The US has a lot of leverage over Saudi Arabia

Oct. 23, 2018

It seems to me that the U.S. still has way more leverage over Saudi Arabia than this analysis suggests. For one thing, simply relaxing Europe’s and India’s access to Iranian oil, keeping it in the global pipeline, would mitigate Saudi Arabia’s threats to raise prices. For another, as some foreign policy experts have suggested, the purchase of U.S. military equipment, especially in the recent past, will mean a long-term dependence on our services and supplies, unless Saudi Arabia is willing to let it all go to waste and simply purchase inferior equipment from China or Russia.

Finally, the U.S. is in the enviable position of navigating and assisting both Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s regional goals. They each need us, and if Trumpism is truly at play here, we don’t need either of them nearly as much.

That all gives the U.S. an advantage: We should strike a blow to despotic applications of brutal force to prevent the people of nations living under such rule from getting so oppressed and agitated that they plan a series of attacks similar to 9/11.

Response from Xander Snyder


Thanks for writing in. Sure, the U.S. could once again reduce sanctions on Iran, but they are part of a broader strategy to contain Iran. So that would undermine its own strategy in order to – what? Show the world that the U.S. is morally superior to the autocratic MBS? That’s the sort of thing countries say they’re going to do and then don’t.

Yes, Saudi Arabia is dependent on U.S. arms sales. But we also need Saudi Arabia to have a well-armed military as a deterrent/counter to Iran. So that goes both ways as well.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia both need the U.S. – I agree there, although I’d argue that Ankara needs us somewhat less at this point than Riyadh. I don’t think Trumpism – whatever that is – has anything to do with those dependencies. They need us for the same reasons they needed us when Barack Obama was president: For Saudi Arabia, in order to counter Iran, and for Turkey, to counter Russia. It’s clearly more complicated than that, but that’s what their major threats are.



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