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    US President Barack Obama speaks with King Salman (L) of Saudi Arabia during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on September 4, 2015

    Divorce in the Making? US-Saudi Relations 'Bending Toward a Breaking Point'

    © AFP 2017/ YURI GRIPAS
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    Strained relations between Washington and one of its key allies in the Middle East might well have outlived their usefulness and are "bending toward a breaking point," foreign affairs correspondent Michael Crowley asserted.

    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."

    US President Barack Obama (R) and  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during meetings in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on June 29, 2010
    © AFP 2017/ Saul LOEB
    US President Barack Obama (R) and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during meetings in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on June 29, 2010

    Later that year, the then Saudi king refused to help Barack Obama to kick start the peace process between Israel and Palestine. The US president was unprepared for such a response, the journalist added, citing a former senior member of the Obama administration.

    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.

    Egyptian protesters gesture as they clash with riot police at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011, as Egyptian police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up a sit-in among whose organisers were people injured during the Arab Spring which overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak
    © AFP 2017/ KHALED DESOUKI
    Egyptian protesters gesture as they clash with riot police at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011, as Egyptian police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up a sit-in among whose organisers were people injured during the Arab Spring which overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak

    "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.

    Obama's willingness to cooperate with Egypt's first Islamist president Mohamed Morsi added fuel to the fire. The Saudis view the Muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

    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.

    Last year, King Salman opted not to take part in the summit of the Sunni Arab leaders, held at Camp David.

    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.

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    Yemen War, Syrian conflict, politics, Arab Spring, Salman bin Abdelaziz al-Saud, Barack Obama, King Abdullah, United States, Saudi Arabia
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