat the international security itself. It further awakened conflicts that everyone thought that it had been diminished already.
This is what happened in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen... This has put the region in confrontation of significant security, geopolitical and demographic challenges, and it is not only the outbreak of war, the proliferation of weapons and civil strife, but also the widespread waves of irregular human migration to the Gulf states and Europe. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all to contribute to defeating and denouncing it and creating the right conditions to address its causes. The Kingdom, ladies and gentlemen, is a pioneer in all avenues. Saudi Arabia, Territorial Security and International Navigation The Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and the region in general have become threatened in their internal security and the security of their neighborhoods and surroundings. In these circumstances, the Kingdom, together with its regional allies, has taken on itself the task of securing the region.
This was not only in the service of its legitimate national interests, protecting its security and the safety of its citizens; it was also to protect the security of its allies and friends in the region, as well as to secure international interests out of its sense of responsibility towards the international community. This regional role of the Kingdom was embodied in Yemen, when it intervened leading an Arab coalition in 2015 to support Yemeni legitimacy against the military coup launched by the Houthis and their allies, against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, may God rest his soul in peace. As the repercussions of the war in this impoverished country, manipulated by the Houthi coup group in the interests of Iran and its dominance in the region, and along with the war effort, Saudi Arabia has provided $14 billion in humanitarian and development assistance.
It has always been Yemen's primary supporter in all fields, whether political, economic, development or humanitarian, given the fraternal and historical ties that have long existed between the two countries. At the Red Sea level, whose countries face the dangers [risks] of piracy, terrorism and irregular migration, the Kingdom in 2018 established the Entity of Arab and African States on the coastal lines, which initially included seven expandable countries (there is talk of Eritrea's recent accession to be the 8th state), in an effort by the Kingdom to cooperate and coordinate in order to meet various risks and challenges and enhance opportunities for economic and environmental cooperation, the higher the level of coordination between these countries bordering this strategic water crossing, the more able to face negative external and internal interventions more effectively. In this context, the Kingdom has played a prominent role in the reconciliation between Eritrea, Abyssinia, Eritrea and Djibouti in order to unite efforts to address common threats. Saudi Arabia has also been, and continues to play an active role in the fight against terrorist groups around the world. The kingdom therefore established the Islamic Military Alliance to fight terrorism in 2015, which included 41 countries and assumed its command.
The coalition operates from the Saudi capital to combat extremism and terrorism through intellectual and media initiatives, an exchange of expertise and capacity support. The Kingdom has also played an important role in the fight against the criminal group ISIS through active participation in the international counter-terrorism coalition that began and launched as a result of the 2014 meeting in Jeddah for allied states, both militarily and in supporting areas for the same purpose. The Kingdom has established a number of modern intellectual and media centers working regionally and internationally to combat the ideology of extremist groups, and to campaign for communities at risk of radicalization in order to reduce the impact of ISIS media influence, al-Qaeda and others. The Kingdom is also actively contributing to the five Coastal Countries in Africa to refute the disease. I would also like to point out to Saudi Arabia's ability to peacefully address the region's crises by hosting negotiations between the conflicting parties, as was recently done in the Riyadh agreement of 5th November 2019 between Yemen's legitimate government and the Southern Transitional Council. The initiative of the late King Abdullah for Peace in the Middle East remains the just and equitable way to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands.
• Conclusion: The importance of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China in the stability of the region The Arab proverb says: Your friend is the one who tells you the truth, not the one who believes you blindly, and I am sure that both our leadership in Beijing and Riyadh are following this principle. Strengthening relations and ties with China have been seen by the Kingdom as a political imperative embodied in the challenges of the current phase. While in China's view, the Middle East has been an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative and a vital resource for meeting its energy needs, the Gulf states have also played an important role in stabilizing global oil prices, and have played a vital role in the region, whether due to the diminishing involvement of the Western states in resolving the conflicts, as in Syria, or by the Russian extension in Syria. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, based on Vision 2030, is actively seeking to diversify the resources of its economy and reduce its dependence on oil, through several programs and initiatives, including: opening new and multiple areas of investment, mainly mining and tourism, and targeting foreign direct investment through infrastructure projects and mega projects. In this context, there is ample scope for China's cooperation with the Gulf states in general, notably Saudi Arabia, not only in securing the Middle East in general, the Arabian Gulf region and the Red Sea in particular, in service of common interests, international peace and security, but also in economic cooperation which is beneficial to all, starting with the Belt and Road Initiative and Vision 2030, and based on the "Comprehensive .Strategic Partnership" signed between the two parties in 2016. The areas of Saudi-Chinese cooperation are broad and vast and the two countries and peoples should benefit from them.
HRH Prince Turki al-Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Beijing, China