Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have been at each other's throats since the Cold War era, and Saudis allied with the West against the Soviets. Now, Saudi Arabia is duking it out with Russia and Iran over oil and gas export markets. That's, in part, what Syria was about -- the Saudis (and Qataris) hoping for a regime change in Syria that would break the Russian-Iranian pipeline monopoly into Syria and Europe. Despite all prices being set by OPEC regardless of supplying nation, perhaps France nonetheless sees an opportunity for increased diplomatic and trade rapprochement with Saudi Arabia through supply diversification.
French President Francois Hollande has demonstrated unambiguous favoritism for the Saudis, both in his diplomatic focus and through French defense dealings. During the Syrian conflict, Hollande's position was in lock-step with the Saudis', however tempered by members of the French National Assembly.
Last month, Agence France-Presse reported that French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a visit to Jiddah, announced 2 billion euros in Saudi air-defense modernization contracts with French companies, plus another billion euros worth of naval overhaul work involving French defense contractors DCNS and Thales.
Hollande's position is an abrupt departure from that of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who enjoyed a love affair with Saudi frenemy, Qatar, culminating most publicly in buying the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team -- and importing David Beckham to win the national club championship.
It's quite likely that Hollande also understands that deliberately supporting the Saudis over Qatar is a blow to the Qatari-funded Muslim Brotherhood that has been raising hell in Egypt and across the Arab world. And perhaps, given the intelligence at his disposal, he also understands that a strong Saudi Arabia represents the best opposition to any Iranian nuclear ambitions. In fact, if there are any doubts about such a theory, the BBC has reported a NATO official saying that the Saudi-funded Pakistani nuclear program is set to send nukes to the Saudis if Iran goes transparently nuclear.
"Saudi Arabia vs. Iran" is the new "Iraq vs. Iran" match-up. Western-backed Saudi Arabia with nuclear potential would balance any threat presented by a Russia and China-backed nuclear Iran -- if only because nothing seems to cool the jets of big-mouthed hotheads more effectively than an existential threat of mutually-assured self-destruction, as we saw between the West and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Nowhere in this mess are any primary American interests -- at least none that can't be handled through allies with front-line interests like France. It's yet another reminder that the new world order is one of multipolarity: a 3-D game of chess played along X, Y and Z axes. An American foreign policy update to reflect this is long overdue.