Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's Not All About Israel: Saudi Visit To US Is Meant To Put Pressure On US

There's more to the Saudi visit than putting more pressure on Israel:
On Iran, however, the Saudi king fears that his country's historically closest ally is naive, and dangerously so, for putting so much faith in diplomacy. The same emotional approach that causes Abdullah to anguish about the Palestinians also explains his distrust and antipathy toward the Iranians, whom he sees as typically untrustworthy Shiite challengers to Sunni, and therefore Saudi, custodianship of the holy places of Islam.
According to FP, King Abdullah has been trying to create daylight between Saudi Arabia and the US--the better to be able to position his country in the Sunni-Shiite rivalry. To do that, the perception of being a pawn of the US has got to go.

One of the best examples of how this has happened is oil. Saudi Arabia is no longer our largest supplier of foreign oil, instead ranking 3rd behind Canada and Mexico. As a result, the US has less influence on Saudi Arabia. And the Saudi pursuit of nuclear energy indicates that they do not believe that Obama is going to stop Iran. Not only do they want nuclear plants--the Saudis want to enrich the uranium themselves, the same position taken by Iran.

To make it more interesting, after leaving the US King Abdullah is going to France. Besides taking a tougher stand on Iran's nuclear ambitions than Obama, Sarkozy has also encouraged Saudi Arabia's nuclear plans, at least for generating electricity. According to FP, if Riyadh's plans to enrich their own uranium is accepted by the US, the UAE is likely to follow suit--threatening its 123 Agreement on non-proliferation.

While the Saudi visit to the US is played up as signaling their insistence that the US take an even stronger stand against Israel, there are strong undercurrents of Saudi dissatisfaction with the Obama administration as a whole--with repercussions for the US, the Middle East and (as always) Israel.

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