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04/28/2016

The U.S. and Saudi Relationship

Charles F. Wald, a U.S. Air Force General (Ret.) who served as Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command, had an op-ed piece recently in Defense One where he addressed the issues facing President Obama and his relationship with Saudi Arabia.  Here are a few excerpts.

---

President Obama’s visit comes in the midst of complex and alarming challenges – sectarian bloodbaths, ethnic hostilities, regional rivalries, big-power meddling, and international terrorism – that demand urgent U.S. engagement.

Supported by Iran and Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own people.  The terrorists of ISIL have conquered a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq.  In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are battling to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies.  Instability and political paralysis persist in Lebanon.  The Israelis and Palestinians are still at odds.

Into this simmering cauldron, add the recent nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran, which lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic and gave it an additional $100 billion to invest in its military, its proxies, and its expansionism and trouble-making.

This toxic mix threatens to ignite warfare throughout the Middle East, inspire terrorism worldwide, and destabilize global energy markets.  And like it or not, these crises call for more, not less, American engagement.

Now as in the past, American interests in the Middle East include preserving the peace, ensuring reliable energy sources, combating transnational terrorism, and preventing an adversarial nation from attaining regional hegemony.

The answer need not always be more U.S. troops. But to advance these enduring goals, the U.S. must reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia – a longstanding force for regional stability and a crucial counterweight to an enriched and emboldened Iran.

For seven decades, Saudi Arabia has been our close strategic partner, steadying world oil supplies and prices while helping to maintain peace and stability. From the Cold War to the present, Saudi interests have aligned not only with the U.S. but also with our friends in the region, including Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the other Gulf States – and even, at times, Israel.

But preserving the Saudi partnership is a matter of necessity, not nostalgia. With the growth of ISIL and the strengthening of Iran, the Kingdom’s strategic role in the region is more essential than ever....

The U.S. needs to recognize that Saudi Arabia feels increasingly threatened, potentially imperiling regional and international security. Contributing to Saudi Arabia’s anxieties are the severe decline in oil prices, the collapse of many Middle Eastern governments during the Arab Spring, ISIL’s intentions to overthrow the governments of the Gulf States and Iran’s stoking of sectarian rifts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and, more recently, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia itself.

Without American reassurance and support, Saudi Arabia will be tempted to act on its own and seek new allies. There has been talk of the Saudis seeking to pursue their own nuclear program, as well as reaching out to Russia for military and diplomatic support. Such actions could compound the chaos in the Middle East, while threatening the U.S.-Saudi alliance that has been a foundation for regional and international security.

Instead of straining our relationship with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. should strengthen it, from security to diplomacy, economics and support for the far-reaching reforms now underway.

Yes, America should be critical of some Saudi practices, particularly the treatment of women and religious minorities. But we should also remember that the Saudis are a youthful people, with 70 percent of the population under age 30 and millions engaged with social media.

Such a society is poised for change....

The U.S. should encourage Saudi Arabia’s emerging leaders as they move forward with reforms, from women’s rights to free-market economics.  A changing Saudi Arabia can be a catalyst for peaceful change, not violent conflicts, and the United States should nurture our partnership and encourage this evolution.

Source: Defense One

Hot Spots will return in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore



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Hot Spots

04/28/2016

The U.S. and Saudi Relationship

Charles F. Wald, a U.S. Air Force General (Ret.) who served as Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command, had an op-ed piece recently in Defense One where he addressed the issues facing President Obama and his relationship with Saudi Arabia.  Here are a few excerpts.

---

President Obama’s visit comes in the midst of complex and alarming challenges – sectarian bloodbaths, ethnic hostilities, regional rivalries, big-power meddling, and international terrorism – that demand urgent U.S. engagement.

Supported by Iran and Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own people.  The terrorists of ISIL have conquered a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq.  In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are battling to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies.  Instability and political paralysis persist in Lebanon.  The Israelis and Palestinians are still at odds.

Into this simmering cauldron, add the recent nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran, which lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic and gave it an additional $100 billion to invest in its military, its proxies, and its expansionism and trouble-making.

This toxic mix threatens to ignite warfare throughout the Middle East, inspire terrorism worldwide, and destabilize global energy markets.  And like it or not, these crises call for more, not less, American engagement.

Now as in the past, American interests in the Middle East include preserving the peace, ensuring reliable energy sources, combating transnational terrorism, and preventing an adversarial nation from attaining regional hegemony.

The answer need not always be more U.S. troops. But to advance these enduring goals, the U.S. must reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia – a longstanding force for regional stability and a crucial counterweight to an enriched and emboldened Iran.

For seven decades, Saudi Arabia has been our close strategic partner, steadying world oil supplies and prices while helping to maintain peace and stability. From the Cold War to the present, Saudi interests have aligned not only with the U.S. but also with our friends in the region, including Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the other Gulf States – and even, at times, Israel.

But preserving the Saudi partnership is a matter of necessity, not nostalgia. With the growth of ISIL and the strengthening of Iran, the Kingdom’s strategic role in the region is more essential than ever....

The U.S. needs to recognize that Saudi Arabia feels increasingly threatened, potentially imperiling regional and international security. Contributing to Saudi Arabia’s anxieties are the severe decline in oil prices, the collapse of many Middle Eastern governments during the Arab Spring, ISIL’s intentions to overthrow the governments of the Gulf States and Iran’s stoking of sectarian rifts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and, more recently, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia itself.

Without American reassurance and support, Saudi Arabia will be tempted to act on its own and seek new allies. There has been talk of the Saudis seeking to pursue their own nuclear program, as well as reaching out to Russia for military and diplomatic support. Such actions could compound the chaos in the Middle East, while threatening the U.S.-Saudi alliance that has been a foundation for regional and international security.

Instead of straining our relationship with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. should strengthen it, from security to diplomacy, economics and support for the far-reaching reforms now underway.

Yes, America should be critical of some Saudi practices, particularly the treatment of women and religious minorities. But we should also remember that the Saudis are a youthful people, with 70 percent of the population under age 30 and millions engaged with social media.

Such a society is poised for change....

The U.S. should encourage Saudi Arabia’s emerging leaders as they move forward with reforms, from women’s rights to free-market economics.  A changing Saudi Arabia can be a catalyst for peaceful change, not violent conflicts, and the United States should nurture our partnership and encourage this evolution.

Source: Defense One

Hot Spots will return in a few weeks.

Brian Trumbore