he Obama administration sent two high-level envoys to Saudi Arabia in the past two weeks — Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon — to try and mend America's close (and sometimes controversial) relations with the House of Saud. The Saudis are reportedly upset over President Obama's backing for Arab uprisings against entrenched rulers, among other issues. Is this spat overblown? Or could this disagreement drive the oil-rich desert monarchy to seek outside support elsewhere?
U.S.-Saudi ties "are in crisis": Tension is simmering on both sides, says Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy. Obama is fuming that the Saudis schemed to keep Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in power and "throttled back" their own oil production. And King Abdullah "feels let down by the White House on pretty well everything." Though the aging Abdullah "cuts an increasingly pathetic figure," that won't necessarily stop the Saudis from "dumping" Obama.
"Outraged in Riyadh"
The Saudis' won't stray too far: The crux of the problem is the Saudi monarchy's knee-jerk "opposition to the democratizing tide," says Brian M. Downing in Asia Times. The U.S. understands that "social change in the Middle East has made autocracy an ossified, useless, and foredoomed institution... even if the House of Saud does not." Still, ticked-off Saudis need to maintain "at least cordial ties with the only superpower," to ensure their external security.
"The House of Saud won't wake up"
But their anger at the U.S. is understandable: "It's hard to blame the Saudis for being furious" at Obama, says Benny Avni in the New York Post. His "on-again, off-again support of Mideast democracy (at best) fails to distinguish between friend and foe," and if he's willing to throw Mubarak "under the bus," what's to keep him from selling out "America's staunchest desert petroleum ally"? The Saudi's won't ditch the U.S. outright, but they'll show their displeasure in more "subtle" ways, likely at the gas pump.
"O's Saudi scramble"
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