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Will US-Saudi 'special relationship' last?

Despite what many observers see as a strain in US-Saudi relations over very different if not completely opposite foreign policy postures, the two countries' shared interests remain a firm and unchanging foundation for their cooperation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gives a thumbs-up to Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir after a check of his translation headset before their remarks to reporters alongside the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting in Manama, Bahrain April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSE25F
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Much has been written and said in recent months about what some — myself included — have described as a “strain” in US-Saudi relations. Those who subscribe to this view have focused on what appears to be a philosophical difference between the administration of President Barack Obama and the Saudi leadership. While one of the pillars of the "Obama doctrine" appears to rest on the principle that the United States should avoid becoming militarily — or perhaps even politically — entangled in any Middle East conflict unless it poses a serious and imminent threat to its security, the Saudis appear to have adopted a very different if not completely opposite foreign policy posture.

What some have called the “Salman doctrine” appears predicated on the idea that the unprecedented tumult that has gripped the region requires Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role. It holds that the Saudis must fill the vacuum left by the United States by adopting an assertive foreign policy to bring a modicum of stability to the region, one that is not averse to the use of force when necessary. While political differences between the two governments should not be dismissed, bilateral relations between the two countries have not endured for over seven decades by happenstance. A plethora of mutual interests will ensure that Saudi Arabia and the United States will remain important allies for the foreseeable future. This is especially the case in the old “oil-for-security” equation, which had sustained the relationship for decades. It has been reformulated in light of the shale oil revolution in the United States that made it less dependent on oil imports and as the Saudi armed forces's military capabilities have improved significantly in recent years.

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