Saudi Arabia Or Iran? It's Time For Obama To Choose

Tyler Durden's picture

“It’s not as if you have an Iranian alternative. And if you have no alternative, your best choice is to stop complaining about the Saudis.”

That’s a quote from a “senior Gulf Arab official” who spoke to The New York Times about Washington's position on the sectarian strife playing out across the Mid-East.

As a refresher, an already volatile situation took a decisive turn for the worst over the weekend when Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sparking outrage across the Shiite community.

The turmoil couldn’t have come at a worse time for Washington.

The White House is desperate to salvage the narrative in Syria where Russia’s intervention has, i) highlighted America’s shortcomings in the “war” on ISIS and ii) laid bare the fact that the Sunni extremists the Western world generally identifies with terrorism are being armed and funded by a number of state sponsors, including Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is anxious to ensure that the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal goes smoothly. If the Iranians were to back out at the last minute, it would be a major blow to the President’s legacy during his last year in office.

As we put it on Sunday after Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of attacks on the Saudi embassy, “the Obama administration will have to make a choice: stick with the Saudis in order to preserve the prevailing Mid-East order and ensure that the ‘special’ relationship between Washington and Riyadh isn't damaged, or finally take the plunge and side with the Iranians with whom the administration is desperate to establish a cordial relationship after years of mutual distrust and hostility." Here’s The Times echoing our assessment:

The United States has usually looked the other way or issued carefully calibrated warnings in human rights reports as the Saudi royal family cracked down on dissent and free speech and allowed its elite to fund Islamic extremists. In return, Saudi Arabia became America’s most dependable filling station, a regular supplier of intelligence, and a valuable counterweight to Iran.


For years it was oil that provided the glue for a relationship between two nations that share few common values.


But the political upheaval in the Middle East and the American perception that the Saudis are critical to stability in the region continue to hold together an increasingly fractious marriage. So when Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the dissident cleric, on Saturday, beheading many of them in a style that most Americans associate with the Islamic State rather than a close American partner, the administration’s efforts to explain the relationship became more strained than ever.


In 2011, Saudi leaders berated President Obama and his aides for failing to support President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt during the Arab Spring, fearing Mr. Obama might do the same thing if the uprisings spread to the kingdom.


The nuclear deal with Iran only fueled the Saudi sense that the United States was rethinking the fundamental relationship — and Saudi officials, on visits to Washington, openly questioned whether they could rely on their American ally


So ever since that accord was reached in July, the Obama administration has been offering reassurance.


When Mr. Kerry warned the Saudis against executing Sheikh Nimr, a Saudi-born Shiite cleric who directly challenged the royal family, he was ignored. “This is a concern that we raised with the Saudis in advance,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, acknowledged Monday. He said the execution has “precipitated the kinds of consequences that we were concerned about.”

The fundamental question is this: has preserving the relationship with the Saudis become more trouble than it's worth for the US? And if so, is it finally time for Washington to reimagine its Mid-East policy by doing the previously unthinkable and siding with Tehran over Riyadh?

For some, like Politico's Stephen Kinzer, the answer is "yes." Below, find excerpts from Kinzer's latest.

*  *  *

From "The United States Shouldn’t Choose Saudi Arabia Over Iran"

Only two Muslim powers remain standing in the Middle East, and suddenly they are on the brink of war. Our old friend, Saudi Arabia, carried out one of its routine mass beheadings last week, and among the victims was a revered Shiite cleric. Our longtime enemy, Iran, which is the heartland of Shiite Islam, was outraged. Furious Iranians burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The next day, Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with Iran

The United States should do everything possible to avoid choosing sides in an intensifying proxy war between the dominant Shiite and Sunni powers in the Middle East. Though history tells us we should tilt toward Saudi Arabia, our old ally, if we look toward the future, Iran is the more logical partner. The reasons are simple: Iran’s security interests are closer to ours than Saudi Arabia’s are.

taking Saudi Arabia’s side would be a disaster. True, militarily the two appear pitifully mismatched. Saudi Arabia is among the world’s best armed states. It has spent vast sums to buy the world’s most advanced war-fighting systems, most of them from the United States. Iran, by contrast, has been under heavy sanctions for decades. Its army is not much better equipped than it was during the Iran-Iraq War 30 years ago.

The confrontation becomes equalized, however, when motivation is factored into the equation. Saudis are notorious for their aversion to sacrifice. They hire foreigners to do most of the kingdom’s daily labor. Few Saudi men would dream of risking their lives for their country. For its war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has recruited hundreds of mercenaries from Colombia. The Saudis have enough air power to devastate almost any country on earth. Wars are won on the ground, though, and there Saudi Arabia is pitifully weak.

