Top Saudi Columnist: Obama’s Gulf Visit Did Little To Mend Rift with Kingdom

Saudi's newly appointed King Salman (R) shakes hands with US President Barack Obama at Erga Palace in Riyadh on January 27, 2015.

JAFFA, Israel – One of the leading columnists in Saudi Arabia believes that President Obama’s visit to the kingdom last week did little to mend the rift between the two countries.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the former editor-in-chief of the influential Asharq al Awsat newspaper and the Al Arabiya news network as well as a close associate of the Saudi royal family, wrote that Obama’s visit and participation in a summit of the Gulf States Council were the most significant gestures he has made since the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran last year, but moves that left much to be desired.

“Since the signing of the deal, little has changed in the field of the United States’ dialogue with the Gulf States on Iran-related issues, mainly the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni conflicts,” he wrote.

“Since the signing of the deal with Iran, the White House failed to give the other camp security guarantees that would alleviate the dangers that the deal ushered in,” he added. “Meanwhile, Iran has pursued its efforts to take over the region.”

The regional conflicts have prevented the Gulf States from cooperating with Washington’s conciliatory approach to Iran “because it encouraged Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to intervene in international conflicts in an unprecedented manner.”

Al-Rashed wrote that after last year’s Camp David summit, in which Obama sought to allay the Sunni regimes’ fears on the eve of the Iran deal, “we expected the United States to offset the lifting of the sanctions with less tolerance towards Iran’s expansionist tendencies and its threats to its neighbors.” He added that the Gulf States’ opposition to the deal didn’t stem from their opposition to Iran’s détente with the West, but “to the centerpiece of Iran’s foreign policy since 1979’s Islamic Revolution, which is to propagate anarchy and revolution.”

“It is inconceivable that the United States would open up to Iran and at the same time allow them to threaten the interests of other countries in the region, and demand that they be generous with them to boot,” he wrote, adding that American moves that would satisfy the Saudis include “following up on his public declarations to do away with Assad’s regime and implement the UN Security Council resolutions on Yemen.”

Al-Rashed concluded by saying that he is not optimistic.

“Whatever Obama says, he is clearly not interested in a special alliance with the Gulf States and doesn’t see them as allies,” he wrote. “Obama’s hands-off approach has failed – it led to anarchy and to the rise of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The solution is to increase the pressure on Iran and use it to put an end to the crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.”


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