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Frayed US-Saudi relations more charade than reality: Pundit

“The Saudis along with Israel are essential elements of US imperialism’s game plan in the Middle East,” Professor Dennis Etler says.

Frayed relations between Washington and Riyadh are more charade than reality since Saudi Arabia and Israel are essential players in US imperialism’s strategy for the Middle East region, says Professor Dennis Etler, an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs.

Etler, a professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, told Press TV on Sunday that President Barack Obama has given more military support to Saudi Arabia than all previous US administrations combined.

The strained US-Saudi ties are not likely to improve even after Obama leaves office next year and the new president takes charge of the White House, The Hill reported on Saturday. The relations have become strained over a number of issues, mainly because of the Iran nuclear agreement, Saudi aggression in Yemen, and the belligerent foreign policy of King Salman's regime.

“There has been much talk of late about frayed relations between Saudi Arabia and the US. As reported in numerous Western media outlets President Obama received a chilly reception when he visited Riyadh last week, being greeted not by King Salman as protocol would have it but by the Riyadh governor and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair,” Professor Etler said.

“As stated by Julian Hattem of The Hill this apparent slight has been taken as ‘the culmination of long lingering tension between the two allies that bubbled to the surface over the course of the last year and a half,’” he added.

“Tensions between the two states are said to revolve around a litany of issues, including renewed calls for release of the 28 secret pages from a 2002 congressional investigation which discuss Saudi involvement, either direct or indirect, in the 9/11 attacks and support for al-Qaeda terrorists,” the analyst stated.

“This has resulted in mounting pressure for legislation that would allow victims of the terror attacks to sue the kingdom, much to the chagrin of the Saudis who have threatened to divest themselves of $100s of billions of US debt,” he continued.

Why Obama distanced from KSA

“Fearing the consequences of precipitous actions by Congress the Obama administration has opposed the legislation, and is aligned with Riyadh on the issue. The brutality of the Saudi regime, including the execution of top Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and other abuses, has however forced Obama to try to distance the US from its erstwhile ally so it can maintain credibility as a ‘champion of human rights,’” Professor Etler said.

“Obama, following former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's mantra of leading from behind, has also made public his desire that Saudi Arabia take a more active role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East. In an interview with the Atlantic published last month, Obama referred to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries as ‘free riders’ unwilling to secure chaotic zones like Libya, angering many in the kingdom,” he noted.

“This stance however has become ‘de rigueur’ as a major component of US foreign policy. Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders amongst the Democrats and Donald Trump amongst the Republicans have both doubled down on demanding that regional US vassals pay more for US security assurances and get their hands dirty in US-sponsored regime change and destabilization efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere,” he stated.

Obama’s opening toward Iran

Professor Etler said “Obama’s opening towards Iran has also stirred controversy, not only in Riyadh but in Washington as well. The successful nuclear negotiations with Tehran and the lifting of economic sanctions were prompted primarily by US geo-political considerations.”

“The military and diplomatic resurgence of a sovereign Russia and the rise of China, both closely aligned with Iran, necessitates the US having more leeway dealing with Iran, much as prior openings to China, Vietnam and more recently Cuba have been based on similar calculations,” he added.  

“Nonetheless, the US-Saudi relationship is too deep and abiding to be sidetracked by temporary tactical disagreements. The Saudis along with Israel are essential elements of US imperialism’s game plan in the Middle East. They both serve US interests as local gendarmes who can do its bidding while allowing the US a certain degree of plausible deniability and immunity,” the analyst emphasized.

US supports Saudi provocations

“It does the US good to be seen in opposition to both Zionist and Wahhabist provocations and transgressions, but in reality US acquiescence and tacit support for their actions belies US attempts to be a neutral arbiter of the conflicts they themselves have promoted,” Professor Etler said.

“A perfect case in point is the conflict in Yemen for which the US has given the Saudi aggressors massive amounts of weapons and logistical support. US arms sales to Saudi Arabia under Obama have been three times those made under George W. Bush amounting to over $60 billion,” he stated.

“The US also supports Saudi efforts to arm and support Syrian and Iraqi terrorists in furtherance of US geopolitical goals in the region,” he added.

“As a global hegemon the US has interests that may occasionally contradict those of its surrogates in different parts of the world. But the symbiotic relationships that have been forged are much deeper than the bumps in the road that may be encountered every once in awhile. In conclusion, frayed US-Saudi relations can be seen as more charade than reality,” the scholar concluded.

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