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The Strategic Gulf

Those who expected the summit between US President Obama and Saudi King Abdullah to produce a ???reset??? button after unusually strained relations between the two nations were bound to be disappointed. While the Obama administration reassured its Saudi hosts that the differences between the two sides were ???tactical???, a careful reading of the assertive, and risky, policies that Saudi Arabia has adopted in places as varied as Syria, EgyptIraq and Iran??? in sharp difference withObama administration???s extremely cautious, if not ambiguous policies in the region??? reveals that the difference is perhaps deeper, more philosophical, and unlikely to be bridged in a two-hour meeting or perhaps even over the next two years. Developments in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Iraq since the March meeting have only underlined the growing gulf between the two strategic allies.The unusually blunt, public criticism that some Saudi officials and analysts have leveled against the Obama administration in Saudi and US media suggests that the profound difference stems from varying perceptions of the threat that the region???s crises pose to the national security of each nation. More importantly, the two nations have differing conceptions of their own capacity and obligation to resolve these crises.While the US poses serious questions about its ability to control events in the Middle East and major reservations about whether it is obligated to try to stabilize a region spiraling out of control, Saudi Arabia has reacted to this US soul-searching by declaring its readiness to pursue a more ???assertive??? foreign policy to advance its own interests ???with or without the support??? of western allies.The Saudis have suggested that as the sole remaining superpower, the US was best positioned to restore the status quo in the Middle East.And while Obama reiterated at a recent address at West Point that the US remains the sole ???indispensable??? nation in the world and that it must continue to lead



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