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Analysis: Reinforcing the Sunnis (and Israel, Too)

Council on Foreign Relations

August 7, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia rarely fails to raise eyebrows. For many in the United States, after all, the kingdom’s most famous son is Osama bin Laden. Add to that a perceived Saudi stranglehold on oil prices, a value system alien to Americans, and the support lent by some wealthy Saudis to radical Islamic sects (CRS) the world over, including Iraq’s Sunni insurgents (LAT). Given all this, writes Steven Simon, CFR senior fellow, it should be no surprise that the relationship often gyrates radically (American Prospect) between good and bad.

A $20 billion U.S.-Saudi arms deal (NYT), announced before a visit to Riyadh by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, suggests the relationship has returned to more solid footing. “It would make no sense to leave Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf states undefended,” Rice tells Fox news, “at a time when the security challenges in that region are increasing.” The security challenges in question, of course, emanate in large part from Iran– a Shiite nation which may be on the verge of nuclear weapons status and which Sunni Saudis have long regarded as the primary threat to their existence. To drive home the geopolitical point, the United States added $13 billion in military aid to the region’s other mostly Sunni heavyweight, Egypt. And, anticipating the backlash in Congress during an election year, another $30 billion in state-of-the-art military aid has been pledged to Israel over the next decade.

Congress, which will have to approve these new expenditures, did indeed lash back (DefenseNews), with over 100 House members signing an Aug. 2 letter to President Bush vowing to block the Saudi sale on the grounds that it poses a threat to Israel.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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