Sunday, September 11, 2011

Palestinian State: A Saudi Warning to the US

In the NYT, Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal lays it on the line: If the US votes against recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN this month, US- Saudi relations will change, much for the worse.  Saudi Arabia will go its own way . . . and Saudi cooperation with the US in its effort to contain Iranian ambitions in the Middle East can no longer be assured.  

Today, there is a chance for the United States and Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and prevent it from destabilizing the region. But this opportunity will be squandered if the Obama administration’s actions at the United Nations force a deepening split between our two countries.  

This may be a rather empty threat.  The things the Saudis fear most in the Middle East are the emerging pro-democracy movements, and the emergence of Iran as a regional power that would promote and defend Shiism and its adherents in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, and elsewhere, versus the staunchly conservative Sunni Wahhabi orientation of the Saudi monarchy.  But since 1945, the US has been able, for the most part, to rely on Saudi cooperation (or at least acquiescence), largely because the Saudis depend upon the US military's security umbrella to protect Saudi oil production.  Perhaps the Saudis feel able to call the US's bluff on that score - that no matter the threats the Saudis might make, the US's strategic interests commit it to ensuring oil production and transport in the Persian Gulf.

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