In a recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Dennis Ross, counsellor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discussed President Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia and what he needs to consider in order to affect Saudi behaviour.
Fundamentally, Dennis explains, the Saudis believe that America’s friends and interests are under threat, and the U.S. response has ranged from indifference to accommodation. Particular tensions have arisen because the Saudis claim that there is an Iranian effort to shift the balance of forces in the region dramatically in Tehran’s favour. Iran’s Quds Force encircling the surrounding region is thus perceived as an existential threat.
With regards to Iran’s nuclear disarmament, Dennis adds that Saudi leaders believe the U.S. is seeking détente with Iran and is turning a blind eye to Tehran’s troublemaking in the region. U.S. hesitancy in Syria, and the Saudis’ view of American policy toward Egypt adds to their sense of disquiet.
Dennis argues that none of this will mean that the Saudis will turn away from the United States; Saudi leaders know that only the U.S. can safeguard Saudi Arabia against external threats. However, as Dennis points out “insecurity often leads to self-destructive policies…given the depth of the Saudi doubts, the president will be unlikely to succeed if he offers only words of reassurance.”
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