For most Western observers, the analysis of Saudi Arabia has long been a comfortably stable pursuit. Saudi foreign policy centered almost exclusively on its close ties with the U.S., a constant since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, just as its energy policy was focused on keeping global oil prices stable, with Riyadh using its heft as the swing producer of OPEC to do so. This trade—agreeing to safeguard global energy prices in return for the close alliance with a world superpower--amounted to a coherent, enduring fusion of Saudi foreign and energy policies during the whole of the Cold War era, and the brief period of American predominance that followed.
It is this slate of far-reaching economic programs designed to bolster Saudi Arabia in the new age that is the single most important initiative the government of King Salman could hope to undertake.Dr. John C. Hulsman
In the understandable rush to implement new policies fit for purpose in the dawning multipolar era, the new regime does have an important contradiction to overcome. For all the newfound friction with a Washington wishing to play a more passive role in the Middle East, there remains absolutely no doubt that ties with America remain central to both Saudi security and foreign policy thinking. At the same time the new Saudi energy policy is explicitly designed to ensure and enhance Riyadh’s energy market share. The problem is that one of the new contenders to Saudi energy dominance is the dramatic rise of American shale. It is difficult to see, over the long term, how a Saudi foreign policy focused on America as ally can co-exist with a Saudi energy policy explicitly designed to challenge the rise of America as a major energy producer.