The relationship has been plagued by unresolvable issues, including the Iran nuclear deal and America's support of uprisings during the Arab Spring. It appears to be at an all-time low at the moment but it has never been too cordial or mutual.
"In his first encounter with King Abdullah at a London conference in April 2009, Obama was caught on camera appearing, to some eyes, to bow to the Arab leader. Conservatives taunted him for weeks for allegedly kowtowing to the monarch," Crowley noted in an article titled "Obama's royal pain."
Nevertheless, "in September 2010, Obama approved a $60 million US arms package for the Saudis that would bolster a longtime military partnership," he detailed.
Obama's stance on the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 adversely affected the improving relations between Washington and Riyadh. The Saudi monarchy, according to Crowley, was "appalled" when the US president refused to back Hosni Mubarak, America's long-time ally.
"For King Abdullah, the Mubarak episode was just the worst possible nightmare," Crowley cited Martin Indyk, who served as the US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from 2013 to 2014, as saying.
In November 2013, Riyadh found out that the Obama administration had been engaged in the months-long talks with Saudi Arabia's main adversary, Iran.
"The Saudis opposed the Iran talks on substance – fearing that Obama was planning a strategic shift that would align the US with Tehran and phase out Riyadh as Washington's main strategic partner in the region – but also on process grounds, furious that Obama had, in effect, gone behind their back to negotiate with Iran in secret," Crowley explained.
Crowley pointed out that despite the cold spell both sides are trying to keep the bilateral relationship afloat. Obama backed the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Both Washington and Riyadh are trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. US officials have offered muted responses to the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
"But many observers fear the relationship could grow worse still, with dangerous consequences for the region," he asserted.