But could this marital tiff yet turn into a divorce? The foundations were always based on shared interests, not values. These are changing. It is no longer Saudi oil that keeps gas-guzzling American cars on the road. President Obama has won elections on not getting embroiled in more Middle East wars, whether against Assad or against Tehran. Saudi tantrums will not change this reality.
Both sides disagree over these unprecedented crises that have shattered the security fabric of the region. Saudi wants a robust US role. It believes there is a military solution to Syria, the US does not. Obama wants diplomacy. Secretary of State, John Kerry is simultaneously engaged in vital protracted negotiations on Iran, Syria and Palestine. Very few regional experts expect successful deals on either. The atmospherics look promising on Iran but the details are not there.
Solving these crises would be easier if there was a common approach and a united position. Instead Saudi may act as spoiler to resolving all three. Neither the US nor Saudi are providing visionary, principled leadership or the solutions that the region requires. The US hands off approach has allowed regional actors to embark on their own cold war in Syria. Saudi is bleeding Syria dry to settle its rivalry with Iran.
Saudi's ageing leadership has decisions to make. Does it try to patch up the relationship or go it alone? It could escalate its arms supplies to Syrian rebel groups to shift the balance of power away from Assad. It could look for additional military and security deals with countries like Russia and China, but there would be disagreements on Syria and Iran with them too. Yet looking at all the options, the Saudis know it needs the US more than the other way round.
Only the US security umbrella provides the protection Saudi needs, even more so at a time of regional meltdown.
Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding