In Increasingly Turbulent Middle East, US-Saudi Partnership Is Indispensable

When President Obama travels to Saudi Arabia later this month for a summit meeting with Gulf Arab leaders, he will need to reassure these longstanding American allies that the United States intends to stand by its friends in the increasingly turbulent Middle East.

President Obama’s visit comes in the midst of complex and alarming challenges—sectarian bloodbaths, ethnic hostilities, regional rivalries, big-power meddling, and international terrorism—that demand urgent U.S. engagement.

Supported by Iran and Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own people. The terrorists of ISIL have conquered a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq. In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are battling to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies. Instability and political paralysis persist in Lebanon. The Israelis and Palestinians are still at odds.

Into this simmering cauldron, add the recent nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran, which lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic and gave it an additional $100 billion to invest in its military, its proxies, and its expansionism and trouble-making.

This toxic mix threatens to ignite warfare throughout the Middle East, inspire terrorism worldwide, and destabilize global energy markets. And like it or not, these crises call for more, not less, American engagement.

Read more: Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom

Related: There’s Far More to the Saudi-Iran Feud Than Sunnis-Vs.-Shia

Now as in the past, American interests in the Middle East include preserving the peace, ensuring reliable energy sources, combating transnational terrorism, and preventing an adversarial nation from attaining regional hegemony.

The answer need not always be more U.S. troops. But to advance these enduring goals, the U.S. must reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia—a longstanding force for regional stability and a crucial counterweight to an enriched and emboldened Iran.

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