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Saudi diplomacy goes on defensive

Saudi Arabia could live to regret its warm ties with US President Donald Trump as his foreign policy threatens to undermine its longstanding position as the defender of Muslims and the Islamic world.
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Saudi Arabia was caught off balance by the US administration’s statements this month on Jerusalem and Yemen. The Saudi embrace of President Donald Trump is still intact, but the downside of a close relationship with the mercurial American administration is becoming more apparent to the royal palace.

The Saudi reaction to Trump’s announcement that Washington recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy from Tel Aviv was slow and almost pro forma, reinforcing the widespread perception in the region that the administration had colluded with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the decision. This perception — true or false — significantly undermines the Saudis' longstanding claim to be the most active defender of Muslim rights to the city, and by extension Saudi legitimacy as the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the core of the Saudi royal family’s authority.

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