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.
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.