Saudi Arabia in the 1980s: Foreign Policy, Security, and Oil

By William B. Quandt | Go to book overview
letters should be sent only rarely, on matters of great importance. In the past too many presidential requests on too many issues have been made.
Reduce external pressures. The proper U.S. role is to shield Saudi Arabia from excessive pressures from outside, especially from the Soviet Union and its friends. American officials are less well positioned to advise the Saudis on how to reform their own society. If the United States has the irresistible urge to press for internal reforms, it should do so privately, not in public initiatives.
Don't play family favorites. It will not serve U.S. interests to become deeply involved in royal family politics. Some Americans favor Fahd, others Sultan, some Abdallah. The less said by American officials about such preferences the better. For the moment, no alternative to the royal family seems likely to be more friendly to the United States, nor is one member of the family so much better than others that Americans should become involved in their domestic politics.

Finally, it is worth remembering that no quick-fix, no single test will assure a harmonious U.S.-Saudi relationship. Each hurdle is a prelude to another, but a consistent pattern of mature U.S. handling of differences will provide a strong base for the relationship. Although the United States cannot take Saudi Arabia for granted, it should not be overwhelmed by the difficulty of winning Saudi cooperation on essential issues. Despite the many problems that exist and the inevitability of differences, the basic relationship is still surprisingly healthy. It will take a lot of mistakes on both sides to end what has become a very special and complex form of interdependency.


Conclusion

The future of Saudi Arabia depends in large measure on its relationship with the United States. Many internal developments, of course, will have a life of their own. But Saudi Arabia has in recent years been heavily influenced by events beyond its borders, and that reality will not change in the 1980s.

If the United States can develop an effective regional strategy for the Middle East that contains Soviet and radical pressures, helps resolve conflicts, provides security for friends, and eases the painful process of modernization, Saudi Arabia will be the beneficiary. If instead the

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