The impact of recent political developments on regional diplomatic relations was the focus of a Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) Monthly Dialogue public lecture titled: "The U.S.–Saudi Arabia Relationship: 'Special' or Broken?" delivered by renowned Middle East scholar, Dr. Michael C. Hudson, and held on the campus of Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q).
"The Middle East region is in a turbulent condition. And that condition means that traditional alliance patterns and U.S. foreign policy should be rethought and reexamined," said Dr. Hudson, who is also the Seif Ghobash Professor of International Relations and Arab Studies, Emeritus, at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
Launching into a review of historical roots of bilateral relations that have traditionally been based on the mutual benefits of the oil industry, he argued that the lifting of sanctions on Iran, plunging energy prices, and regional security issues, as well as budgetary constraints and rising unemployment in the kingdom, have introduced new challenges to the relationship today. "The concern is over how the strategy to reestablish stability and a rebalance of regional powers is being executed. That's why the special relationship is no longer special," he explained, specifically noting GCC countries' stance on Iran and their role in the war in Yemen.
Ultimately, he concluded that while the foreign policy trajectories for the two countries were increasingly at odds, shared regional interests still insured positive future relations. "Even with doubts over Saudi, the United States can't afford to lose them. There's continuity there - the long relationship with the U.S. military and their counterparts in the region, continuing American presence in the Middle East remains very substantial," he concluded.
Director of CIRS, Dr. Mehran Kamrava, said that "It was an honor to host a scholar of Dr. Hudson's stature for the first CIRS Monthly Dialogue lecture of the semester. Dr, Hudson has long been a keen observer of US foreign policy in the Middle East and of Saudi Arabia, and his analysis of subtle but significant changes in US-Saudi relations are both perceptive and timely."
Michael C. Hudson is a former Director of Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), and from 2010 to 2014 he was the first Director of the Middle East Institute and Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. He was the Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Belfer Center's Middle East Initiative in spring 2015.