The Saudi Obama Snub: A Positive Sign

London–Saudi Arabia’s king declined to meet President Obama when he arrived at the airport in Riyadh,  capital of the oil kingdom. That’s good.

Obama at Riyadh airport in Saudi Arabia: Anyone seen the King?

Saudi Arabia has been one of the most destructive forces in the Islamic world. It has financed violent jihad groups, radical preachers and inflammatory satellite TV shows all to promote its intolerant Wahhabi brand of Islam. It’s monarchy, a creation of British imperial policy and sustained by the obeisance of successive  American presidents, has flown under the wing of six decades of US Middle East domination to spread its influence.

As Obama has cozied up to the Saudis’ regional rival Iran, the kingdom’s rulers have distanced themselves from Washington. In Riyadh, Obama eventually met with King Salman. The President’s spin masters described it as a clearing-the-air session. Obama himself went out of his way to suggest that the old Saudi-US “friendship and deep strategic partnership” was still intact.” Somehow, in his Riyadh press conference, Obama managed to never say the words Saudi Arabia, except for thanking his hosts for their hospitality. Off-stage, Saudi officials were talking about “recalibrating” the relationship.

US officials should also recalibrate and probably are doing so. The US is less dependent on Middle East oil than when Obama took office. Neither Saudi assertion of its own interests by supporting Islamist groups nor its indirect support for al-Qaeda in Yemen through its bombing campaign coincides with US policy. It’s help in battling the Islamic State has been minimal. The Saudi priority is countering Iran, not stopping terrorist jihad.

The Administration continues to appease the kingdom by shielding it from Washington’s own 9/11 report, a portion of which implicates Saudi officials in the attacks. It’s not clear how long the 28-page excerpt can be kept secret as there is a groundswell of US public pressure for its release. The  Saudis threaten to sell off hundreds of millions of dollars in US Treasury assets should Congress pass a law that makes it possible for Americans to sue the kingdom over 9/11. Obama opposes the bill.

Before flying to Riyadh, Obama said that the “process” of vetting the 28-pages  might, maybe, “hopefully” be finished soon and so perhaps, possibly be released. It’s been 15 years. Enough delay. Release it and really clear the air.

CNN provides an understated listing of tensions.

Obama answers press questions without uttering the words Saudi Arabia except to thank the hosts for their hospitality.

CBS broadcast an elliptical account of what is in the 9/11 Twenty-Eight Pages.

The Saudi Treasury asset sell-off threat.



Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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