President Obama was once far more critical of the Saudi regime. Now he is trying to keep them onside despite their human rights record and links to jihadists.”>

PARIS Long before high-level visits to Riyadh this week, when President Barack Obama was asked if the Saudis were Americas sidekicks, he said coyly, Its involved. During his visit, a ex-serviceman of the Saudi intelligence services told me, with a similar observe of paradox, Its a special relationshipand there are special differences.

No kidding.

How are Americans supposed to get behind a government that to be undertaken dozens of beheadings on a single era, that has shown a recent predilection for waging conflicts it cant are to be able to prevail, that supports the evangelism of situations of extreme version of Islam that helps prepare the room for jihadists being groomed around the world, and has such a screwy rapport with women, making them strong educations( they are 55 percent of the students in Saudi universities ), then refusing to allow them to drive gondolas or move the street without head coverings?

Add to that, the skepticism persisting for the last 15 years that Saudi agents , not only Saudi citizens, were involved in some way with the Sept. 11, 2001, onslaughts on the United States.

The fact that 28 sheets of the vast 9/11 “Committees report” continue classified to this day exclusively heightens those uneases, even though the Saudi governments posture has been, since the issue of the sheets first arose in 2003, that the U.S. government should produce the damn acts.

So, the Riyadh fulfills were fraught with tension, but complicated and special changes have always been part of this picture.

The United States and Saudi Arabia embarked their awkward cuddle in 1945 when the ailing President Franklin Roosevelt converged the aging King Abdelaziz ibn Saud aboard an American warship afloat on part of the Suez Canal known as the Great Bitter Lake.

In light of U.S.-Saudi relations since thenseven very difficult decades, in factthe name of the venue seems ironically appropriate. This was never a marriage, the metaphor relied upon by countless scholars commenting on Obamas visit to Riyadh this week. There was never a honeymoon, surely, and the differences now are not such matters of estrangement or divorce.

This was and is, as the saying extends, precisely businessthe lubricant business; the arms business; the regional security business.

Sometimes its more civil, sometimes less, but its a partnership between two people with radically different personas: one an tolerate if sometimes erratic democracy built on the dominance of individuals, Enlightenment standards, and the legal rules; the other an endure but often sclerotic monarchy built on tribalism, theology, and the rule of a single family.

When the interests of that family and the interests of the American people differ, or when the business prototype starts to changeand as Obama investigates it, both things are true right nowthe incongruity of the partnership becomes all too apparent. Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal, resembling acerbic remarks hes been making for years, told CNN the coming week the relationship involved a recalibration. He was just territory the obvious. And it seems the best that could be said of Obamas interaction with the Saudis, as White House bureaucrats rotated it, is that it cleared the air.

One can only imagine what that phrase, clearing the air, truly necessitates at a time when Obama, with the end of his term in sight, seems determined to get a lot of resentments off his chest, whether in The Atlantic or on Fridays stormy visit to London. But a brief checklist of contentious issues with the Saudis commits new ideas just how many problems there are, and how long theyve been around.

The core business is petroleum, of course. Saudi Arabia has huge amountsmore than 20 percent of the worlds proven reserveswhich it can pump relatively cheaply. The United States, which once relied heavily on imported oil, managed to reduce that dependence dramatically over the last decade, thanks mainly to the boom in fracking and more extensive conservation measures.

As in the past, the Saudis have moved to undermine contender from alternative affords by creating in such sums, relative to requirement, that costs have plunged dramatically. Hydraulic fracturing, windmills, and other sources of energy no longer induce short-term economic gumption. American fracking conglomerates have been closing down left and privilege for more than a year, and reliance on cheapread Saudiforeign petroleum is likely to increase.

In the 1970 s, the petroleum shock generates the Saudis and the rest of OPEC was about high prices. Now its about low prices. Of trend , no American president is going to ask the Saudis to push up the cost of gasoline at the shoot, at least not publically, but if the U.S. product thunder is to recover, thats going to have to happen.

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