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Saudi Arabian Allies
March 9, 2009 12:00 PM   Subscribe

What countries are allies with Saudi Arabia or what countries are not allies with Saudi Arabia?
posted by Mr_Zero to Law & Government (15 answers total)
 
I think you may need to define "allies" a little more tightly. Do you mean countries that have signed treaties with Saudi Arabia? Or countries with good trade relations?
posted by jquinby at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2009


I am not sure. I guess both. Are there countries that don't do either?
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:14 PM on March 9, 2009


Well, relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel have never been all that great.
posted by jquinby at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2009



The House of Saud (Saudi Arabia is an undemocratic monarchy-kleptocracy, and, as such, is not really a country) is not at war with anyone at the moment. And, as you will see below, there are teams and blocs, with intertwined strategic interests:

Aligned with House of Saud:

United States (also aligned with Israel)
France
Egypt (also aligned with Isreal)
Kuwait
Other Gulf states

Generally competes with House of Saud

Iran (who is also aligned with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinian groups)
Israel (who is also aligned with Egypt + US)
France
China (provides support to Iran, Syria)
Iraq
posted by KokuRyu at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2009


So where do cool countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland fall into the scheme?
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:24 PM on March 9, 2009


It might also depend on who they get into a tussle with. The US sells arms to Saudi Arabia, so you could consider us "allies." But, if something heated-up between SA and, say, Israel, I doubt we'd be on SA's side, if push came to shove.

Then again, Israel doesn't pump oil.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:25 PM on March 9, 2009


It might also depend on who they get into a tussle with. The US sells arms to Saudi Arabia, so you could consider us "allies." But, if something heated-up between SA and, say, Israel, I doubt we'd be on SA's side, if push came to shove.

Then again, Israel doesn't pump oil.

Seems like the US would figure out a way to exploit the conflict. Like selling arms to Israel and then giving a billion dollars to rebuild Gaza.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:30 PM on March 9, 2009


The whole point is to avoid developing a binary system of power blocs, where one issue, such as oil, dominates the agenda for an entire region. While considerations over oil supply play a large part in determining what happens in the middle east, and who backs who, at least the Saudis are still pumping... Access to oil is not (yet) a critical issue (with the result of potential, immediate open warfare), so this "complex interdependence" + "realism" approach seems to be working.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:33 PM on March 9, 2009


Yeah, it's always complexities layered upon complexities For instance, one might add to KokuRyu's sketch above that there have been repeated leaks to the media of high-level secret talks between the Saudis and the Israelis over the shared Iranian nuclear threat.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2009


Wikipedia sez this about The Prince:

Machiavelli justified rule by force rather than by law. Accordingly, The Prince seems to justify a number of actions done solely to perpetuate power. It is a classic study of power—its acquisition, expansion, and effective use.


The dynamics and interplay between states in the Middle East is not about crushing Israel or exporting jihad (or democracy): it's about maintaining power. Religion and ethnic tension are just tools for manipulation.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:38 PM on March 9, 2009


Saudi Arabia represents the moderate, pragmatic part of the Arab world and they have always been a counterweight to the radical flavor of the day (Nasser's Egypt in the '50s, Baathism, now Islamism).

Closest Saudi allies are probably the other Gulf States, as well as the United States though.

Israel and Saudi have a pretty strong behind the scenes relationship because of:
1) American patron
2) Common enemy (Iran)

The Iran-Syria club, along with Hezbollah, probably fits into the "enemy" category, maybe even more neatly than Israel does. The Saudis strongly supported the Hariri government in Lebanon before Hariri was assassinated.
posted by j1950 at 3:05 PM on March 9, 2009


So where do cool countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland fall into the scheme?

In general, which not-great-powers a not-great-power is allied with, neutral towards, or antagonistic to is completely inconsequential unless they're near each other. So who Sweden, Denmark, Norway, or Finland is allied with or not should be seen mostly as an empty, purely symbolic gesture.

About the only serious reason the Saudis might care what the nordic countries thought of them is that Sweden is a moderatel-sized but selective arms exporter, and conceivably they'd rather have Gripens than F-15s. AFAIK, Sweden does not export any (nontrivial) arms to Saudi.

