Is Saudi Arabia Pivoting Away from the US

This recent rare public criticism of the Obama Administration appears to be a family fight that has moved outside the home. (Even the Angler as weighed in.) What is driving Saudi concerns?

And while Saudi officials have hinted at a broader diplomatic shift away from the United States, their options are limited there, too: Saudi Arabia is dependent on American military and oil technology, and the other countries the Saudis have courted — including France and India — can help only on the margins, analysts say.
Diplomats who have spent time recently with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief running the kingdom’s Syria operation, say he seems most preoccupied not with Mr. Assad’s forces, but with the number of foreign jihadists in Syria, which he estimates at 3,000 to 5,000, including about 800 Saudis whose identities his government closely tracks. He expects those numbers to double every six months, said an American official who knows him well. Via Angry over Syria War

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5 thoughts on “Is Saudi Arabia Pivoting Away from the US

  1. josephdecker says:

    This article provided much insight as to why Saudi Arabia has recently developed such a disparaging attitude towards the United States. King Abdullah’s deep disappointment in United States foreign policy caused him to give up a seat in the United Nations Security Council- something unprecedented. Saudi Arabia’s concerns are driven by fear and suspicion of Iran- their greatest nemesis. One paragraph in the article sheds light as to why Saudi Arabia feels betrayed by the United States’ recent actions. “Syria has been a special concern for Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Abdullah, Saudi officials say, for two reasons. He feels responsible for halting the wide-scale killing of his fellow Sunni Muslims. And Syria has become the most important battleground, in Saudi eyes, for the perennial conflict with Iran, which is seen here as almost an existential threat to the kingdom because of its goal of exporting its own brand of revolutionary Shiite Islam across the Muslim world.” Saudi Arabia feels abandoned because its most influential ally is now starting negotiations with its greatest nemesis. It’s easy to see why Saudi Arabia disagrees with recent US foreign policy decisions but to me it is clear that the US made the right choice. The Syrian opposition is simply too disorganized and potentially dominated by extreme jihadists to provide military support. Perhaps the US can include Saudi Arabia in its negotiations with Iran. If Saudi Arabia can learn to keep its cool and legitimately try to cooperate, there me may a serious diplomatic breakthrough.

  2. eebashaw says:

    I was at first shocked that Saudi Arabia denied the seat on the Security Council — their anger at the United States seemed pretty random and as nothing had been reported on Saudi Arabia’s frustration with America before the security council issue, Saudi Arabia seemed irrational. However, it is clear as to why Saudi Arabia would be angry with America and the rest of the western world in regards to the Syria. Sunni Muslims have been slaughtered there for years and could easily be seen, as was stated in the article, as the most important battleground for the protection of the Sunni Muslims against the Shi’ite Muslims in Iran and throughout Syria. Although the United States and its allies were successful in keeping relative peace in Syria, it was not a situation that Saudi Arabia would be happy to see. It did not in any way solve the conflict between the two Muslim groups, though the western world is who would have the power and capabilities to establish some sort of peaceful agreement between the two groups.

  3. madeleineary says:

    There are few states of more peculiar interest than Saudi Arabia. As the guardian state of the two most holy Muslim places, it is of immense religious power, and its very alliance with the United States has long been sited by Islamist extremists as a reason for their war against the west and the US in particular. Were it not for the oil and the protection the United States provided, one would assume that Saudi Arabia would behave toward us very much as the Iranians do. Nonetheless, we support the Saudi monarchy simply because of the stability it provides and the way they work, as this article discussed, to squelch grassroots terrorism within their country and among their people. Here it seems that the moral or religious impetus of both nations is generally held in suspense. The Saudis are aligned with a distinctly worldly and non-Wahabi nation because it is politically savvy for them to do so. The United States supports an absolutist monarchy even while otherwise purporting an ultimate faith in democracy as the best of political systems. Consequently, our alliance has always seemed to me to be tenuous and perhaps these factors–anger over Syria, Egypt and Iran–might be the catalyst which drives us apart. If that is the case, what little stability we have attained in the tumult of the Middle East will quickly disappear.

  4. Megs says:

    I agree that this nicely clears up some confusion over Saudi Arabia’s actions in the UN. I understand their displeasure with the way things are looking for them in the near future. The article presents their point of view in a concise, clear way, which I appreciate. However, what stood out to me in this article was the part where it is stated that they have “a belief that only the United States has the military power and global authority to make a difference in Syria”. This statement is probably true at this point in time, and I recognize that America has traditionally stepped up and assumed the role of savior in global crises and protector of regional underdogs. However I am not comfortable, and I am sure I am not the only American who feels as such, with the fact that much of the world depends on us and our resources while there are so many domestic issues that desperately need to be addressed. In the light of the recent government shutdown, wherein it has been widely acknowledged that legislators behaved like children, what does that say about the state of the world if one of the great world powers and suppliers of assistance in global conflicts cannot even accomplish legislation within their own borders? I feel for the victims of the Syrian civil war, and I understand Saudi Arabia’s concern with the situation, and I do not think we should turn a blind eye to the situation. As a developed nation we have a responsibility to bring others up to our level, but at the same time, by rushing to their side with a financial or military band-aid, we are decreasing their independence and increasing their dependence on the United States. I get the sense that we are spread too thin. If we want to fulfill our responsibility as a global power and champion of democratic ideals in the world, it only makes sense that we first ensure stability of our government and resources at home.

  5. sarahlakee says:

    No matter how angry Saudi Arabia is at the United States, the fact is that they are very dependent on the United States for military support and for technology regarding oil (like the article said). Saudi Arabia giving up its seat in the United Nations security council is a protest against the United States foreign policy. They are attempting to shift away from the United States in terms of foreign policy but are facing the same conflicts with Syria that the United States faces with Syria. It is a sensitive issue because the government is less than organized and either nation runs the risk of giving weapons to the jihadists instead of their inteneded beneficiary, the Syrian government.

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