Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'
Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
October 22nd, 2013
03:05 PM ET

Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'

By Jamie Crawford

Secretary of State John Kerry says relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are strong despite reports the Saudis are looking to de-emphasize its alliance with Washington.

"I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been," Kerry told reporters on Tuesday in London on the sidelines of a conference about the international response to the civil war in Syria.

Kerry was responding to questions based on a report from Reuters that quoted Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, telling European diplomats the kingdom would be making a "major shift" in relations with Washington over perceived inaction towards the carnage in Syria, and a possible rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear program.

The comments were noteworthy coming from Bandar, who served as the kingdom's ambassador to Washington for many years and enjoyed warm relations with both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Sunni Saudi Arabia is wary of any rise in influence by the Shiite theocracy of Iran across the Middle East, and has pushed behind the scenes for greater U.S. involvement in Syria, whose president Bashar al-Assad is propped up by the regime in Tehran.

The civil war in Syria is exacerbating sectarian tensions across the region with many analysts warning of a dangerous spill-over across Syria's borders.

"We know that the Saudis were obviously, you know, disappointed that the strike didn't take place," Kerry said in reference to the buildup to a U.S.-led strike on Syria over the regime's use of chemical weapons.

The drive for military action to punish al-Assad for alleged chemical weapons use was set aside when diplomatic efforts took root to get Syria to turn its chemical arms over to international control.

"It is our obligation to work closely with them as I am doing," Kerry said referencing multiple meetings he had on Monday with Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal in Paris. "The president asked me to come and have the conversations that we have had."

Kerry said he had a "very frank conversation" with Faisal about the concern over Iran's nuclear program, and reaffirmed President Barack Obama's commitment that the United States would never allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon.

Saudi Arabia's concern over the international response to Syria was manifested earlier this week when the kingdom declined a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that was Riyadh's decision to make, and the despite certain "disagreements" between the two, the bilateral relationship would continue to move forward.

In his remarks, Kerry also said the United States and Syria were committed to working toward a restoration of a democratically elected government in Egypt, and shared common views on may other issues facing the Middle East.

"I think there is a clear understanding in our relationship going forward, and I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been," he said.

Kerry was scheduled to travel from London to Rome where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discuss ongoing efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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  15. james

    Saudi Arabia is armed to the teeth, but they'd never do anything. They're the epitome of paper tigers and are upset when we don't want to commit another 100K to a Syrian war? They just want to sit back and use us as their mercenary force, apparently. We were hamstrung by Syria finally complying with the treaty, but it would have never have happened without our military movement.

    Everyone's skeptical about Iran, but it's worth a short term attempt. It's so hard not to be skeptical in the region, but as an American with some experience, I don't think we should hold any allegiance to either Shiite or Sunni. The Saudi's might not like it, but the factional ebb and flow over there doesn't have much to do with us. Maybe they should try to reach the 21st century along with their enemies.

    It's a little crazy to just support Sunnis for the sake of supporting Saudi Arabia and other allies, while at the same time Sunnis are are and have been at the core of terrorism for quite a while. Very complicated region, but those kind of comments don't help.

    October 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Reply
    • Ricky

      Saudi Arabia is the worst nation on Earth for their constant abuse against women. I hope women run that country in the next decade becasue Saudi men are idiots. Want proof – Osmam bin Laden is clear proof that Saudi men are idiots.

      October 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  16. Powder

    Some of you shouldn't be commenting here! You are very insulting, sadly without facts! Some of you don't know hatred, do you? I have been abused, threatened and nearly killed without provocation. Without the preaching of love, redemption and peace i could have turned into one of the deadliest People to walk the planet because i realised quickly when i learnt defendu that a lot of folks are weak tho loudmouths.
    There is a lot brewing in the middle east and it should be handled with utmost wisedom, love and care. True Leaders please be weary of nutshells who can lead us to hell without them knowing.

    October 24, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
  17. mullahproblems

    Reblogged this on The Mullah Problem and commented:
    While the Saudis are not necessarily the best example of human rights in the Middle East, they've certainly been better than Iran's mullahs. While Saudi Arabia had over 300 executions between 2010 and 2013, Iran has already killed over 500 people publicly since January of this year. One would hope that we would see the U.S. strengthening ties with the Gulf States, as Iran's former foil Iraq has in fact become Iran's newest province.

    Let's hope for some better balancing in the Middle East, or we'll see a Mullah renaissance that no one wants.

    October 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      We, the USA, did a great job "liberating" Iraq! We took out Iran's biggest enemy then (as always) called for premature elections. You're right, today Iraq is one of Iran's newest best friends! "Mission accomplished!" Never forget these words, and who spoke them! And, don't forget Dick Cheney's big lie to us: The war in Iraq will be "revenue neutral", paid for with Iraqi oil! We're still waiting Dick, when do we get all this oil you promised? Today, both you and George live comfortably on your ranches having no regrets what you did to our country!

      October 24, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • Tchola

      The level of delusive self-righteousness here is uniquely American! We support a barbaric Saudi regime (ignorant Americans don't know that it is a very fundamentalist Islamic regime!) and are proud of the "closeness" of relationship with that medieval regime! How great is America! How wonderful its commitment to democracy and human rights!

