Saudi Arabia's royals are watching the new US administration with a mixture of hope that President Donald Trump will be the answer to their fears concerning their rival Iran, but also with deep but unspoken concern that the new administration will cause them serious trouble.
Saudi media have trumpeted the hour-plus phone conversation between King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and Trump on Jan. 29. Well-connected journalists say that the call will lead to closer counterterrorism and military cooperation. They stress that the two leaders agreed that Iran is the state threatening regional stability and highlight that Trump's top advisers also view Iran as the problem in the region in contrast to what they perceived as efforts by former President Barack Obama to make Iran part of the solution to regional tensions. Without endorsing Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim countries, behind the scenes the Saudis are undoubtedly quietly pleased that it has at least caused Iran to retaliate with a ban on Americans visiting Iran. More friction and sanctions will be welcome in Riyadh, especially adding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the US list of terrorist organizations. The two leaders apparently also agreed that the Iranian nuclear deal must be rigorously enforced but not abandoned.