Thursday, March 27, 2014

Keep Your Eye on the Saudis

The Saudis See Iran Trying to Encircle Them - Dennis Ross
  • The Saudis believe that America's friends and interests are under threat, and the U.S. response has ranged from indifference to accommodation. The Saudis see Iran trying to encircle them with its Quds Force active in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and their own eastern province.
  • The Saudis see an Iranian effort to shift the balance of forces in the region dramatically in Tehran's favor, whether by killing Sunni Muslims in Syria, mobilizing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, providing arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen or fomenting unrest among Saudi Shiites.
  • [T]he Saudis perceive Iranian encirclement in existential terms. Like the Israelis, they are convinced Iran is determined to acquire nuclear arms but see it as an instrument in its pursuit of regional hegemony.
  • Saudi leaders see the Iranians using the nuclear program negotiations to buy time, and fear that the U.S. is refusing to compete with the Iranians in the region or to back U.S. friends as they do so.
  • They see the Egyptian military involved in a life-and-death struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi terrorists in Sinai, both of whom are also perceived as a threat to Saudi Arabia. And they see the U.S. withholding of Apache helicopters, which are effective as a counter-terror weapon for the Egyptian military, as inexplicable.
  • The Saudis have offered to pay for the $2-3 billion arms package Egypt is seeking from the Russians.

    The writer served as a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama.
(Los Angeles Times)

The U.S.-Saudi Relationship Really Is Too Big to Fail - Aaron David Miller

As President Obama heads off to Riyadh this week, the list of issues on which U.S. and Saudi leaders don't agree has gotten pretty long.

Riyadh opposed Mubarak's fall; we sounded like we welcomed it. They saw the Morsi Muslim Brotherhood government as a threat; we were prepared to live with it. They fully supported the Egyptian military coup and backed it with billions; we waffled and conditioned our military assistance to Egypt.

They backed the Khalifa family in Bahrain; initially we supported reform in their backyard. They remain worried that a Shi'a government close to Iran rules just across their border in Baghdad; we enabled it. Indeed, the Saudis see the Middle East as a struggle between good Sunnis and bad Shi'a; we refuse to take sides.

Yet the U.S.-Saudi relationship really is too big to fail. Key linkages - billions in recent U.S. weapons sales, counter-terrorism cooperation, and all that oil - will keep Riyadh and Washington together for some time to come.
(American Interest)

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials
- David Andrew Weinberg

With President Obama poised to visit Saudi Arabia, there is a looming counterterrorism problem: Saudi Arabia's ongoing sponsorship of religious hatred in its public education system. 

In 2011, the State Department commissioned a comprehensive study on Saudi Arabia's government-published textbooks, which are widely distributed both inside the country and abroad. However, when the study was ready for release in 2012, U.S. government officials decided not to publish it.

Current and former officials assert that the study was withheld because of how bad it makes the Saudis look. Passages continue to dehumanize Jews and Christians, promote the murder of homosexuals, and sanction violence against Muslims who do not follow the Wahhabi brand of Islam sponsored by the Saudi state. 
(Foundation for Defense of Democracies)

Above, a video on the plight of a Saudi Princess and her children


LHwrites said...

The MidEast is a mess. Note that while they would like the current administration to do more about Iran, that many of the most serious problems then and now, were caused by those that some people think are actually "tough" and "friends" of Israel. For instance, the mess of Iraq, and that the conservatives of Congress couldn't muster the votes for the military action in Syria that Obama was handing off to them. There will be no easy answers in that part of the world, and once oil is no longer a central issue, the easy answer will sadly be, to leave them all to their own devices. The future of the MidEast is grim, and I worry about Israel and all the people of that region that just want to go about living their lives.

Bruce said...

You are right to worry.

I'm not sure I'd offer the current US Administration a pass, as you appear to.

President Obama's failure in the Syria conflict was a failure of governing.

He made a red-line threat he didn't want to carry out. When Assad called his bluff, Obama failed to step up to the plate.

His ridiculous move of going to Congress for approval was a neat way to get him off the hook. Even if he really believed that was the right move [it wasn't] it projected weakness for the entire planet to ponder.

Incompetent foreign policy management, no matter how you slice it.