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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More