The Shift in Saudi Foreign Policy

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) David Schenker - The ascendance of King Salman to the throne last January signaled a more robust Saudi approach to countering Iranian regional subversion. The new Saudi foreign policy is a reaction to the Obama Administration's diplomatic overtures to Tehran in the context of the nuclear agreement. More broadly, it represents pushback from Riyadh against what President Obama has described as a "new geopolitical equilibrium...between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran." The Saudis are especially concerned that the nuclear agreement would purchase Iran immunity from U.S. reprisal for its regionally destabilizing behavior, which would be exacerbated by the release of over $100 billion in frozen funds. In the months since the JCPOA was signed, the distance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has only increased as Washington has seemingly embraced Tehran as a potential force for regional stability. Beyond its airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed, nominally Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and its backing of Syrian rebels in their fight against the Iranian-backed Assad regime, the more aggressive Saudi approach can also be seen in Riyadh's decision to keep oil production high and oil prices low, a policy calculated to undermine the Iranian and Russian economies. In the aftermath of the Syria chemical weapons red-line debacle, the U.S. move away from its 2015 commitment to remove Assad, and the nuclear deal with Iran, Riyadh has determined that Washington is no longer a reliable ally. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

2016-02-11 00:00:00

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