Does Obama Support the Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia?

As you can read at the following Reuters article, Obama said that the greatest threat for Saudi Arabia is not an Iranian invasion, but rather the Saudi youth, which has been alienated from the Saudi political system (6th paragraph). That’s the arguments used again the Saudis by the Turks, the Iranians, the Russians, the Qataris etc, and the only way to interpret it is that the Americans are tired of the Royal family of Saudi Arabia. At least the Democrats who have been in power for the last years.

Picture 1

obama saud.JPG

The Republicans are normally more aggressive towards the Iranians. But it was a Republican President, i.e. George Bush, who decided to attack Iraq in 2003, overturning the ruling Sunni minority of Saddam Hussein, opening the doors of Iraq to Iran. That was the worst thing that could happen to Saudi Arabia. Therefore it does not seem that the Republicans care too much about Saudi Arabia either.

And of course it is not a coincidence that Al Qaeda attacked the Twin Towers in 2001, in 2002 the American military bases were transferred from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, and in 2003 the Americans attacked Iraq and Saddam Hussein. These facts are very important for both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Reuters mention that the Saudi reserves in foreign currency amounted to 800 billion dollars in 2014, and therefore Saudi Arabia is for now immune from the Arab Spring, but these reserves are depleted at a fast pace, due to increased expenditures domestically, in order to buy peace, and due to increased military expenditures as a result of the wars with Iran in Syria, Iran and Yemen.

Picture 2

Map of the Middle East

If we take into account that the Saudis’ advantage against the Iranians is their liquidity, and that the Iranian advantage over the Saudis is their better army, the Americans did not help the Saudis by reaching an agreement with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn unfreeze 100 billion dollars of Iranian assets in the United States. Plus of course the increased oil revenues that will follow for Iran. These Iranian assets have been frozen since 1979 when the Iranian Islamists came to power and nationalized the Western oil companies.

I am not saying that the Americans will help the Turks, the Qataris, the Russians and the Iranians to promote the Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia. But if the Turks, the Iranians and the Russians know that the Saudis no longer have the protection of the United States they will be more aggressive. The Turks who are not oil exporters can ask the Saudis for larger discounts in oil prices, or for investments, in order to protect them from the Russians and the Iranians. The Russians might ask the Saudis to cut their oil production in order to protect them from the Iranians etc.

Note that in 1979, when the United States lost Iran as an ally, after it had already lost Iraq, the Carter Doctrine was brought forward. According to the Carter Doctrine of 1980 the United States would use military force if their interests in the Persian Gulf were threatened. That meant the Americans were not willing to allow what happened to Iran and Iraq to happen in Saudi Arabia too. Therefore I cannot say that the Americans support the Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia, but the question is how interested they are to prevent it from happening? Today the Americans treat Saudi Arabia as an ordinary ally, being almost neutral in the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.


“Saudi Arabia faces many threats, and Iran isn’t at the top of the list”, May 2015

6th, 7th Paragraphs

In an interview with the New York Times in early April, Obama warned that U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia should be more worried about internal threats. These states have “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances,” Obama said, adding: “I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.”

Obama’s comments angered the Arab monarchs, including the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who decided to send lower-level officials to the Camp David summit. But Obama was trying to initiate a difficult conversation with U.S. allies — a discussion that got drowned out by a focus on who did and didn’t make it to the summit.

9th Paragraph

While Saudi officials insist that their substantial foreign reserves allow them to withstand a long period of low oil prices — and potential regional turmoil — the reserves dropped by $36 billion in March and April alone. (Saudi reserves peaked at around $800 billion in mid 2014; some economists forecast that they could drop to $500 billion in the next two years.) When King Salman ascended to the throne after his brother’s death in January, he granted salary bonuses to all public employees and members of the military. Those bonuses most likely came out of the foreign reserves, since the kingdom was already projecting a 2015 budget deficit of $40 billion — the first in seven years. The Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen is also draining the kingdom’s coffers, and the war will become more costly as it drags on.

“Here’s what’s in Iran’s $100 billion in assets that will become unfrozen by the nuclear deal”, July 2015

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