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1/9/16

Middle East: The costly blunders of Saudi Arabia’s anxiety-ridden monarchy - by David Ignatius

“Fragile” is the word that journalist Karen Elliott House used to describe Saudi Arabia in her 2012 book about the country. “Observing Saudi Arabia is like watching a gymnast dismount the balance beam in slow motion,” she wrote. T

he world holds its breath wondering if the Saudis “will nail the landing or crash to the mat.”

This past week, the House of Saud seemed to have lost its footing. The kingdom’s fear of a rising Iran led it to execute a dissident Shiite cleric, triggering riots in Iran, a break in diplomatic relations and a sharp escalation in the sectarian feud that is ravaging the Middle East.

What led Saudi Arabia to take these risky actions, and what U.S. policies might reduce the danger that the Middle East mess will get even worse? You can’t answer these questions without examining the Saudis’ insecurity, which has led them to make bad choices. 

Saudi Arabia is a frightened monarchy. It’s beset by Sunni extremists from the Islamic State and Shiite extremists backed by Iran. It’s bogged down in a costly and unsuccessful war in Yemen. And it mistrusts its superpower patron and protector, the United States, in part because of the United States’ role in brokering the nuclear deal that ended Iran’s isolation.

Countries that feel vulnerable sometimes do impulsive and counterproductive things, and that has been the case recently with Saudi Arabia.

Read more: The costly blunders of Saudi Arabia’s anxiety-ridden monarchy - The Washington Post

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