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Saudi-U.S. relations have been steadfast for decades, particularly in the Trump with Iran and his administration's support of the Arab Spring. For the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia's escape so far from the Arab spring has been a welcome relief. The American perception that the Saudis are critical to stability in the region contradiction in its increasingly tense relationship with Saudi Arabia. failing to support President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt during the Arab Spring.
An awful lot of the U. But like OPEC, the influence of Saudi money gets exaggerated awfully fast — and popular debate over Saudi doings can be quick to take on a racist tinge. CNN reports that, 18 months after the deal was announced, the Saudis have only followed through on about one-eighth of the purchases.
- The U.S. Has Deep Ties to Saudi Arabia — But Disentangling Ourselves Isn’t Impossible
Bloomberg crunches some numbers to point out that, although the Saudis have been weapons customers for decades, their total purchases of U. And about those defense manufacturing jobs? They do matter, tremendously, to the manufacturing communities where they are clustered, the unions who represent the well-paid workers, and members of Congress in states like Ohio, Missouri and Washington.
Despite Deep US-Saudi Ties, Distancing Ourselves Is Possible
Over all, though, the entire private sector defense industry represents. But the ties that hold Washington and Riyadh the closest are political. For decades, Washington has seen the Saudi kingdom as a force for stability in the Middle East — stability of oil prices and thus not only the U. The Saudis formed many of their core policies in line with U.
Washington, in turn, accepted whatever Riyadh chose to do internally to maintain its version of stability — occasionally raising a protest, supporting reformers, and allowing dissidents to settle here, but all quietly. This bargain had frayed badly before Trump. Policymakers were deeply frustrated by the influence of Saudi-trained and funded extremists elsewhere in the Muslim world, and angered by Saudi efforts to promote hardliners and foil civil society movements during the Arab Spring.
The US-Saudi Alliance - Geopolitical Futures
There is one last reason, regardless of who sits in the White House, for caution when thinking about changes to the relationship. Defense Secretary James Mattis paid a two-day visit to the Saudi capital as part of a weeklong regional tour. Historically, the United States has treated Saudi Arabia as a close ally, despite the massive difference in values between the two countries. The decision by the administration of President George W. Bush to carry out regime change in Iraq, which empowered pro-Iranian Shiite forces in the country, further strained relations between the U.
The deal gave the U. Previously, Great Britain served in this role. The British had a very close relationship with King Abdulaziz during the first three decades of the 20th century.
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During this time, the latter led a band of tribal religious warriors who conquered much of the Arabian Peninsula and, infounded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis relied on the British as their security guarantor, especially in the days before the monarchy could profit from the export of crude oil, which was discovered in It was only natural for the Saudis to embrace the Americans when the United States emerged as the leader of the Western world.
Washington pursued a containment strategy against the Soviets.
This strategy required allies, especially in the Middle East where the Kremlin also sought alignment with left-wing Arab forces whose fortunes were rising at the time. Saudi Arabia, with its ultraconservative religious monarchy, was a natural ally in the American effort to counter pro-Soviet secular regimes that emerged in many Arab countries including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and South Yemen, as well as the biggest Arab non-state actor at the time, the Palestine Liberation Organization.
As a result, the Saudi regime — in addition to the other Arab monarchies especially in the Persian Gulf as well as Turkey and Iran — became a close ally of the U. Ironically, in an effort to counter the Soviet Union and its secular proxies, the United States empowered Islamist actors.
But nowhere was the American-Saudi alliance against communism more significant than in Afghanistan in the s. In those days, the U. That year was a major turning point.
The Soviet Union imploded, ending the Cold War. At about the same time, a global jihadist movement in the form of al-Qaida emerged as a threat to American global interests.