RIYADH, April 3 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s unpredictable crown prince is pushing hard to realign Middle East dynamics, engaging with old foes and orchestrating OPEC oil cuts like the ones on Sunday which took the global market by surprise.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MbS, has signalled he is prepared to go it alone without the help of the United States to pursue Saudi interests, whether it means re-establishing ties with U.S. adversaries like Iran, or removing supplies from the oil market and angering consumers.
The strategy is designed to create conditions enabling Saudi Arabia to focus on MbS’s vast economic transformation plan, Vision 2030, in which he has poured hundreds of billions of dollars, hoping it will open the conservative kingdom to business and tourism amid rising regional competition.
The strategic shift began in 2019 after the devastating attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities – after which Riyadh questioned U.S. security commitments to the region – and gained momentum after Israeli attacks on Iranian targets, analysts say.
The kingdom hopes to avoid getting caught up in the crossfire, they say.
“Saudi Arabia is moving from disengagement towards engagement to allow it to focus on pushing ahead on Vision 2030,” said Saudi analyst Abdulaziz Sager.
The kingdom has gone into diplomatic overdrive, restoring relations with Iran and agreeing to a rapprochement with Syria in its quest to rebuild regional alliances, instead of leaning entirely on the United States, its long-time big power ally.
Saudi Arabia is planning to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit that Riyadh is hosting in May, three sources familiar with the plans have said, a move that would formally end Syria’s regional isolation.
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