"Mr. Obama may try to use his visit to mend relations, but it remains unclear how badly the ties that have long bound the United States and the Saudi monarchy have weakened, and whether the damage can be repaired.
“It is a concerning factor for us if America pulls back,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, an outspoken member of the Saudi royal family, a former head of intelligence and a former ambassador to the United States. “America has changed, we have changed and definitely we need to realign and readjust our understandings of each other.”
The moment is a perilous one for the Saudis as they face economic and demographic challenges as well as strategic and security concerns. Domestically, a growing cohort of young Saudis is entering the job market as low oil prices constrain economic opportunities and undermine the welfare system. Regionally, Iran has outflanked and outmaneuvered Saudi Arabia in crucial countries as the Arab Spring and the war in Syria have upset the local order. Globally, the drift of the United States away from the monarchy’s side has made the Saudis realize how much they have relied on the world’s most powerful nation.
“A large number of factors have come together, both in the region and at home, to create a very challenging threat environment for the Saudis,” said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Saudis feel under siege.”