While President Obama is busy pissing off long time allies like the French and Germans* both through policies that offend them, attempting to align more closely with autocratic Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and spying on just about everybody, you might have missed another Obama “success” story.
Since World War II the US and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia have had a steady, if not always strong, alignment. And that alignment is in danger of rupture.
Saudi Arabia often strikes us more as a “frenemy” than an ally. We all know that 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, as was, of course, Osama bin Laden. And Saudi subjects finance radical madrasses worldwide, preaching a vision of Islam that sneers at the mores and values of our Western culture and heritage.
But the Saudi royal family, despite appearing to be an absolute monarchy, is in a difficult position. As much as they try to moderate and modernize their culture, any shift to a more liberal** stance risks seeing them overthrown by their own radical elements. The family has to walk a tightrope between maintaining relations with the West, and not inviting internal revolt.
Saudi Arabia’s single biggest external security issue is Iran. The incredibly deep schism between Sunni and Shia means Iran is an even greater threat to the kingdom than any possible internal unrest. And the specter of a nuclear armed Iran is the nightmare fuel for Saudi foreign ministry types.
Sadly, Obama seems to take at face value the extraordinarily meager crumbs of reconciliation the new Iranian president Rouhani. This is incredibly naive, even for this feckless administration. The Iranians are clearly trying to buy time to further their nuclear weapons program. Toning down the rhetoric is an easy way to do it. That our own government can’t see that is astonishing. Further, even in the incredible case that President Rouhani actually did wish to change the relationship between the US and Iran, such a policy decision is out of his hands. The president of Iran can do pretty much anything he wants, policy-wise, so long as it is exactly what the Supreme Ruling Council wants.
Michael Totten has a terrific post that showcases the fruits of our amatuer foreign policy, a policy so bad that it is driving Saudi Arabia away from the US, and into the arms of… who knows? He goes off the rails a bit there, but the diagnosis is spot on.
Personally, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if China was quick to make friends.
*To be honest, I’m not a bit dismayed to hear we’re spying on them. We’re supposed to spy on everybody but our own citizens.
**Not in the American political sense