Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
It would take a lot to make Saudi Arabia really take a walk on being allied to the United States. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe they would just get sick and tired of President Barack Obama’s vacillations and perceived tergiversate behavior towards an old and loyal ally. Even worse than that, they may just think the man is too unserious to be reliable.
Too unserious? 100,000 Syrian civilians have been gassed like termites. Who could be unserious about that? The New York Times suggests our President would be that type of guy.
Now, two years after Mr. Obama publicly declared that Mr. Assad had to go, he is banking on the success of that Russian-initiated plan — which relies on Mr. Assad’s cooperation and which the Syrian president offered in a recent interview as a convenient shield against American intervention.
I’m not upset at all that we didn’t send the USMC into Syria. It would have made Iraqi Freedom look well thought out. I argued against going when Syria was on the boil so to speak. But I noted a couple of months back that by talking out of both sides of his mouth, Barack Obama had made this a harder decision than it had to be.
And I think the vacillation is what is the Saudis are most upset over. If we had told them straight up, no chaser that Syria was a YP, not a MP, they would have grumbled and then ate their dissatisfaction the next time they booked revenues from selling us Saudi Crude. What they don’t like is us declaring that Bashir Assad was toast and then not cooking the bread. They feel back-stabbed. They feel we talk one game and then play another.
This does not work in the Middle East. If you are going to play in the Middle East, you have to choose one side or another of the various fault lines. You get stuck having to pay your nickel and make your choice. You then have to stick to it and eat what you ordered. They are a traditional culture and their memory spans the eons. Consistency is prized. The fierce urgency of now is something you go work off at a brothel.
Barack Obama does not work that way. He prefers flexibility, detachment and non-commitment. The Saudis are deciding they can’t work with them. Their disagreement with America over whether we should all be in there backing the Syrian rebels to the hilt only brings this cultural fault line between the Traditional, Middle-Eastern Saudis and the Post-modern, Acultural Western Liberal into sharp bas-relief.
There are many things that the Saudis do that don’t mesh well with what Post-modern America believes. Our differences go further than just matters of style. However, we have a strong undercurrent of mutual interest and we both need each other whether either one of us likes it or not. Barack Obama needs to have a long talk with the Saudis and iron this out if he can. We can’t be friends with Iran and Saudi Arabia both any more than we can ally ourselves with both North and South Korea. We are better off picking the Saudis.