News / Middle East

Saudi-US Rift Seen Over Middle East 'Mess'

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, attends a coffee ceremony with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, attends a coffee ceremony with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Elizabeth Arrott
The United States has downplayed recent tensions with Saudi Arabia, but some in the region say the problems may not be easily pushed aside.  

Saudi Arabia is having a fit of pique.  The normally staid kingdom has rebuffed a seat on the U.N. Security Council, hinted it might go it alone on Syria, and most surprisingly, made clear its anger at long-time ally the United States.

Saudi editor and author Jamal Khashoggi spoke to VOA via Skype.

“What Saudi Arabia is probably worried about is that America is only interested in the nuclear issue with Iran, Israeli security, and they will leave to us the mess that we have in the Middle East to sort out ourselves," said Khashoggi.

The “mess” in the wake of the Arab Spring is extensive, from coups to civil war and growing religious strife.  Saudi officials were furious over the U.S. reversal on military strikes against Syria's government, an ally of Saudi rival Iran. Frustration grew over Washington's handling of Egypt.

America's top diplomat called the ouster of an elected president "restoring democracy" but then Washington cut aid.

Political analyst Mustafa Labbad, director of the al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo, says U.S. Mideast policy lately is seen largely as a series of missteps.

"You have to have a sophisticated plan as a super power.  If you don't have it - so you wouldn't achieve anything," said Labbad.

Hovering over all is the sectarian struggle between Sunnis and Shi'ites - roughly translated in Saudi leaders' eyes as Saudi Arabia versus Iran.  U.S. overtures to Tehran, in hopes of curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions, do not help. Jamal Khashoggi:
 
“We panic about the notion that the relationship between Iran and the U.S. could warm up," he said.

Washington has downplayed the idea of a U.S. - Saudi rift, but former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli says America needs to reassure its Middle East allies.

“We are neglecting them at our peril, because we need them.  I think we are taking them a little bit for granted, frankly.  And that includes Saudi Arabia," said Ereli.

Key strategic interests continue to bind the United States and Saudi Arabia - anti-terrorism and oil among the top issues. And ties include U.S. military sales to the kingdom and Saudi investment in the U.S.

Many think those will outlast the current tensions.  But Khashoggi believes there may be a more fundamental change afoot.

“What is happening in the Middle East is a rebirth, something similar to what happened in 1918 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  And it really needs stable, strong countries to manage that rebirth," he said.

Those countries, he hopes, will be Saudi Arabia, with Sunni partners such as Turkey.  The question is if Iran envisions a Shi'ite version of that scenario.  Analysts believe it likely does.  The U.S. has yet to signal if it will continue its long, deep involvement in a reshaped Middle East.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid