U.S. and Saudi Arabia, Trapped in a Bad Marriage

(CNN) Aaron David Miller - When President Obama visited Saudi Arabia last week to discuss the state of the region and the U.S.-Saudi relationship with King Salman, the Saudis sent a lower-level official to greet Obama and Saudi state television didn't even bother covering the President's arrival. Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian regime that discriminates against women, doesn't permit religious freedom, and prevents freedom of the press. It has been exporting a fundamentalist Wahhabist ideology for years that demonizes Shia, Jews, Christians and the West. Yet Saudi Arabia is not seeking to undermine the regional order or sponsor terror against the West and create a caliphate. In fact, the Saudis are themselves a victim of jihadi terror and have worked closely with the U.S. against al-Qaeda in Yemen and on counterterrorism against ISIS. While the Obama administration has sold almost $95 billion in arms to the Saudis, the perception that the U.S. is withdrawing from the region, the Iranian nuclear deal, and what must appear to the Saudis as U.S. acquiescence in a rising Iran have combined to create a foundation of suspicion and mistrust. Wahhabis or not, Washington still needs the Saudis for intelligence sharing and operations against ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and requires Riyadh's cooperation in trying to manage the Syrian problem. The writer is a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

2016-04-28 00:00:00

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