En av Saudi-Arabias mest erfarne politikere, prins Bandar bin Sultan, har sagt til europeiske diplomater at Saudi-Arabia i nærmeste fremtid kommer til å legge om utenrikspolitikken vis-a-vis USA. Det kan bare bety at Riyadh vil løsne båndene til USA.
Hvis prins Bandar snakker på vegne av kongedømmet står president Obama overfor et regionalt jordskjelv. Det er bare noen dager siden Egypt truet med å nærme seg Russland.
Det er mulig prins Bandar sender et skudd foran baugen på USA, men det kan også være uttrykk for en alvorlig splittelse.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
«The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,» the source close to Saudi policy said. «Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.»
Prince Bandar, who was Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
A son of the late defence minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favour with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.
But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels while his cousin, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, worked the diplomatic corridors.
«All Options On Table»
«Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US,» the source close to Saudi policy said. «This happens after the US failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.
«Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the US is growing closer with Iran and the US also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising.»
The source declined to provide more details of Mr Bandar’s talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.
But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and its traditional US ally would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.