The Daily Signal quotes Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard LeBaron on how the US-Saudi relationship may develop as Saudi Arabia continues to distance itself from Iran:

Despite the fact that it is less reliant on Saudi oil, the U.S. is unlikely to distance itself from an ally it sees as relatively stable and an important supplier of intelligence. The Saudis are also a major customer of American military equipment. “The notion we would abandon Saudi Arabia because we don’t need their oil anymore is just stupid,” said Richard LeBaron, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former State Department official. “I think this action by Saudi Arabia shows it to be flailing around as a Middle East power and not as a confident power, but at the very minimum, we have to stay engaged so we have some better idea of what motivated the action. In Saudi Arabia, there is probably a wave of change that will happen in that country, and there’s a possibility that change can be positive for our interests, and we need to promote that path.”


LeBaron has a more nuanced view on how the Iranian-Saudi feud will impact Syrian peace talks. “It complicates it, but it was already very complicated; their ties to the talks were rather raggedy anyway,” LeBaron said. The Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers both participated last month in Syrian peace talks in New York, and Saudi Arabia signaled Tuesday that the feud with Iran will not impact future discussions. LeBaron believes that the U.S. needs to keep the pressure on both countries. “I am a believer in the power of diplomacy, and we can’t give up because we think the Middle East is too complicated or unpredictable,” LeBaron said. “The U.S has to figure out—and it’s not easy—how we can be an agent of powerful change in the Middle East, and that’s a long-term, very difficult project. We can’t let blips like this deter us from pursuing that project.”

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