Saudi-U.S. Ties Strained by U.S. Foreign Policy in Middle East

By:  Warren Mass
Saudi-U.S. Ties Strained by U.S. Foreign Policy in Middle East

Saudi National Security Council head Prince Bandar bin Sultan has predicted that Saudi Arabia will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States to protest what Saudis regard as American inaction over Syria's civil war, among other factors. Bandar, who is very familiar with America, was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States from 1983 until 2005.

A recent Reuters report cited an unnamed source close to Saudi policy as expressing a similar view. “The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,” Reuters quoted the source saying. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.”

“Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,” continued the source. “This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising.”

Saudi Arabia signaled its unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy last week when it rejected a two-year term on the UN Security Council, presumably to protest the failure of the U.S.-supported UN to end the war in Syria and to settle other Middle East issues. Reuters quoted Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence, whose statement indicated that Saudi Arabia was firm in its decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council's dual failure to remove Assad from power and to enforce its own resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There is nothing whimsical about the decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the ineffectual experience of that body,” Prince Turki said in a speech to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, a non-profit NGO headquartered in Washington.

Prince Bandar described Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the Security Council seat as “a message for the U.S., not the U.N,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Saudi Arabia, along with Sunni-majority states Turkey and Qatar, have provided support for the rebel coalition in Syria in the form of weapons and even fighters, — volunteers who traveled to Syria on their own in unofficial capacities.

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris on October 21, after which he told reporters: “I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been.”

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Photo of Prince Bandar bin Sultan: AP Images

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