Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this week to mend fraying U.S. ties with the kingdom, which remains one of America's key partners in the Middle East. At the end of his visit, in a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud, Kerry declared that U.S.-Saudi ties are "strategic" and "enduring."
But if the Obama administration now believes that things are back on track, it should reconsider that assessment. Given the current overlap between Washington and Riyadh's regional and global interests, both countries will continue to work closely together, but the coming years will be marked by a higher degree of dissonance in the relationship.
Kerry stressed that both countries share similar perspectives on some important issues. He reiterated long-standing U.S. positions that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that, in Syria, Bashar al-Assad must go. But, as Saud himself noted, even when both countries share identical goals, there are emerging differences over tactics. The trip also calls into question whether Kerry's characterization of Saudi Arabia as the "senior player" in the region will continue to be the U.S. default setting should the gap between Washington and Riyadh continue to grow.