Fmr. Amb. Burns: Saudi ‘Snub’ ‘A Defeat for the White House and Its Foreign Policy’

Former Ambassador and Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Nicholas Burns argued that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s “snub” of a US summit was “a defeat for the White House and its foreign policy,” and that it was in part due to “the perception among the Sunni countries is that the United States is not the facing squarely the big problem with Iran” on Tuesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Burns stated, “I think you have to call it a snub. … Because I think the White house had established this as a major summit. it was the celebration of 70 years of US-Saudi relations, but more important, it was a gathering of countries to try to contain Iran and the fact that, two of the leaders, King Hamad of Bahrain, and King Salman, especially King Salman of Saudi Arabia are not coming when they were supposed to have come as late as last Friday, it’s a defeat for the White House and its foreign policy. I think you can’t see it any other way.”

While Burns said that Saudi Arabia was sending “significant figures,” the week was about the symbolism of heads of government coming to the US. He continued, “I think they’re not coming for two reasons. One is there’s still unhappiness in the Gulf, in almost all the Gulf countries about the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. And secondly, and I think probably more importantly right now, the Iranians are on a power grab. The Iranians have become the king makers in the heart of the Sunni world. In Baghdad, in Syria, certainly Lebanon and now in Yemen. And so the Sunni Arabs, led by the Saudis, they’re facing an assault of Iranian power on the ground in the Middle East. They want help and they wanted a defense treaty from the united states and apparently they’re not going to get that.”

He added that, “It’s a problem for the administration, the perception that the administration has pulled back, the US has pulled back from playing a central role in the Middle East that we’ve really played for 70 years following the end of the Second World War. Now on the merits, I certainly defend President Obama on the nuclear negotiations with Iran. I think he’s going down the right road. but perception matters in global diplomacy and international politics, and the perception among the Sunni countries is that the United States is not the facing squarely the big problem with Iran.” And that the president was correct not to conclude a defense treaty with the Sunni Arab countries.


Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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