JAFFA, Israel – A top Kuwaiti official has made unusually harsh remarks about President Barack Obama ahead of his visit to the Gulf region.
In addition to other Arab officials, Tamer Alsabah, the head of Kuwait’s national security agency, criticized Obama for implying in a recent interview with The Atlantic that the Gulf states take advantage of American military action against terrorist groups in the Middle East.
“We, like Qatar, made our airspace and our bases readily available to the US-led coalition against the Islamic State,” Alsabah said. “Other Gulf States take part in the offensive on IS. Is this taking advantage? How can you say that, when we open our spaces and invest billions in fighting terror and helping refugees.”
The statements received a great deal of attention in the Arab media, in light of the 1991 military campaign in which the United States liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
Social media users were indignant at what they saw as Obama’s betrayal of his country’s longstanding Kuwaiti ally.
“Obama talked like a little man… reflecting Washington’s poor contribution to global security,” tweeted Salah.
السيّد أوباما يتحدّث على طريقة الصغار.. وكأنه يوضّح الدور"الصغير" لبلاده وسياساتها في أمن العالم..
— صلاح الغيدان (@salahalghaydan) March 14, 2016
“Resorting to terror against anyone who tries to harm us is a badge of honor, I swear to Allah,” wrote Ahmad Alshehru. “America, you think too highly of yourself.”
والذي اعزنا بالاسلام انها وسام شرف لنا ان نرهب من تسول له نفسه الافساد امريكا والله اخذتي اكبرمن حجمك #أوباما_يتهم_السعودية_بالإرهاب_وتمويله
— أحمـــــد الشهري (@AHMEDALSHEHRI3) March 17, 2016
“If you ask the youngest baby in the most remote part of Africa which is the world’s most dangerous terrorist state, he will say: The United States,” tweeted Habibsyria.
— د.محمد الفاتح (@Habibsyria1234) March 14, 2016
“American citizens jailed here get a much better treatment than our inmates in American prisons,” wrote Haledaldosari.
— السجين خالد الدوسري (@5haledaldosari) March 16, 2016
“Obama blames Saudi Arabia for terrorism, flirts with Iran and the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, and turns a blind eye to Russia’s crimes in Syria,” wrote Dr Ali Alrabie.
ويُداعب ايران ويُثني على الحشد المجوسي في العراق ويدعم مجازر روسيا بسوريا
هذه هي أمريكا التي خدعتنا
— الشيخ د علي الربيعي (@DrAliAlrabieei) March 14, 2016
“I thought he was kidding,” Men Sanah commented sarcastically. “And the proof is that he plans to visit the Gulf. Obama is nice but he’s sometimes annoying.”
قسم انه يمزح وذكرتها اخرة مرة وبدليل جاي لاجتماع دول الخليج والله ان اوباما حليل بس يعصب احيانا
— عالم جليل وفاضل (@men_sanah) March 17, 2016
Ahead of Obama’s participation in the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the hashtag #Obama_visit_Saudi_Arabia was launched, eliciting more criticism of the president. “Obama is coming to apologize,” wrote Abu Aleeman.
انه سلمان الحزم
— أبو الايمان (@AbuAlemaan) March 16, 2016
Mido Harbi contributed one word, in English: “Unwelcome.”
— محمد الحربي (@Mido_Harbi) March 16, 2016
“I wonder what the lame duck seeks to achieve after his disparaging jibe,” wondered Saud Eisa. “I hope the Saudi leadership will handle it wisely.”
— Dr.Saud Eisa (@SaudEisa) March 16, 2016
“He decided to drop by because Saudi Arabia is powerful in the wake of the uncompromising protests of [Foreign] Minister Jubeir and Prince Turki al-Faysal,” wrote Yad Tweet.
— ولدن لـ كريّم ™ (@EyadTweeT) March 17, 2016
“This moron is the worst man to ever lead America,” wrote Sultan.
#اوباما_يزور_السعوديه أسوء من حكم أمريكا هالأجرب
— Sultan (@a7la3003) March 16, 2016
“His policy is empty, he doesn’t keep his promises, reneges on his commitments; you are not welcome,” he added.
#اوباما_يزور_السعودية سياسته فارغه يخالف وعوده وينكث عهوده لاهلا ولامسهلا فيه
— Sultan (@a7la3003) March 16, 2016
“God un-bless him,” concluded Asselmia.
الله لا يحييه
— أحمد (@asselmia) March 17, 2016
In the Atlantic interview, Obama was particularly critical of the Saudis for funneling money to Wahhabi madrassas.
He further told the magazine:
The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians — which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen — requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.
An approach that said to our friends, “You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran” would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage … we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.
The Atlantic quoted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as asking Obama, “Aren’t the Saudis your friends?”
“It’s complicated,” a smiling Obama replied.
The article prompted Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the royal family, to pen a piece highlighting Saudi contributions to the war on terror.
“We shared with you our intelligence that prevented deadly terrorist attacks on America,” Faisal wrote.
To ease tensions, Obama will be visiting Saudi Arabia on April 21 for a summit with the leaders of Persian Gulf nations.