Will the Iran nuclear deal strain ties between Saudi Arabia and the US? Hardly. The alliance between the world’s largest absolute monarchy and its oldest constitutional republic remains strong, Spencer Kimball reports.
One is an officially Islamic nation ruled by the same family for 83 years, where religion dictates who drives (men) and what women may wear (abayas, or full-body cloaks); the other is a mostly, but not officially, Christian country where voters pick their leaders and often even enact local laws.
Enemies and interests may be the only two things Saudi Arabia and the United States do have in common, and these have proved the basis for a long and largely loyal strategic partnership.
“It has survived every possible provocation that might have brought it down, including [US President] Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948,” Thomas Lippman, a former Middle East bureau chief for the Washington Post, told DW.
Lippman believes that the relationship will also survive its latest test: the deal world powers signed in July to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for international monitoring of the country’s nuclear program.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry left for Qatar, part of his first trip to the Middle East since he and fellow negotiators reached the historic agreement with Saudi Arabia’s main rival for regional influence.
Before and after the deal, Kerry repeatedly reaffirmed the US’s commitment to the security of its Gulf partners. Just last week, the State Department approved the sale of 600 Patriot missiles, worth $5.4 billion (4.9 billion euros), to Riyadh.
The Patriots will help counter Iran’s missile program, Lippman said, though he doesn’t believe that the sale is necessarily related to the nuclear deal.
“I have no doubt that the Saudis despise Shiites and are nervous about the Iranians and are unhappy about Iran’s activity around the region – that’s no secret,” Lippman said.
“They also understand perfectly which side their bread is buttered on, and that’s the US side,” he continued. “Nobody else is going to sell them 600 patriot missiles.”