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They Chop Off Heads, Ban Free Speech, Keep Women Locked Down: Yet Saudi 'King' Demands Obama Take Hard Line on Syria, Iran and Muslim Brotherhood

King Abdullah. (Illustration by DonkeyHotey)
By Juan Cole
President Barack Obama met late Friday with King Abdullah b. Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia at the latter’s desert camp, flying out from Riyadh by helicopter.

The tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States have come about in part because Riyadh, after being skittish about George W. Bush’s muscular Neoconservatism in the region, has now swung around and adopted a set of foreign policy stances far closer to those of the Republican Party in the US than to the Obama administration. Given that Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative, religious state based almost entirely on the petroleum industry, it is no accident that it is a Red State in American political terms.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia a decade ago worked against Bush’s refusal to talk to the Iranians, calling that country’s president and foreign minister to Riyadh. But despite an Iranian overture to the Saudis since the election of current President Hassan Rouhani, the king and his closest advisers are against Obama’s attempt to get a deal with Iran that would let Tehran enrich uranium to low levels for nuclear fuel. Like the Israelis, the Saudis want the US to push Iran into closing down its nuclear enrichment program (which Iran maintains is for peaceful civilian energy purposes) altogether. This goal is of course impossible to achieve without an invasion and occupation of Iran by the US, which is not going to happen while Obama is in office.

The Saudis also want the US to allow the supply to Syrian rebels of anti-aircraft and other heavy weaponry. Obama’s decision not to get involved directly in Syria, from a Saudi point of view, has allowed the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad to recover the momentum in pushing back the rebels.

And, the Saudis want the US to accept the coup d’etat in Egypt against Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi, and to support the military government.

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