Allow me to speculate a little wildly on a few factors regarding the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.
It is fair to say the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the West, in particular the USA, is among the most problematic in an already problematic international environment. Aside from the fact that the warriors who burst out of its sands in the 7th century destroyed what was left of the once glorious Roman Empire, and almost destroying our heritage with it; it also fought in the war which attempted to wipe the fledgeling Israeli State off the map in 1948; 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and its mastermind was a member of one of its most important families; its Wahabist religious leaders fund the spread of a violent purist islamic ideology throughout the world; and it is head despot in the despotic OPEC cartel, which has manipulated the oil price for decades.
Really, it is quite a list.
But when Saddam Hussein’s troops invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US rushed in its own to secure Saudi Arabia’s borders. Given the US economy’s reliance on oil, regardless of President or Party since the Cold War, the US and Saudi Arabia always had to be close, and the day Obama met the Saudi king will be a day that will live in infamy.
But events over the last few years may have loosened the ties which bind what used to be the freest country on the planet to one of the least. Thanks to fracking, the US now produces more oil than it needs, and if it ever decides to change its laws, it could export it, too. The Obama administration, which had done everything it could to stop fracking’s development, has tried to claim responsibility for the economic recovery which resulted from it… Anyway, the biggest upside of all this in the long term is that the US, with plenty of its own oil, no longer needs Saudi Arabia like it used to.
And Saudi Arabia knows it. Worse, with Obama at the helm, (despite the bowing) the US alliance, in the words of the Polish Defence Minister, “isn’t worth s—.” Whether it is campaigning against the reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu, reneging on the guarantee to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, or leaving the Poles, who had stuck out their necks a very long way to support the US’s missile defense system, only for it to be abandoned, out to dry, the Obama administration has essentially taken the approach, “America is evil, so all our enemies must be right, and to hell with our friends.”
The nuclear deal the US made with Iran, which could well make an Iranian bomb inevitable, could encourage the Saudis to feel as though they need the US less, or at least, that they should perhaps be wary of further assurances of support, and get nukes of their own. (Did anybody mention the irony of the US screwing over a despotic Islamic fundamentalist regime which exports terror but is its ally for a despotic Islamic fundamentalist regime which exports terror and is its mortal enemy?)
We are still a little unsure of reports Saudi Arabia may be planning something in Syria, but the massive military exercise it is conducting near the border appears to be the real thing. So with the US in less need of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia less trusting of the US, we may in the near future see a Saudi Arabia off the leash.