19:59 GMT +307 December 2019
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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

    'The New Normal': Why US-Saudi Geopolitical 'Honeymoon' Ended

    © AFP 2019 / YURI GRIPAS
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    Riyadh should give up its illusions and adopt a more realistic approach toward US-Saudi relations, American scholars Perry Cammack and Richard Sokоlsky note, stressing that the partnership between the two states "is experiencing deep structural changes."

    The US-Saudi partnership is undergoing deep structural changes, according to Perry Cammack and Richard Sokolsky of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    "Shifting US regional and global priorities, fundamental changes in the global energy market, and America's response to the convulsions sweeping the Middle East since 2011 have engendered mutual mistrust and exposed deep fault lines," the US scholars write in their analysis for The National Interest.

    Cammack and Sokolsky refer to Barack Obama's concerns, voiced by the US President in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic. Obama called the Saudi regime "free riders" who could drag the United States into trouble in the region.

    Obama's remark has prompted resentment in Riyadh.

    "No, Mr. Obama. We are not 'free riders'," Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal wrote in his open letter to Obama published in the Arab News.

    "You accuse us of fomenting sectarian strife in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. You add insult to injury by telling us to share our world with Iran, a country that you describe as a supporter of terrorism and which you promised our king to counter its 'destabilizing activities'," the Saudi Prince noted.

    Whether Riyadh likes it or not, it is time for Saudi Arabia and Iran to learn to "share the neighborhood" in the Middle East, the US President believes.

    It is becoming clear that King Salman's assertive military doctrine does not add to stability in the region.

    Though Washington supported Riyadh's war in Yemen "to reassure the Saudis that the United States was a reliable partner," Saudi Arabia's military actions look "impulsive and ill conceived" in the eyes of the Obama administration, according to the US scholars.

    Saudi Arabia's overreliance upon American protection has played a nasty trick on Riyadh.

    At the same time, Washington has become less dependent on the Gulf oil. Furthermore, the US has emerged as Saudi Arabia's competitor in the oil market. The House of Saud does not conceal its discontent with the White House and is even taking steps to bolster its relations with Moscow and Beijing.

    And here is the rub: both Russia and China maintain a friendly relationship with Tehran, Riyadh's longstanding geopolitical rival.

    What is the way out for Saudi Arabia?

    According to the US scholars, Riyadh and Washington should adopt "the new normal approach."

    "The new normal will be a more diffident US-Saudi relationship. Both sides will harbor lower expectations of each other and continue to disagree, sometimes sharply, over important regional security issues, but will seek accommodations when their interests overlap," Cammack and Sokolsky explain.

    "They will have a more realistic and sustainable relationship that, shorn of its illusions and misperceptions, could produce fewer disappointments and even allow ad hoc cooperation," the scholars stress.

    The two allies still have a lot of shared interests in the region and they really need to begin "a candid, frank and constructive dialogue" over their expectations and simmering controversies.

    "Next week's US-GCC summit in Riyadh is the last opportunity for the Obama administration to recalibrate the US-Saudi relationship," the American scholars underscore.

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    Tags:
    military activity, foreign policy, invasion, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Pentagon, Turki al-Faisal, Salman bin Abdelaziz al-Saud, Barack Obama, China, Syria, United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
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