Can the U.S. avoid taking sides in the Saudi-Iran conflict?

Trita Parsi writes: from the U.S. perspective, Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing activities are a vindication of the nuclear deal it struck with Iran in 2015. One critical benefit of that deal, left unstated by Obama administration officials, is that it helped reduce U.S. dependency on Saudi Arabia.

By resolving the nuclear standoff and getting back on talking terms with Iran, Washington increased its options in the region.

As Admiral Mike Mullen wrote in Politico last year in regards to the benefits of the nuclear deal: “It would also more fairly rebalance American influence. We need to re-examine all of the relationships we enjoy in the region, relationships primarily with Sunni-dominated nations. Detente with Iran might better balance our efforts across the sectarian divide.”

Mindful of the deliberate manner Saudi Arabia is driving matters towards a crisis in the region – partly motivated by a desire to trap the United States in Riyadh’s own enmity with Iran – Washington is clearly better off being able to play a balancing role between Saudi and Iran rather than being obligated to fully support Saudi Arabia’s regional escapades. [Continue reading…]

Laura Rozen reports: Saudi Arabia, in carrying out the execution and severing relations with Iran, may have been trying to send messages to both domestic and international audiences about its resolve against what Riyadh perceives as Iranian expansionism in the region, but it may have miscalculated how the messages would be received, [Philip Gordon, former Obama White House top Middle East adviser] said.

“It is a sign of insecurity,” Gordon, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said. “I do worry that it is a miscalculation.”

“One of the things the Saudis worry about is that people [including in the US administration] come to the conclusion that Iran, while we have problems with it, could be a partner … [and] we should start working with them,” he said. “With this, the Saudis are saying, that won’t work — choose sides.” [Continue reading…]

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