The Kingdom Realizes Its Own Strength

Last week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held the largest military exercise in its history. Dubbed “Abdullah Sword,” it saw over 130,000 troops from the Kingdom take part in combined air and ground exercises. In every possible way, it was an impressive show of might by the dominant regional power, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh claimed that the exercises coincide with the ninth anniversary of the accession of King Abdullah, a superficial explanation. Primarily though, the exercises are meant to send a message not only to the region but to the rest of the world of the power Saudi Arabia wields. The exercise should not only be seen as a show of force but as a sign of a declining relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The U.S. has long held relations with Saudi Arabia despite the relations at times being questionable primarily due to the number of Saudis who took part in the 9/11 attacks, alleged terrorist funding, dealings concerning oil, and the numerous human rights violations that occur in Saudi Arabia. Regardless, Saudi Arabia has been a close ally and a stable country in a region typified by instability, conflict, and shifting alliances.

As of late though, the relations have chilled. The Saudis and neighboring states view Iran as their biggest threat and the Kingdom has been less than pleased with U.S. diplomacy with Iran which it views as too soft. To that end, there have been numerous reports, some truthful, some not, of talks between the Saudis and Israelis on how to deal with Iran. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is upset by U.S. unwillingness to provide greater support to Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. When looking at the bigger picture, the U.S. has shown its unreliability in recent years on the world stage, while regional events such as the Arab Spring have changed the security situation for the Kingdom.

In recent years, the Saudis have supplied military aid to rebel forces in Syria. Almost unreported in western media is the ongoing conflict on the Saudi-Yemen border which has claimed hundreds of lives over the past several years. The Saudis have supported Yemeni government forces in the fight against Shia fundamentalist insurgents, even going so far as to launch a large military incursion into Yemen in 2009. The Saudis with their hardline Salafist government fears the Shi'a power that is Iran and its increasing relations with Iraq. The Saudis have every right for concern when one looks at the region.

In looking at U.S. responses to the Ukraine, Syria, events in East Asia, how can the Saudis possibly see the U.S. as a reliable ally? Now diplomatically that's bad. But on a positive note, the Saudis don't need the American military to defend them. Their military is massive, well trained, and very well equipped with modern weaponry from the U.S., UK, and France among others. This isn't the Saudi military of 1991 that needed international support in pushing back an Iraqi offensive. The Saudis are capable of dealing with many threats on their own, even the opening stages of a conventional conflict with Iran. If the Saudis firmly believe the U.S. is no longer 100 percent reliable, then the actions they take in the region might very well be more restrained under the belief that they might be on their own. That in itself is a positive.

Ultimately, the Saudis have had enormous capability for years and its good they have realized it. Americans should also know that many of the states we seek to protect are quite capable of defending themselves and that is a good thing. Unfortunately though, the moves by the Kingdom just lend credence to the idea that U.S. world power is deteriorating, especially under this current administration. More importantly, rather than discussing this, countries are taking actual tangible steps to deal with it. In my mind, I see a clear lack of confidence in the U.S. by other countries, including close allies.

Posted by SPBrooker at May 7, 2014 3:12 PM
Comments
Comment #378225

Agree SP. The Kingdom loves stability. They strive to keep all factions within the country happy and willing to serve. They have been key to holding the Middle East together but now all these uprisings in the area has got to be unnerving them.

Reasons they have been so solid is petro dollars that have been well utilized. Their leaders, cousins, attend the best universities, they buy the best consultants, brains in the world and they pay the best in the west to apply what they learn. Buy the best defense equipment, within limitations, from US, France, Germany, etc, and their military is trained by the best in the west, and so on - - -.

The US and NATO has done the ‘boots on the ground’ stuff for the Saudi’s but, as you suggest, if the US doesn’t offer the protection our think tanks are telling them they need then they are well prepared to strike out on their own.

But, I don’t believe they will take military action outside the country unless forced to do so. They just do not want to rock the boat or change their modus operandi, getting others to do they heavy lifting.

This Syrian/Iran/Russian thing has really turned into a sad situation, 150k lives lost and Assad seems to have turned the corner on fighting. I believe the Kingdom would have grudgingly funded a US effort in Syria but now its such a basket case - - -

Also, believe that the Saudi’s will support Israel in smoking Iran’s nuclear project should it achieve success.

The Saudi’s have really been stalwart’s in the ME over the years.

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