Is Great Satan's Allied Hook Up with Whahabbi Arabia dang near null and void?
These days, when the United States and Saudi Arabia look at the region, they see two completely different landscapes and conflicting sets of interests. Riyadh sees a series of conflicts that the United States must resolve and a series of failing states that it must rehabilitate. The Saudis would like a commitment from Obama to defang Iran, change the balance of power in the Syrian civil war to the detriment of Bashar Assad and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.44's making a futile trip. The United States and Saudi Arabia no longer see anything the same way.
How did the U.S.-Saudi relationship go so badly astray? It wasn’t that great to begin with. There has always been something incongruous about an alliance between a liberal democracy and a traditional monarchy relying on austere Islam and petrodollars to sustain itself. During the Cold War, the two sides’ antipathy toward the Soviet Union concealed all these differences.
In the post-Cold War period, the Saudis’ massive oil reserves and the need to deal with Saddam Hussein deflected attention from the core contradictions that long bedeviled this relationship. The September 11th tragedy, and the revelation that 15 out of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, jolted the relationship once again, but that too was soon forgotten with America’s renewed focus on Iraq, as the long insurgency and reconstitution of post-Saddam Iraq took front page.
Today, the administration does not see an adversary whose containment requires Saudi support. Iran once would have filled that role, but Washington is preoccupied with sustaining its arms control agreement with Tehran. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once caused the United States to seek out Arab stakeholders, but such lofty ambitions no longer obsess Washington as they once did. And as the global energy markets change, the United States grows more energy independent, and Saudi oil becomes a less relevant staple crop, the lure of petroleum is increasingly not enough to sustain an alliance always built on a shaky foundation.
Moreover, suspicions that the Saudis have been two-faced in the fight against terrorism—especially over the kingdom’s alleged support of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist terrorists—are once again in the forefront.
Nor should the Saudis take any comfort from the idea that changing the occupant of the White House early next year will change this serious misalignment of interests, or substantially alter America’s policies.
As the Middle East undergoes another vulnerable and violent transition, it will do so largely without America. It remains to be seen whether the 21st century will be an American century anywhere else in the world, but it’s not going to be one in the Middle East. U.S. politicians on both sides are tired of expending precious resources to stabilize a region coming undone.