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The House of Saud strikes back

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Over the past couple of months, Saudi Arabia has been vigorous in trying to ring-fence itself from the democratic uprisings that toppled Egypt and Tunisia's established leaders.

In the process, it's working directly at cross purposes with the stated aims of President Obama, who has publicly put America in the camp of Middle Eastern democratic change – shaking up the longtime US-Saudi alliance.

For decades, US presidents and Saudi kings have worked to maintain the regional status quo under the old "autocracy equals stability" equation. That alliance was strengthened after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, with Saudi money and American muscle dedicated to containing the regional ambitions of the Shiite theocracy.

But when Hosni Mubarak, a junior partner in those efforts, ran into trouble at home, Saudi Arabia watched the United States abandon a man who'd been a stalwart. The Saudis were unhappy that the US helped install an Iran-friendly, Shiite-heavy government in Baghdad, but understood how Saddam Hussein ended up in American's sights.

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