By Javad Heirannia

‘Less dependence on imported oil has reduced Saudi importance to U.S.’

May 2, 2016

TEHRAN – Saudi Arabia is losing its importance to Washington as the United States’ dependence on “imported oil” is decreasing due to “the development of fracking technology”, says Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA analyst and now a professor in security studies at Georgetown University.

“However,” Pillar tells the Tehran Times, “the U.S. economy still can be affected significantly by anything that happens to the global oil market, in which Saudi Arabia continues to be a very important player.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The White House has threatened to veto a bipartisan bill to let families victimized by the 9/11 terrorist attacks sue Saudi Arabia. Why?

A: The bill has had substantial support from both Republicans and Democrats.  This support reflects a broad sentiment among the American people that anyone who had anything to do with 9/11 ought to be called to account.  There has been much public attention lately to possible connections between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 attacks because of a still-secret passage in a Congressional report on 9/11 that refers to Saudi Arabia.  This part of the report may not actually contain any new information that is particularly important, but the speculation about what it may contain has sustained public interest in a possible Saudi role.  President Obama has said he would veto the legislation partly because he realizes that the legislation would needlessly complicate relations with Saudi Arabia while serving no useful purpose in either finding out anything more about 9/11 or undoing the damage from that attack.  The president probably also believes that individual lawsuits against foreign countries are not a very effective way to run foreign policy.

Q: Some argue that the strategic important of Saudi Arabia to the U.S. has diminished. Do you agree with this view?

A: Oil has always been the main topic mentioned when the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia is raised.  The lessened dependence of the United States on imported oil, mainly because of the development of fracking technology, reduces the direct importance of Saudi oil to the United States.  However, the U.S. economy still can be affected significantly by anything that happens to the global oil market, in which Saudi Arabia continues to be a very important player.  Saudi Arabia also is a vital player in any security arrangements for the Persian Gulf.  

Q: It seems that Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf like to involve the U.S. in a military bloc. For example, in a summit between President Obama and leaders of GCC countries in Riyadh on April 21 the sides agreed on common patrol forces against Iran. Is this a huge achievement for them?

A: The GCC states undoubtedly would consider as very important any joint military endeavors in which the GCC states themselves are cooperating as well as involving the United States.  So yes, they would consider that a very big achievement.  It probably would be important to them not so much for the direct military effects as it would as a symbol of continued U.S. support.   

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