Can Washington afford tough love with the House of Saud? Recent reports seem to answer affirmatively, revealing that the U.S. military recently removed its Patriot antimissile systems from Saudi territory and that serious U.S. threats prompted the kingdom to de-escalate its oil price war with Russia.
Some commentators responded that the U.S. should use its leverage more often in order to accomplish other foreign-policy goals. Yet beyond the question of leverage, the incident reveals the dysfunctiony of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, where the increasingly blatant absence of mutual interests results in a strategic partnership kept afloat through ultimatums.
As the world becomes more multipolar, the United States will find that its partners are less willing to abide by American policy preferences. The Saudis, who have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to flout U.S. objectives, are no exception. However, the U.S. should view this shift as an opportunity to re-evaluate its partnership with the ruling family in Riyadh while retaining sufficient clout to establish favorable terms. The oil price war is merely the latest crack in a U.S.-Saudi relationship forged in the twentieth century but increasingly unfit for the twenty-first.
The United States has expended $6.4 trillion on the Global War on Terror over the past two decades. Terrorism is not unique to the Middle East, yet much of this money has been spent in the region, fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The origins of America’s massive security commitment to the Middle East lie in dependence on oil, which simultaneously generated the conditions that precipitated acts of terrorism. The interaction between oil dependence and violence creates a self-perpetuating cycle that keeps the U.S. expending ever greater resources in the region, despite stated intentions to reduce American involvement there. The collapse of oil prices since the beginning of 2020 illustrates the need to fundamentally rethink U.S. strategy towards the Middle East. Despite the present economic pain, reduced demand for oil offers an opportunity to realign foreign policy with U.S. interests in the region.
Read the full article here in The American Conservative.