You might look to their arms purchases as hints to the patron/client relationships. The Saudis buy weapons primarily from the US, Britain*, and France, and not from the former USSR. You can look at the fact that the US sells F-15s and M1A1s to the Saudis as evidence that US/Saudi relations are characterized by hugs, kisses, and unpleasantly rough sex when they think other countries aren't watching. I don't think France has sold them anything they wouldn't sell to anyone with the money. Likewise, you might look at their purchase of Typhoons as evidence of similar smoochiness with Britain/Germany/Italy.

*I'm calling Panavia "British" for these purposes
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:48 PM on March 9, 2009


Bear in mind, Xenophobe, that for both the Tornado (Panavia) and Typhoon (Eurofighter Consortium) deals, the Saudis dealt with BA{E/e}, i.e. Brits ran point. The other European countries, while involved with the original design and manufacture of the aircraft in question, weren't closely involved with the deals.

Note that in both cases the aircraft form part of very large defence contracts between the UK and Saudi Arabia (technically between the governments; legally UK arms companies can't sell weapons overseas, they sell them to the British government and they sell them overseas. Sort of).

I'd also argue that France are more Pro-Saud than Anti-Saud, as suggested by Kokoryu's list - France was pushing hard to sell Rafale to the Saudis when Typhoon was selected, and LeClerc MBT when the M-1 was selected.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 5:50 PM on March 9, 2009


If you will recall your Lawrence of Arabia, the House of Saud literally owes its Kingdom to an alliance with Britain against the Ottoman Empire. The strong alliance with the US began in the 1920s as oil production began. (By contrast, the US was cool toward Israel until the 1970s.) The Kingdom fancies itself -- by dint of controlling the holy Hijaz region including Mecca -- one of the rightful leaders of the Islamic community and due to the annual Hajj maintains scrupulously neutral travel policies. They have publicly feuded with rivals for Arab and Islamic primacy such as Moammar Gaddafi (who finally quit the Arab League and found a role as a sponsor of the African Union), Saddam Hussein's Iraq (the Ba'ath regime overthrew the monarchy in that country -- but the Saudis helped bankroll them in the Iran-Iraq War), various Iranian leaders, and so forth. They generously sponsor mosques across the world, buying them goodwill, although not everyone is happy with the conservative Wahhabi sect that these mosques promulgate.

In general the Kingdom is not seen as a military threat. They have provided minimal support in some regional wars such as the Six-Day War and the Gulf War, but have pretty solid relations with the Gulf states and Yemen. Like Egypt, they have been in public or private supporters of various Palestinian-Israeli peace proposals, including substantial financial guarantees. I think they are one of the primary underwriters of the Palestinian Authority. (It is difficult to separate the personal support of the House of Saud and that of the country.) At the same time, it's a given that much of the money keeping the PLO alive over the years came from the Kingdom -- at least the lesser princes and business leaders, who feel obligated to support the charity networks through which money flows.

But they don't like Hamas because Hamas has Shi'ite roots and is close to Iran and Syria. As such they are actually supporting a more pragmatic, secular Palestinian state than might otherwise be the case.

In terms of actual military alliances, I believe they had one with Kuwait and probably still do with other Gulf states. But the real guarantor in those cases is tacitly understood to be the U.S.

For Western governments (especially the US/UK) they have long been key go-betweens, mediators, and diplomatic proxies. In terms of small European states, it is probably an enemy-of-none, friend-to-all approach as much as practical. The Saudi princes all spend a lot of time in Europe; King Fahd had all but permanently retired to his villa in Spain (a replica of the US White House, no less, near Marbella) in his apparent dementia, but his brother and successor Abdullah has not been so decadent. Saudi Arabia aspires to be as progressive and modern as the Gulf states, but the deadweight of its huge underclass, with no industrial sector to speak of, makes this impossible. The biggest threat to the House of Saud is not external, but internal.
posted by dhartung at 10:23 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Saudi Arabia aspires to be as progressive and modern as the Gulf states, but the deadweight of its huge underclass, with no industrial sector to speak of, makes this impossible. The biggest threat to the House of Saud is not external, but internal.

It's worth noting that the 'Wahhabi' religion of Saudi is actually that of the Wahhabi tribe. This tribe allied with the Sauds in their military conquest of the peninsula and got permanent control of the religious authorities in return. You'll never find a senior Saudi cleric who is not a Wahhabi. Tribal affiliation is still very important in Saudi and every time that more progressive members of the royal family try to loosen religious restrictions, the Wahhabis put their foot down.
posted by atrazine at 6:22 AM on March 10, 2009


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