The Iranians are different. If they believe their faith is under threat, they will pour onto battlefields even if they have to fight with slingshots. That difference in patriotic fervor makes sense. Saudi Arabia has existed for 83 years, Iran for more than 2,500.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to provoke this crisis was aimed at least in part at forcing the United States to take sides. Supporting Saudi Arabia over Iran, however, would be a way of harming our own interests.

Why does Iran make more long-term sense as a partner? Countries should fulfill two qualifications to become U.S. partners. Their interests should roughly coincide with ours, and their societies should look something like our own. On both counts, Iran comes out ahead.

Iran and the United States are bound above all by their shared loathing of Sunni terror groups. In addition, Iran is closely tied to large Shiite populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain. It can influence those populations in ways no one else can. If it is brought into regional security arrangements, it will have a greater interest in stability—partly because that would increase its own influence in the region.

By almost any standard, Iranian society is far closer to ours than Saudi society. Years of religious rule have made Iranians highly secular. The call to prayer is almost never heard in Iran. In Saudi Arabia, by contrast, it dominates life, and all shops must close during designated prayer breaks. Iranian women are highly dynamic and run many businesses. Saudi women may not even drive or travel without a man’s permission. The 9/11 attacks were planned and carried out mainly by Saudis; Tehran was the only capital in the Muslim world where people gathered spontaneously after the attacks for a candlelight vigil in sympathy with the victims.

*  *  *

Images from candlelight vigils in Iran held on the evening of September 11, 2001 to mourn the Americans killed in 9/11:

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One And Only's picture
"Saudi Arabia Or Iran? It's Time For Obama To Choose"

I choose USA, Russia, China, Europe allied partnership. Turn that area into glass in about 2 minutes maybe it wouldn't even take that long. Show them how the infidels roll.

Problem solved and the rest of the world can move on with our lives.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



We know he won't choose the USA.

3.3 International Affairs
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements.  We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.


"So, we agree, American shale-oil production must die.  As a token of our
understanding, we give you this bling made of solid barbaric relic."

Occident Mortal's picture

Why don't we hear more of the person behind the new Saudi strategy?


The 30 year old Mohammed bin Salman.

0b1knob's picture

< Flip a coin.  There is no difference between the two.

< Nuke them both till the sand melts into glass.

HowdyDoody's picture

Poor innocent little US has been manipulated by the evil Saudis. /sarc

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Arnold Jan 5, 2016 5:41 PM

He will of course choose those who paid for his education and his Harvard Law Review gig.

Plus Obama is a Jew and so are the Saudi's

Obama is a Jewish actor who can cry on que.

Hey, what happened to all those guns he bought for federal agencies and a billion rounds of hollow point bullets.
They they go to ISIL?

AnonG-Man's picture

Except when there is a difference... because there is.

  • Saudi Arabia is a monarchy without representative institutions. Iran, though ideologically authoritarian and possessing the dictatorial office of jurisprudent, is a republic with a parliament and an electoral process. Saudi Arabia strictly forbids female participation in the public realm, whereas Iran leaves some space for women in this regard [and is improving].

    Given these comparisons, it would seem that, in terms of institutions and their potential for “democratic evolution,” the Islamic Republic in Iran has much more to recommend it to the West than does Saudi Arabia.

  • the Saudi government hates Iran because it is a republic, while Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are monarchies.  Saudi Arabia also hates Iran for being Russia's ally.
  • the CIA admits that the U.S. overthrew the moderate, suit-and-tie-wearing, Democratically-elected prime minister of Iran in 1953. He was overthrown because he had nationalized Iran’s oil, which had previously been controlled by BP and other Western oil companies. As part of that action, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its prime minister.
  • Iran has:  never had nuclear weapons, is not violating the nonproliferation treaty, spends $24b total ($303/capita on military), has 0 foreign bases (unless you count anti-terrorism/anti-imperialist assistance to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon) and has started 0 wars in centuries, has never overthrown the U.S. Government.  The U.S. has:  7,200 nukes, violates the NPT by not disarming, by building more, and by sharing with other nations, spends $648b ($2,057/capita on military), has more than 800 foreign bases in more than 70 countries and has invaded more than 70 countries in the past 70 years, overthrew Iranian democracy in 1953 to install dictator
  • Saudia Arabia supports Wahhabism, Iran doesn't.  The House of Saud are not Muslims - “Their tastes led them to taverns, casinos, brothels" - and came to power with the blessing and backing of the U.K. and U.S. in the 1930s (who knew of their extremist background). "Orthodox jurists of the time branded the Wahhabis as heretics and condemned their fanaticism and intolerance. Nevertheless, the Wahhabis then demonstrated their contempt for their pretended faith by indiscriminately slaughtering Muslims and non-Muslims alike." - Stephen Schwartz (Two Faces of Islam)
  • Saudia Arabia invaded Bahrain and Yemen, Iran hasn't.
  • Saudia Arabia exports terrorism, with the willfull blessing of NATO Allies (who are all Imperialist criminals).  Iran doesn't invade or export terrorism to topple governments (as in Syria).
Ignatius's picture

Nice expression of nativist sentiments which were, unfortunately, put out to rest long ago.

