Saudi Arabia Without America?

While Saudi streets are not filled with demonstrators calling for the overthrow of their absolute monarchy at this point, something else is emerging that could expedite the downfall of the House of Saud.

saudi-USThe United States has begun looking after its interests in Arab and Muslim countries without relying on Saudi middlemen.

The Saudi royals have spent decades manipulating American decision-makers, media, businesses, and educators into believing that the authoritarian monarchs are the best defenders of US interests in the Middle East.

Dreadfully, the Americans’ reliance on Saudi mediations among adversaries and interpretation of events and trends in Arab and Muslim countries over the years have undermined US influence and credibility and strengthened the Saudi political and religious position and influence among most Arabs and Muslims. However, things seem to be changing.

The Bush Administration, whose tumultuous term in office was in its embryonic stage when the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US by mostly Saudi nationals occurred, first began to question the prudence of trusting the Saudis to promote and protect US interests.

That was a game-changer, the beginning of an irreversible trend. Despite clumsy, and in one illustration, humiliating beginnings in its outreach to Arabs and Muslims, the Obama Administration continued what President Bush started and even intensified America’s role in conducting its strategic, military and diplomatic policies in the Greater Middle East in spite of the Saudis’ and others’ private and public protestations and threats.

Nowhere can the irreconcilable disagreements between the Obama Administration and the Saudis be more blatant than in US policy toward Iran and Syria.

The Saudis want the US and others to invade and topple the Syrian and Iranian regimes under the pretext of sparing Syria its regime’s onslaught and preventing nuclear proliferation by Iran, while the US is looking for diplomatic and economic solutions.

The lack of Americans’ (government and people) appetite for more wars in the Middle East infuriates the Saudis and has sent them to all corners of the earth to seek support for their goal of regime change in Iran and Syria. They seem to have been unable to garner any support for their campaign. The Russians, the Arab League, the UN, and the European Union have all turned the Saudis down.

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Other reasons for the plummeting of US-Saudi relations include US support for the Arab masses’ uprising and toppling of pro-Saudi dictators, such as Mubarak of Egypt, Bin Ali of Tunisia, Salah of Yemen and even Gadhafi of Libya. Additionally, the US did not endorse, publically or privately, the Saudis’ invasion of Bahrain to help their autocratic Al-Khalifa cousins crush the pro-democracy majority movement in that small but strategic island, home to the US Fifth Fleet.

The US decision to pursue its interest and conduct its policies in the Greater Middle East directly not only demonstrates the Saudi royals’ dispensability, but increases their isolation from their most traditional Western defenders. The question that the US and other powers, especially non-Muslims, should be pondering now is what the desperate Saudi royals will do to stay in power at home and to maintain their diminishing influence regionally and globally.

One scenario comes to mind: they will intensify their reliance on religious extremists and terrorist jihadis, in one form or another, to pursue their objectives, as they do in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Will the Saudi rulers use this tactic against their Western “friends?” They already have, and worse is likely yet to come unless the Saudi theocratic and autocratic ruling dynasties realize that using terrorism and extremism to blackmail others will come at a very high price.

Dr. Ali Alyami is the founder and executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, in Washington, DC. CDHR focuses on promoting peaceful and incremental democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia, including empowerment of women, religious freedom, free flow of information, free movement, free press, privatization of government industries, free elections, non-sectarian constitution, and codified rule of law, transparency and accountability. Read other articles by Ali.