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Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly estranged from its long-time protector, the United States. It viewed America’s backing for Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power in Egypt — and its subsequent acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood government — as a betrayal. Then came U.S. President Barack Obama’s refusal to enforce his “red line” in Syria, after President Bashar Assad’s regime unleashed poison gas on its opponents. But the final straw was America’s support for the recent interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia’s mounting distrust of the U.S. matters, because whenever the kingdom has felt an existential threat — and it regards Iran’s regional ambitions as such a threat — it has relied on an external power to protect it. But if it can no longer rely on the U.S., where can the kingdom turn for sufficient military muscle?

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