Kenneth Pollack: Saudis Worry About US Withdrawal From Region, Obama Admin More Aligned With Iran

Author and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Dr. Kenneth M. Pollack stated Saudi Arabia believes that under the Obama administration the US is shifting allegiance to Iran, and are frightened over the US withdrawing from the Middle East while cautioning that he doesn’t believe the US is actually planning to shift allegiance to Iran on Monday’s “MSNBC Live.”

Pollack said, “The Middle East has never been good. It’s never been good in anyone’s modern memory, but it has gotten incredibly bad over the last five years, and what we see in the region now is multiple conflicts. We’ve got four major civil wars going. We’ve got four other smaller civil wars. We’ve got tensions, terrorism, refugees, radicalization all over, and all of these different problems are intersecting in ways that people just can’t really predict. … And you bring in the US you know, we’re trying to fight this war on ISIS. Honestly, that doesn’t make sense to anyone in the region, right? The region, they see a much bigger set of conflicts, the conflicts between Sunni and Shia, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, between radicals and secularists, and we come in just wanting to destroy this one group. That doesn’t make sense to anyone, which is one of the reasons why we’ve had so much difficulty mobilizing the countries of the region to do what we want to do.”

He added that Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute a Shiite cleric despite urging to the contrary by the US shows the US’ waning influence in the US “to some extent.” He continued, “The Saudis are very unhappy with the United States over the last five or six years. They were not happy with the George W. Bush administration’s policies toward the Middle East. I think it’s fair to say they’re even less happy with the Obama administration’s policies. They see the United States withdrawing from the region, that frightens them and in their fear, their response has been to get more aggressive and to get in Iran’s faces. So, I think that on the one hand, what we’re seeing is a desire to kind of stick it to the Iranians and say, ‘We’re going to do what we need to do, and not let you tell us not to,’ but also a willingness to say to the United States, ‘You know, if you guys aren’t going to defend us the way that we expect you to, then we’re not going to take into account what you want us to do the way the way that we used to.'”

Pollack concluded that the Saudis “believe that under the Obama administration, the United States has shifted its allegiance from its traditional reliance on the Saudis and the other Sunni Arab states of the Gulf, to the Shia Iranians. I will tell you, the Obama administration vehemently denies this, and I don’t think it’s actually what they’re planning to do, but that’s how it’s seen by the Saudis and others in the region. So, I don’t think that the United States is likely to be closer to the Iranians, if you listen to the supreme leader, he’s not interested, but it’s certainly having an impact.”

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