On March 28, President Barack Obama will meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia after three years of a tense relationship. President Obama will meet with King Abdullah to deliberate over Middle East security issues and bilateral relations. There has been hostility between the United States and Saudi Arabia because of American efforts to establish an agreement with Iran, staying neutral on the Syrian crisis and Washington’s backing of the “Arab Spring,” that eventually lead to the Muslim Brotherhood gaining wins in several Middle Eastern countries. Tensions heightened when the U.S. guided Western efforts to secure a nuclear arrangement with Iran while failing to mandate rigid concessions from Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional enemies and both countries aggressively pander for power in the region while undermining the expansion of the other. Saudi Arabia is the leading Sunni Muslim country in the region and the Shi’ite Islams are headquartered in Iran.
Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, stated that weeks before, the White House was considering meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders in Riyadh but the idea was later discarded. The state of relations among GCC members has been difficult lately and while the U.S. maintains solid and supportive ties with each of the GCC countries, that moment of time was not conducive for an optimal collective meeting. The Obama meeting with Gulf leaders was highly anticipated and if the White House fails to ensure that the meeting in Saudi Arabia will take place, it will compound difficulties for the administration’s attempts to render reassurance to the Gulf allies on the two most pressing issues. The first, is the U.S. led nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the second, is the U.S. and Gulf leaders coming to an agreement on addressing the Syrian conflict. Obama is expected to maximize his talks with King Abdullah to restore the long-time alliance with Riyadh, the world’s leading exporter of oil.
Other countries in the Middle East will be observing the upcoming meeting between President Obama and King Abdullah. The summit will also address other issues, such as the Arab countries support of counter-terrorism, security and economic affairs. On Friday, Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour stated that it is imperative that Gulf security is emphasized for the entire region and to Egypt’s stability. Mansour also added that Egypt has strong relations with the GCC.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffery Goldberg, President Obama was asked which faction was more dangerous, the Sunni Muslims or the Shi’ite Muslims and he responded by saying that extremism is not a particularly appealing political stance and added that Iran is strategic rather than impulsive and they are adept at weighing the cost and benefits. An Arab columnist responded to this comment by stating that these are the same characteristics of Hitler, Stalin and Kim Jon Un.
The United States and Saudi Arabia must realize that much good can come from their alliance that is not only beneficial to the Middle East but to the rest of the world. The Obama meeting in Saudi Arabia could be a milestone in American-Saudi relations, that not only becomes dependent on common political interests but relies on the common belief of peace and the greater good of the global community.
By Isriya Kendrick