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King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. (2002 photo)

By Barry Rubin

Since the United States is not leading the anti-Islamist forces in the Middle East and protecting the relatively moderate Arab states, the new leader is…Saudi Arabia.

But, you say, isn’t Saudi Arabia also Islamist? Well it’s as Islamic as you can get without being revolutionary Islamist. Isn’t Saudi Arabia profoundly anti-Jewish? Yes, but it mostly just talks about it. Isn’t Saudi Arabia anti-democratic? Yes, we’d prefer the United States but President Barack Obama is busy with other things.

Obama wants Middle East Muslims to love America. There are only two problems:

1. His policy doesn’t work. They don’t love America.

2. The Muslims he keeps appealing to are those who are radical and pro-terrorist. For those who are Muslims but don’t want to overthrow their neighbors, go to war with Israel as soon as possible, throw out U.S. influence, and transform their countries into something like Iran and Taliban Afghanistan, Obama is a problem.

So the Saudis are doing what I’ve been telling the Obama Administration to do for 2.5 years: Form an alliance opposing revolutionary Islamism. Of course, the Saudis won’t include Israel (at least publicly) and they won’t get Europe, but at the moment they’re all we’ve got.

This was completely predictable. Some weeks ago, Nawaf Obeid, who speaks for the Saudi government, in an informal and deniable way, of course. And he voices the Saudis anger and disappointment with a U.S. government that fails to fight against revolutionary Islamism and protect it from Iran.

I’ve been writing about this split for two years and now it has happened. The thing is that the Saudis are right and Obama is wrong.  It helped overthrow the Egyptian regime and was ready to help bring down the government in Bahrain. The Saudis have had enough. The Jordanians would do the same if they could, as would Israel.

And there are plenty of countries in South America, Central Europe, and Asia that also feel this U.S. government has let them down.

Wasn’t this the U.S. government that was going to win over the Muslims, make the Arabs love America, and make the United States popular again?

Saudi Arabia has plenty of shortcomings. It won’t even let women drive! But at least it won’t let Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood get in the region’s driver’s seat.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at 

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