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Obama's phone call to new Iranian president could cost lengthy friendship with Saudi Arabia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies for 80 years. The U.S. Has offered longstanding military protection to the world's second-biggest oil producer. However - a cordial 15-minute phone call between President Obama and the new president of Iran has further chilled an increasingly strained relationship between the two nations - one that has been under duress for some time.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The reportedly cordial phone call between Obama and Hassan Rouhani may have very well cost the U.S. one of its key friends in the Middle East. It was the first time that the leaders of both the U.S. And Iran have spoken since 1979, a bold move as Iran has always been considered a key part of the "axis of evil."

Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will "shift away from the U.S." Secretary of State John Kerry will have his work cut out for him as he meets to discuss with King Abdullah.

The Saudis are deeply skeptical of Iran's "charm offensive." They are also frustrated by an alleged lack of consultation over Washington's softening towards Iran.

The Saudis had urged the U.S. to strike Iran five years ago. The Saudi government fears an Iranian nuclear weapon would drastically threaten its national security, as Iran is situated just across the Persian Gulf from the kingdom.

Saudi frustration became all too apparent when it rejected a seat on the United Nations Security Council last month. The first country to do so, the move surprised Saudi Arabia's own diplomats, who had been preparing for the role for years.

Saudi Arabia has directed its anger at the United Nations, criticizing its "double standards" in failing to resolve the crisis in Syria and long-running tensions between Israel and Palestine. It's believed that the monarchy's frustration is primarily with the U.S. after what it sees as a series of snubs.

"At the end of the day we know what friendship is all about," an anonymous source says. "But if diplomacy starts with your friends and you don't consult them then that is obviously going to give rise to suspicion."

Allies since the 1930s, the threatened "shift" in relations with the U.S. And Saudi Arabia follows decades of pressure from the Saudi public to distance their country from the superpower.

Many citizens feel aggrieved by perceived White House failures to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And American foreign policy in the region, particularly when it comes to the interventions in Iraq in 1990 and 2003, is seen by many as disastrous.

The U.S. agreement with Russia to not strike Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to August's alleged chemical weapons attack also infuriated Riyadh. Iran has traditionally backed Assad's regime, while Saudi Arabia has funded Syria's predominantly Sunni opposition.

"The most important thing between allies is that they strategize together before declaring any decisions," the source says. "The Kerry-Lavrov agreement has clearly shown that the Americans want to reshape the Middle East without consulting us. You can't just forgo strategic alliances like that and claim to be allies without any form of consultation."

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