"America is not 50 states and a few protectorates, America is the world."  --  Doug Valentine

balanced's picture

Without US protection, those Saudi oil fields might start looking pretty good to the Russo-Iranian forces operating just across the border. Maybe that's just wishfull thinking on my part.

Max Steel's picture

US never take sides. It supports both  by supplying arms and making them fight.

beemasters's picture

Everything that the US government touches turns either to a Libya or a Saudi Arabia. Iran is better off without the US...and the rest of world too.

Antifaschistische's picture

wow...for Obama Islam vs. Christian was a no brainer.  Islam won that one.   Now, he has to pick the Sunni's or the Shiite's!!!!   This is definitely going to cause him some sleeplessness.

hal10000's picture

Obama chose the new American religion: money.  He didn't choose "Islam" over "Christianity."

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) Antifaschistische Jan 5, 2016 3:33 PM

He chose Iran.  He feels closer to them since he is full of Shi'ite.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Duh, is right!  SA women looks plain scary.  Many Iranian women look hot as hell.

Had a 'Persian Kitty' GF 20 years ago, and she looked fantastic in Victoria's Secret lingerie.  I swear!

Could've married her, but didn't, as joining the family's Pistachio business was not my bag.  Shagging their daughter silly, was though.  Till we reached the fork in the road. [sigh]

/ Of course if O'Bummer prefers a "Room with a Rear-view" (as many here contend) ... then maybe goats or camels are the way to go. /s

Seriously though... Americans and Iranians are much better paired in terms of mentality.  Even Israelis are better paired with them, than with Saudi/Wahhabi scum. The catch is... that, unlike SA, Iran is resisting Rothschild's CB fiat cartel.  For now.  And we all know how the Rottenchild clan feels about moolah, cashish being thicker than blood or oil, to support their permanent Rentier lifestyles.

SethDealer's picture

he needs to choose between, Saudi arabia, Iran, or golf !

cro_maat's picture


"Iran’s security interests are closer to ours than Saudi Arabia’s are."

What are our security interests again? Are they the same as the banker overlords? How do I profit from chaos again? Can I see what McCain, Graham and the rest of the Neocons are investing in?

Based on the low oil prices (and Rockefeller liquidating oil) I would say Thorium is the long term winner. The rest is ME Pay per View.

Baby Bladeface's picture
Baby Bladeface (not verified) cro_maat Jan 5, 2016 4:02 PM

McCain and husband Graham security interests with US do not coincide.

Sudden Debt's picture

He doesn't need to choose!

Obama can take it from both sides AND PLAY GOLF at the same time!

And if he puts 2 drops of MENTHOL on his finger and rubs his eye, he can cry like a girl.

Publicus_Reanimated's picture

Not necessarily a bad idea, but...

You do know the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population in the world lives outside the Middle East, right?  The only subgroup concentrated there is the Shiites.  So your tactic wipes out all the Shiites (you know, the ones who actually fight against ISIS) and leaves hundreds of millions of Sunni from Jakarta to London with a taste for revenge.

Time for a rethink.

nuubee's picture

"True, militarily the two appear pitifully mismatched. Saudi Arabia is among the world’s best armed states. It has spent vast sums to buy the world’s most advanced war-fighting systems, most of them from the United States. Iran, by contrast, has been under heavy sanctions for decades. Its army is not much better equipped than it was during the Iran-Iraq War 30 years ago."


HAH! Does anyone with half a brain really think that U.S. Sanctions have any affect whatsoever on a countries armament? I would love to introduce those people to a nuclear-armed DPRK if they have any notions of "sanctions" being anything more than an annoyance.

One And Only's picture

These people are crazy. They'll fight till everyone is tortured raped and killed and there will be one last guy running around screaming allah akbar.

Bananamerican's picture


fuck 'em all and let allah sort 'em out....

Mr.Kowalski's picture

As one Israeli general said "Its 25% equipment and 75% training and morale" and Iran's army has proven itself quite capable and brave. The issue would be far from certain. Look at what ISIS did to the US trained Iraqi Army.. whoops. The Taliban are taking it to the US trained Afghan Army,too.

cro_maat's picture


Saudi has it's hands full with Yemen and that's being kind based on front line reports. Their army is staffed mostly with non-Saudis. They seem to be good at:

Plotting, Beheading, Pontificating, Driving Lambos, Financing Mercinaries and running a welfare state.

