Saudi King needs to balance carefully his foreign policy priorities

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Riyadh, Dec 30: Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud needs to balance carefully his foreign policy priorities at the time when country is facing complex web of security challenges at a time when its economy is depressed.

This year Saudi Arabia posted record $98 billion budget deficit for 2015.

Saudi needs to balance foreign policy

According to an editorial in Al-Monitor, "Riyadh's immediate priority is the war in Yemen. The war costs an estimated $200 million a day, or $6 billion a month. The Saudi coalition and the Houthi rebels both violated the last United Nations-sponsored cease-fire. The Saudis did gain control of the capital of Jawf province along the Saudi border during the supposed truce. The talks in Biel, Switzerland, did not produce a breakthrough, but are to resume Jan. 14."

The Houthis are not willing to give up. They remained defiant. It is likely to be a bloody stalemate that has catastrophic humanitarian costs for Yemenis. The outside world pays little if any attention.
Saudi Arabia will have to spend heavy cost in years to come to stabilize and reconstruct Yemen if permanent truce is arranged there.

"Maintaining the military government in Egypt is another top Saudi priority. Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's favorite son, visited Cairo earlier this month and promised $8 billion in Saudi investment in Egypt over the next five years. In March, Riyadh promised $4 billion in aid, matched by similar pledges from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait."

The kingdom also has provided significant aid to other key allies such as Bahrain, Pakistan and Jordan.
"The formation of an Islamic military alliance of 34 members to fight terrorism is consistent with the kingdom's long-standing efforts to mobilize the Islamic states to address critical global issues," writes author in the editorial.

The announcement was made with an aim to silence criticism that the Saudis and their allies are doing too little against IS in Syria and Iraq because of their commitment in Yemen. The Saudis are funding parts of the opposition to Bashar al-Assad in Syria and will probably increase their support next year.
"It also reflects Riyadh's priorities and concerns and its desire to share the burden of fighting terrorism more equitably," he added.
"Saudi Arabia has sponsored the development of Islamic institutions to push Islamic causes since the 1960s, when King Faisal believed that the Islamic states should unite to oppose international communism, Soviet aggression and to back Palestinian independence."

Mohammed probably also wants the alliance to bolster his credentials as a military leader. Some Saudis have had second thoughts about the Yemen war, which has not produced the decisive victory promised early on. A high-profile diplomatic and military event may quiet those doubts, at least for a time.

Read More: Saudi Arabia forms Islamic counter-terrorism coalition

The alliance formed by the Saudi Arabia has been ridiculed by the ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Of course what really matters is creating an effective alliance. The Arab world has been talking about military alliances since the 1940s, but has yet to produce a serious arrangement. So far there is little sign the new alliance is any different.

The editorial concludes saying, the year 2016 will be a difficult year for the kingdom.

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