President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this month will come at a time of considerable shifts in Saudi regional strategy. Three recent policy changes in particular—the moving of the Syria file from Prince Bandar bin Sultan to counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammad bin Nayef; the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar; and the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as terrorist organizations by Saudi Arabia—are signs that Riyadh is taking a more assertive approach to dealing with a range of Islamist forces. The Saudi government seems now to be pursuing a policy of dual containment of what it sees as its two biggest threats: the Muslim Brotherhood and certain branches of jihadi terrorism.
In shifting the Syria file away from Bandar, Riyadh replaced the vociferous critic of U.S. regional policy with a figure, Mohammed, who has engaged in day-to-day cooperation with Washington on Yemen and other fronts in the fight against global terrorist networks. Bandar’s unhappiness with U.S. policy in the Middle East has not been a secret. In October 2013, he reportedly told European diplomats that Saudi Arabia would effect a “major shift” away from the United States, specifically citing Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the immediate causes. This public rhetoric was in line with other Saudi statements last fall pointing to sharp disapproval of Obama’s decision to not conduct targeted military strikes on Syria following the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ...
To read the rest, sign up to try World Politics Review
- TWO WEEKS FREE.
- Cancel any time.
- After two weeks, just $11.99 monthly or $94.99/year.
Request a free trial for your office or school. Everyone at a given site can get access through our institutional subscriptions.
- Strategic Horizons: Understanding the Enemy: Inside the Mind of the Islamic State
- The Realist Prism: Even After Midterms, Obama Faces Hard Choices on Energy, Climate
- Diplomatic Fallout: U.N.’s Syria Cease-Fire Plan a Risky Gamble, but Worth It
- Strategic Horizons: Killing Baghdadi: Decapitating the Islamic State Is No Silver Bullet
- Morocco Deepens Anti-IS Gulf Ties, but Neglects Returning Jihadi Threat