Did I leave anything out.

nuubee's picture

I would revise that..


10% Equipment

30% Training/Morale

60% Valid Intelligence

hobopants's picture

Let them fight it out, that would be one way to get oil prices back up.

Deepskyy's picture

To be fair, if we were allowed to actually fight the Taliban things might go a little differently.  It is damn difficult to nation build and fight the enemy at the same time.  You would think we learned that lesson in Southeast Asia. 

cro_maat's picture

Southeast Asia (Vietnam War) was about securing the Golden Triangle drug trade.

Afganistan was and is about the new Opium plantation and about $7 Trillion of natural resources locked up in their mountains.

Did you think dropping bunker buster bombs on all their mountains was about getting Bin Laden? Mountain top removel via USSA tax dollars is very cost effective for chinese miners.

hal10000's picture

Afghanistan wasn't sanctioned much.  It never had any money to even bother being dirt f**king poor that it is.

It still didn't stop the Taliban from whoopin' American and ISAF ass.  The Saudis can have all the latest and greatest, but it still can't even win in Yemen, the poorest country in the region.  To paraphrase a USAF veteran of Vietnam who said he was flying around in a multi-million dollar plane only to see his country defeated by a guy in pyjamas riding a bicycle...  It repeats contually.  Just like at eastern Ukraine for another.

If Iran went to war with the Saudis, the Saudis would lose pretty quick.  All the foreigner (slave) labour that keeps the gulf states like KSA and Qatar going would not be fighitng and dying for them, and given that their own local male populations can't even bother to pick up their own trash, it would be a VERY short war.

skipjack's picture

Rethink that. The US wasn't defeated by guys in pjs; we defeated ourselves.

Nexus789's picture

The Saudi idiots are not going to be able to stop iran lobbing several hundred missiles into their oil and gas infrastructure.

__Usury__'s picture
__Usury__ (not verified) Jan 5, 2016 2:40 PM

obumer is a tribal puppet......what does bibi say? what does Mel Gibson say?


Consuelo's picture

"Hey there sugar-tits"...



Strelnikov's picture

Too bad someone has to win that.

NEOSERF's picture

Or he can punt to Hillary as a housewarming gift.

Ruffmuff's picture

Good, you try punting billary, you will forever lose your foot up her never ending asshole vortex suck ass black hole.

Ignatius's picture

Ah, the 'ol switcheroo.  Good one.

HowdyDoody's picture

It is just US standard MO. Use a country while it is convenient then dump it as soon as that is more expedient for the US.


Jethro's picture

How about neither of those goat-rapers.

Sanity Bear's picture

Iran was always the more logical partner. In a postwar MENA policy riddled with gross errors, the failure to develop a good relationship with Iran stands out as the worst of them all.

Demdere's picture

Yes, and such a clear case of Israel's crazy party's priorities rather than US priorities.  Greater Israel can't tolerate an Iran-size and -power state in the region, Israeli policy is generating far too much hatred in the surrounding peoples, Christian and Jewish (look at the opinions of the Jews in Iran, read Haartz), as well as Muslim.

We got it wrong in the Constitution, we needed to be neutral from the beginning.  But Israel pretty much took over a corrupt system via AIPAC and the Neocons and made it a lot more corrupt as it did.  Echos of Rome and courts forever.

But it is never too late, if we could jetison our Israeli-Neocons.  Those people are dangerous, they must mean to seize total power, because you don't do a 9/11 FF thinking life will go on as normal when we get this bit of world conquest out of the way.

Is this entire situation poor naive engineers like me being oblivious to that fact that everyone else understands the new situation, and pretending is the way to stay out of the gulag?

May I suggest that the day one of us finds out is a bit late to be making decisions about the legitimacy of your government?

And further, to critique my fellow citizens a bit : Once we understood 9/11 FF and what that meant about our own government, was this end not obvious?  Clearly it has been to the people buying guns and prepping, and it isn't difficult to convince yourself that the various Federales think so too, from their purchases of weapons, ammunition and training.  The FEMA camps aren't fantasy.

9/11 has shown us that there are people in the world who will do ANYTHING for power or just to be paid by someone with power, and that many of them are our fellow citizens.  "It can't happen here" is happening here.

Way past time to do something about this out-of-control government, I think. These criminals are dangerous, and just because their stupidity is directed at the Hammonds today, don't think it won't find you in the future.

AIPAC owns Congress.  Some Deep State + Wall Street business-oligarchy run the Executive.  Reform is not on their agenda unless we force it there.

Stop the airports from functioning will do that without loss of life, when you guys get around to it.  Don't put it off too long, after the shooting starts will be too late.