When Allies Get Angry with America: Tell ‘Em to Pound Sand

Saudi Arabia is angry with Washington. In Riyadh’s view, the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to support tyranny and war in the Middle East. The Obama administration should tell America’s foreign “friends” that Washington acts in the interests of the American people, not corrupt dictators.

Repressive Riyadh long has been an embarrassment for the United States. Some Americans worry about access to oil, but as I observed in my latest article on Forbes online, the Saudis are even more dependent on Washington:

If the money stopped flowing, members of today’s pampered elite might find themselves hanging from lamp posts.  So Riyadh is going to ship oil to Americans even if Washington acts in America’s rather than Saudi Arabia’s interests.  (Never mind new energy discoveries elsewhere in the world, including in the United States, are steadily diminishing Riyadh’s relative energy role.)

Washington’s increased willingness to resist Saudi Arabia’s demands has led to reports that the King Abdullah is “angry.” More dramatically, the Saudi government decided not to take one of the ten elected term seats on the Security Council to send a message to the United States.

The Saudis apparently are upset because Washington did not bomb Syrian government forces after the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. Yet the very same royal regime subsidized Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its aggressive war, which included use of chemical weapons, against Iran. 

Similarly, today Saudis oppose human rights in next door Bahrain, and are irritated because Washington has offered less than fulsome praise for the Bahraini royals’ willing to shoot and imprison demonstrators and dissidents alike. Riyadh also is angry that the administration has cut aid to Egypt’s murderous military. 

Finally, the Saudi government is appalled that Washington is negotiating with rather than bombing Iran. The Wall Street Journal’s Karen Elliott House noted that the royals were concerned that a deal would boost “Iran’s prestige and influence at the expense of Saudi Arabia.” 

While Washington shouldn’t be concerned about maintaining Saudi influence, the United States understandably prefers that Tehran not get a nuke. However, another war against another Muslim nation in the Middle East would be a disaster.

Alas, America’s unhappy pampered allies are issuing threats. The Saudi regime reportedly has downgraded ties with the CIA in aiding Syrian rebels and threatened a “major shift” in dealing with America.  Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that Saudi officials said “they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security.”  Moreover, the Saudis apparently announced they no longer will favor U.S. munitions makers. 

Americans should respond, “So what?”  Washington should encourage the Saudis to find another sucker to protect their exploitative regime. The Chinese or Russians? Good luck. 

Who else? Author Christopher Davidson argued that “Saudi Arabia is retreating into its shell of countries that surround it and who rely on its aid and good will.”  Why should Washington object?

Riyadh could limit intelligence sharing and anti-terrorism cooperation with Washington. However, doing so would increase the royals’ vulnerability. Nor is Riyadh’s refusal to serve on the Security Council a problem for America. The two nations’ interests long have been substantially out of sync. 

The Saudis support radical rebels in Syria who may be as interested in killing Americans as in killing Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers. Riyadh was one of the few governments to officially recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The royals made little effort to curb funding for al-Qaeda until the latter challenged the House of Saud. 

Admittedly, it isn’t only Saudi Arabia which is upset with the Obama administration’s inconsistent approach to the Middle East’s endless complexities. However, American policy should be designed to serve the interests of Americans.

Alliances should be a means to advance U.S. security.  Alas, in recent years America’s alliances have become ends in themselves, a measure of international popularity a bit like accumulating “friends” on Facebook. 

Worse, undemocratic frenemies use alliances to manipulate U.S. policy for their own ends. Washington should not aid the Saudis in promoting tyranny and war.