As Mideast Seethes, Saudis Stand Alone

Kingdom feels encircled by enemies around the region
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2011 5:57 AM CST
As Mideast Seethes, Saudis Stand Alone
King Abdullah, center, of Saudi Arabia arrives at his palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010.   (AP Photo/Saudi Press Agency)

Popular unrest roiling the Middle East is is rocking the ultra-rich, ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, leaving its rulers feeling isolated both from regional allies and the United States alike, reports the New York Times. King Abdullah has called President Obama at least twice to voice his concerns about Egypt, with the latter call reportedly ending badly. “The Saudis are completely encircled by the problem, from Jordan to Iraq to Bahrain to Yemen,” says an Arab diplomat. “Saudi Arabia is the last heavyweight US ally in the region facing Iran."

“Saudi Arabia has always had a fear of encirclement, whether with communism or with Iranian influence,” says one expert. Neighboring Bahrain, "to me is the tipping point for when this becomes really unsettling,” largely because the Sunni-Shiite aspect of unrest there exacerbates Saudi concerns. “Saudi Arabia did not build a causeway to Bahrain just so that Saudis could party on weekends,” says another analyst. “It was designed for moments like this, for keeping Bahrain under control.” (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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