Saudi Arabia is concerned that the U.S. has gone too far, forming a serious rift in the 75-year-long relationship between the Gulf region oil giant and the U.S. – ranging from disagreements over pressing issues such as Iran, Syria, an Egypt. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh over the weekend in an effort to mend strained ties between the longstanding allies.
Prince Faisal stressed the importance of limiting the amount of daylight between the two countries on such issues, meanwhile, stressing the imperative of working together and how the relationship should not be overshadowed by petty political self-interest. The U.S. policy towards Bashar al-Assad’s war-torn country of Syria has produced a sour pill for the Saudi Arabian government to swallow after the U.S. signed onto a deal that allowed Assad to remain in power. The agreement stipulates that Assad would not be removed from power militarily under arrangements designed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“There is no room for emotion and anger here, but rather for policies of common sense and level-headedness,” said Prince Faisal during a news conference, with the U.S. Secretary of State at his side. Despite the talks, U.S. policy towards the Middle East has strayed far from what would be considered viable for the Saudi Arabian government. Saudi Arabia declined a seat on the UN Security Council in light of the appeasement-like policy of the U.S. in the aftermath of chemical weapon attacks on civilian targets by Bashar al-Assad.
Amongst the biggest contentious aspects of U.S. policy is the ongoing tentative talks with Iran, the Shi’ite run theocracy which has had a longstanding rivalry with the Sunni dominated Saudi Arabian kingdom.
Proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran have hindered any progress towards reconciliation. The most visible result of this are the troublesome uprisings in Bahrain, where a Shi’ite majority is oppressed by the Saudi backed Sunni minority who run the government there.
The U.S. earlier this month saw their first direct talks between a U.S. President and an Iranian leader since Jimmy Carter and the western backed Shah in 1979. This renewal in relations has alarmed Saudi Arabia who view the peace talks between Iran and the U.S. as a threat to Saudi Arabian hegemony over the region in the form of oil production and distribution.
Secretary of State John Kerry assured Saudi Arabia that there would be “no surprises” for the kingdom in regards to talks with Iran, and that such negotiations should not split the longtime relationship.
The deeply historical and blood-soaked rivalry between Shi’ite Muslims and Sunni Muslims is one that is complex and – in some ways – irreconcilable. Dominance over the region pits the Sunni Kingdom against Shi’ite run countries like Syria and Iran. Covert missions conducted by the nations involved come in the form of spying, assassinations, and proxy wars.
Although Saudi Arabia may be concerned that the U.S. has gone too far in its approach TO Iran, a U.S. official said “We frankly completely agree with the Saudis about their concerns.” but continue to assure the kingdom that Washington has the Saudi’s interests in mind when conducting U.S. policy in the Middle East.
by John Amaruso