If the Obama administration thought it was successful in its half-hearted efforts to make up with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states outraged by its Iran policies, it’s got another thing coming.
The Saudis and Bahrain, like the Israelis, are deeply concerned by the U.S. effort to create a new détente with Iran. The president may have thought he could essentially replace the Saudis with Iran as the lynchpin of a new Middle East strategic vision without paying a price. But the Saudis understandably want no part of this. The result will be a region made even more dangerous by the Arabs, as well as the Israelis, coming to the realization that they can’t rely on Washington.
The conceit of Obama’s strategy rests on more than a weak deal he hopes will be enough to postpone the question of an Iranian bomb even as it essentially anoints Tehran as a threshold nuclear power.
Rather it is predicated on the notion that once Iran is allowed to, in the president’s phrase, “get right with the world” and reintegrated into the global economy, it can be counted on to keep peace in a region from which Obama wants to withdraw.
That’s why the administration has tacitly allied itself with Iran in the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and, bowed to Tehran’s desire to leave its ally Bashar Assad in power in Syria even as they sought to restrain the Islamist regime’s Houthi friends in their effort to take over Yemen.
But given Iran’s desire for regional hegemony, its reliance on terrorist allies like Hizbullah and Hamas as well as Assad’s criminal regime, the notion that it is a force for stability is as much a delusion as the idea that it is giving up its quest for nuclear weapons.
Under the circumstances, the Saudis are now prepared to show the president the extent of their disdain. But it may not stop at that.
The Saudis, like the Israelis, know that America’s promises about both the nuclear deal and the future of the region are not worth much. That leaves the Saudis thinking they may need to procure their own nuclear option and to flex their muscles, as they have been doing in Yemen.
It also sets up the region for what may be an ongoing series of confrontations between Iranian allies and the Saudis and their friends, a recipe for disaster.
Anyone who thinks this will turn out well simply isn’t paying attention to the events that have left the Saudis and other U.S. allies thinking they are more or less being left on their own.