The creation of a new Saudi-led Islamic states coalition against terrorism caught the Obama administration by surprise, indicating erosion of US influence in the region, Policy Director of think-tank Just Foreign Policy Robert Naiman told Sputnik.
“I think it’s a very interesting development,” Naiman stated. “The US claims that it welcomes it, but did not know about it in advance, and is looking forward to learning more about it. That’s telling.”
Naiman said this aspect of the new initiative highlighted the rapid erosion of US influence in the Middle East.
“Not so long ago, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have made a move like this without consulting the United States and neither would have acknowledged acting independently. So, in part this may be a reaction to the increasing distrust of the United States by the Saudis,” Naiman explained.
Weakened ties between Washington and Riyadh, Naiman suggested, could lead to more moderate and responsible policies from both governments.
“I think that’s healthy for the region and the world, for the United States and Saudi Arabia to be more independent of each other, and the relations between the two to be more transparent. It makes them both more accountable,” he pointed out.
Naiman also noted the irony that the Saudis had for decades lavishly financed extreme Islamist ideologies and jihadi terror forces, including in the 1979-87 Afghanistan War.
“Part of the Saudi strategy to protect itself against terrorism has been to export it. Oh, so you want to be a jihadist? Here is the list of Saudi government-approved jihads. Go there, and leave us alone,” he remarked.
Now, however, the new Saudi-led coalition reflects a growing awareness in Riyadh that the fanaticism they had encouraged abroad for so long might now be coming home to threaten them, Naiman observed.
“If the Yemen and Syria civil wars are resolved politically and diplomatically, that might actually increase the terrorism risk to Saudi Arabia. The jihadis might come home to roost. So maybe they are preparing for that,” he said.
The new coalition reflected a significant policy change by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who succeeded his brother King Abdullah in January, Naiman noted.
Just Foreign Policy is an independent and non-partisan membership organization dedicated to reforming US foreign policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation, according to the group’s website.