Did America Just Lose Saudi Arabia?

Riyadh’s pivot away from Washington marks a turning point in the Middle East.

One of America’s most important alliances is falling apart. Since the end of World War ii, the United States has relied on a partnership with Saudi Arabia both to keep the peace in the Middle East and keep Western economies’ oil supply secure. Today, this partnership is about to die. From removing Patriot and thaad missile defense systems from the kingdom in 2021 to empowering terrorist regimes in Iran and Afghanistan, America’s security commitments are vacillating at best. And Saudi Arabia is responding accordingly.

On January 17, Saudi Arabia announced it was open to discussions about trading in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan stated, “There are no issues with discussing how we settle our trade agreements, whether it is in the U.S. dollar, whether it is the euro, whether it is the Saudi riyal.” This amounts to a massive economic threat. One reason the dollar is the world’s reserve currency and Americans enjoy the wealth they do is that it is the currency of the international oil trade. Rather than being backed by gold, the “petro-dollar” is backed by oil in exchange for American security assurances. If the Saudis drop the dollar requirement, America’s already weak economy will suffer massively.

The oil announcement wasn’t Saudi Arabia’s only foreign-policy pivot this year. On March 9, the Wall Street Journal printed a story claiming Saudi Arabia was working on a normalization agreement with Israel, brokered by the U.S. The two nations already have cordial relations and cooperate in intelligence sharing. But like most of the Arab world, Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel. A deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be dramatic enough, but what was even more shocking was what the Saudis were requiring in return: The U.S. would have to enter a formal defense alliance with Saudi Arabia and help it develop its own nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival for influence in the Middle East, is closer than ever to developing its own nuclear weapons. Iran’s sights are mainly on the U.S. and Israel. But Saudi Arabia knows that if nuclear war breaks out between Iran and Israel or the West, it could easily end up in Iran’s cross hairs.

Nothing is official at this point. Israel and the U.S. may find the price tag too high. But the Journal’s sources say that to get what it wants, Saudi Arabia is even willing to drop its demand that Israel grant the Palestinians their own state. Previously, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (the de facto ruler) said there would be no deal with Israel without settling the Palestinian question. Such a reversal suggests just how desperate Prince Mohammed is to beef up his security situation.

America already has several thousand boots on the ground in Saudi Arabia, plus a heavy naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The Saudis evidently don’t think this is enough. Their negotiating position suggests that they do not trust America’s current defense commitments, and they see war with Iran as plausible.

Saudi-Iranian relations took an interesting turn the day after the Journal’s report. On March 10, the two nations agreed to reinstate diplomatic relations after a seven-year split. Iran agreed to halt attacks on the Saudis, including those by its proxies in Yemen. Saudi Arabia suggested that it is ready to start investing in Iran.

The deal was mediated not by the U.S. but by a new player in the region: the People’s Republic of China. The negotiations took place from March 6 to 10 in Beijing. Energy-hungry China has good relations with both of these major oil producers. The agreement is a huge diplomatic win for China and shows its desire to involve itself more and more in the region.

Saudi Arabia knows Iran is not a country to be trusted. Iran sees itself as the leader of an ongoing Islamic revolution and has been building an Islamic power bloc across the Middle East and northern Africa. Saudi Arabia has the same goal, and the Middle East is not big enough for both. Saudi Arabia is publicly courting China, arguably America’s biggest geopolitical rival. These recent developments appear to show the Saudis are disengaging from the U.S. and looking for new international partners. They could see China as a partner to keep Iran from becoming too extreme. China is one of the few world powers willing to have close relations with Iran. China also wants Saudi oil. Saudi Arabia could petition China to rein in the Iranians if they start causing too many problems.

Some view Saudi Arabia as an unsavory regime that the United States shouldn’t be doing business with. Saudi Arabia is an autocracy under sharia law with an egregious human rights record, but it has also proved to be a stabilizing influence aligned with U.S. interests. If the U.S. were to break with Saudi Arabia, that stability would break with it. This could have a ripple effect on America’s relations with the rest of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the unofficial leader of the “moderate Arab” camp, and countries like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain look to Riyadh for leadership. Many of these countries are major American allies with significant military and economic links with Washington. Breaking with the Saudis will likely mean breaking with these Gulf states down the road. Some of these countries have quarrels with Iran but are too small to defend themselves. Like Saudi Arabia, they too may feel pressured to start searching for new friends.

The Trumpet uses the lens of Bible prophecy to analyze current world events. And the Bible has a lot to say about modern Middle Eastern developments. A prophecy we often highlight refers to two end-time power blocs warring with each other (Daniel 11:40-43). The “king of the north” is a united Europe led by Germany, while the “king of the south” is an Islamist alliance led by Iran; this includes Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia is not in the list. (Request a free copy of Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s booklet The King of the South for more information.)

A related prophecy in Psalm 83 shows who Germany’s partners will be. Verses 1-4 describe another prophetic alliance—formed against the nations of Israel (primarily America and Britain, as Herbert W. Armstrong proved in his landmark book The United States and Britain in Prophecy).

Verse 8 uses Germany’s ancient name Assur. Verse 6 specifies that the Ishmaelites, the modern Saudis and Gulf Arabs, are allied with Germany against America.

As Daniel 11 brings out, this alliance also opposes Iran. So expect the improved relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran to deteriorate again soon, dramatically. As for China, it is a newcomer to Middle Eastern affairs. Germany, by contrast, has been a longstanding economic partner of the Saudis and has been selling them weapons for years. Riyadh and Berlin have a much longer tradition of good relations. Ultimately, China will probably side with Iran over Saudi Arabia if for nothing else than to further reduce American influence in the region.

There will be other countries in this alliance, but Saudi Arabia is in a unique position to damage America’s economy and geopolitical position. Deuteronomy 28:52 prophesies of an economic siege on America by the same countries in the Psalm 83 alliance. If the dollar loses the backing of Saudi oil and therefore its strength as the world’s reserve currency, this trade war becomes much likelier and much more grave. Expect Saudi Arabia’s split with America to deepen, the dollar to lose what backing it has from Saudi oil, the Saudis to continue looking for new allies, and for them to find one in Germany. Expect Saudi Arabia’s fear of and enmity with Iran to increase. As you see these events come to pass, remember: You are not merely looking at geopolitical developments. You are watching the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.