After four days in Europe, with stops in The Hague, Brussels and the Vatican, President Obama turns his attention to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East Kingdom is concerned over the Obama administrations policies and handling of Iran’s nuclear development, the toppling of long time ally in Egypt, Mubarak and the handling of Syria. Obama intends to smooth relations with the Kingdom by reassuring that they are not an afterthought.
The LA Times reported that some close to the royal family in Ryadh said that that Saudi may go it alone. While Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis only lasted 52 minutes, the stopover will consist of more than one meeting with Saudi King Abdullah.
Administration officials say that the visit is an investment in one of the most important relationships in the Middle East, emphasizing the substantive business to be covered between Obama and Abdullah.
One of the major concerns for Saudi Arabia and Israel, are the constant drawing of red lines that are not followed up on. The Obama Administration did not follow up with air strikes after chemical weapons were moved out of their arsenals and used. There was the easing of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which were starting to work. While Saudi Arabia plays down the rift, there is undoubtedly an anxiety over US mixed signal foreign policy.
Recently there have been skirmishes in the Golan Heights and a Syrian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey claim that the jet entered its airspace. Russia’s President Putin has played a major role recently in the Middle East and has threatened to change his stance on Iran. While Obama says Putin is only a regional threat, it is clear that she is heavily invested in the Middle East and is indeed geopolitical.
Issues of Human Rights
Whether or not Obama will address inequalities in Saudi Arabia, especially infringement of women’s right is unknown. With a fragile relationship, he probably won’t.
The Australian reports that the former wife of King Abdullah, Alanoud al-Fayez, 57, a Jordanian, which now lives in London has appealed to Barrack Obama to help free her four captive daughters.
“For 13 years, my daughters have been held captive,” Princess Alanoud said. “They need to be saved and released immediately. Mr Obama should take this opportunity to address these grave violations committed against my daughters.”
Alanoud, who married Abdullah when she was 15, said her daughters had had their twice-monthly trips to buy food, water and medicine stopped.
Source: The Australian
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also pressed the president to raise the issue of human and religious rights during his meetings with Abullah. This won’t be an easy trip for a president that promised so much during his Cairo speech. The Middle East is much more insecure and there are unresolved issues with Iran and Syria. Egypt is still struggling to get a suitable government. Obama has his work cut out for him.