Recently thawed relations between the U.S. and Iran are pushing Saudi Arabia to turn away from their western ally and into the arms of Russia and China. The U.S.-led nuclear accords with Iran have proven to be a major catalyst for this.
“Trust between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. has been damaged by the Iran nuclear deal,” Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, told Bloomberg. “Many in Saudi Arabia feel abandoned by the U.S.”
According to Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 29, returned home with $23 billion of aircraft and energy contracts after visiting Russia and France last month.
Russia and Saudi Arabia, historically, have had a relationship mired with mistrust. Yet, the changing dynamic in the Middle East and throughout the world has again pushed the kingdom to look elsewhere for support.
Bloomberg points out that after the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 terrorists were discovered to have been Saudi Arabian citizens, trade between China and Saudi Arabia increased.
Yet, James Dorsey, a senior fellow in international studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told Bloomberg, “Saudi leadership realizes that irrespective of its views of U.S. reliability and policies, there is no country that can substitute it.”
The tensions and worry roused from a potentially nuclear-armed Iran has also led to the strong possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region. Saudi Arabia has already stated it is looking to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.
Bloomberg points out that “[f]ormer Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal once compared the bond with the U.S. to a ‘Muslim marriage,’ or one that wasn’t necessarily monogamous.”