Reconsidering the US-Saudi relationship
By Matthew Yglesias@firstname.lastname@example.org Oct 19, 2018, 1:00pm EDT
By 2018, though, things look quite different. For starters, the Saudi population has more than tripled, so the Saudi government’s ability to use its oil reserves for anything other than straightforward economic development is reduced. But more importantly, while Russia still wins from expensive oil, American foreign policy is no longer oriented exclusively around competing with Russia.
One thing you hear is that the Saudis are valuable allies against Iran. But that’s backward. The Saudi-Iranian rivalry is very intense, and we are valuable to Saudi Arabia as allies against Iran. The leverage here is entirely in our corner. As the country that’s located on another continent and that doesn’t admire either country’s political system, we have the option of moving to a more neutral position between these two countries unless the Saudis do what we want.
Fear that Americans would realize this is what drove think tanks funded by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates into such a frenzy of opposition to President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Resolving the nuclear issue would have set the stage to make a more neutral US posture at least theoretically possible, which, in turn, would have given the US a very strong upper hand vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. But the Gulf states, working with Israel, got Republicans to scuttle the deal in a way that has made the world less safe from nuclear proliferation but serves their narrow regional political agenda.