      October 24, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply
  18. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    October 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • mullahproblems

      Does America fund terrorists to target civilians? No, they've funded dissident, rebel, and resistance groups but never on a scale like how Iran treats terrorists. It seems as though all Iran does is fund terrorists to attack Arabs and Israelis, and frankly, it's getting out of hand.

      October 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • RViser414

      How can you legitimately say America is the root of terrorism when Iran funds Hezbollah, Hamas and Assad in Syria?

      October 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  19. *Bangash

    Kerry being democrats assure monarchy of continued close and important friendship /alliance. Is this not a contradiction in US approach being a champion of democracy?

    October 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Reply
  20. 742

    The Saudi's did not want to be on the Security Council, to be put into a position where they could not hide from the decisions that they want to have done on their behalf.

    The rest is all fluff.

    October 23, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  21. joe d

    until the feces called israel and AIPAC tells you otherwise

    October 23, 2013 at 8:26 am | Reply
  22. Blasphemer

    Israeli terrorists are only outdone by Saudi terrorists. 🙂

    October 23, 2013 at 3:07 am | Reply
    • joe d

      no way...israel is NO.1 dirtbag

      October 23, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply
      • 742

        Still smokin?

        October 23, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • mullahproblems

      I think the Iranians beat them both out, because they try to kill both of them while still killing their own people. 560 executions since January-I think they're going for a record.

      October 23, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  23. Blasphemer

    Kerry needs a shave, badly.

    October 23, 2013 at 3:04 am | Reply
  24. BigH

    This report tones down the "we better be scared" tone on Fox's website, but it basically says the same thing. Of course I had to dig for the story on CNN. I am sure it doesn't even show up on MSNBC. This report leaves a really bad feeling in my gut, Combine it with the story that our military is down to only two brigades and I think it is time to be scared. Wake up everyone...soon we will not be able to defend ourselves!!!

    October 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
    • RViser414

      I'm more worried about Iran's increasing nuclear capabilities that we have yet to get full intelligence on. Saudi has vetted interests in the US, but Iran does not and regularly has "Death to America" days. Who's the real enemy here?

      October 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  25. Portland tony

    The Sunni Saudi monarchy are never pleased when we appear to appease or negotiate with Shias as in not directly intervening in Syria or talking to the Iranians. So Kerry has to say something positive.

    October 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
    • mullahproblems

      Considering that Saudi Arabia is the only counter to Iran in the region, we'd better play nice.

      October 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  26. dou44

    The USA's main Mideast oil ally is a racist, theocratic monarchy. The other is Israel- the fascist, racist land thieves. Says alot about the Americans.

    October 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • joe d

      BINGO! israel/AIPAC=9/11

      October 23, 2013 at 8:28 am | Reply
    • RViser414

      Saudi Arabia may be those things, but Iran is the worst in comparison. It's theocratic monarchy has far more radical and aggressive aspirations.

      October 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  27. worldlypatriotusaveteran

    The Saudis are angry!

    They are angry that the USA has lost its will to unilaterally enforce international laws and norms.

    They are angry about the inability of the UN to "make a difference."

    October 22, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • AA

      "unilaterally enforce" international laws is an oxymoron. International means agreed upon by many nations, unilateral means undermining others opinion.

      October 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Sure the Saudis are upset! Soon, they just may have to defend themselves instead of depending on the US to keep them safe from their neighbors and fellow "mid easterners" they despise so much!
      The Saudis have been living the "good life" for too long now. It is time they start taking some reasonable amount of responsibility in their part of the world and stop funding terrorists! Your "funded friends" will become your nightmare!

      October 23, 2013 at 6:41 am | Reply
      • StanCalif

        What happens to Saudi Arabia when all their "financially supported" terrorist "friends" turn on them? Will they call their biggest oil customer, China, to defend them? Of course not, China is much too smart to get involved in your problems! So, call the US, again! Surprise, "no answer"! We, the USA, is now energy self sufficient. We don't need your oil anymore!

        October 23, 2013 at 7:13 am |
      • Paul Hill

        I have question Saudi Arabia angry with United States for not sending American troops to Syria. Saudi Arabia has large Military with Troops, Tanks, Aircrafts, Navy why not send Saudi troops to solve problem in Syria.

        October 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • RViser414

      They're also pouting because they desperately want more pressure on Iran, and for the pressure to not be relinquished through lifting sanctions. Iran is a clear aggressor in the region, so Saudi is trying to have their opinion heard before the US gives any leeway to Iran.

      October 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  28. George patton

    No surprise here since the Saudi leaders are nothing but corrupt Islamic aristocrats who care only for themselves!!!

    October 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • mullahproblems

      At least they like the west, compared to Iran these guys are saintly

      October 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        Those Islamic Aristocrats who "like the West" are nothing but self serving thugs who now put the US dollar ahead of Allah in their religion and will stop at nothing the gain wealth and power. The Iranians, on the other hand, still worship Allah and not the US dollar. In fact, the late Ayatollah Khomeini(1900-1989) often referred to the U.S. as the Great Satan!!!

        October 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  29. Jack Rose

    That is one ugly FrankenJoo old John Kohn Kerry is ! Damn Kohn, lay off the plastic surgery unless it will improve your face !

    October 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Reply
    • zach


      October 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Reply

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