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Opinion: Obama in Riyadh | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama are greeted upon their arrival on Marine One for a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat al-Khraim (Desert Camp) near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (SAUDI ARABIA – Tags: POLITICS)

US President Barack Obama visited Riyadh yesterday. This was no ordinary visit, given the recent tensions in bilateral relations.

Saudi–US relations have not reached the desired levels during the Obama era. While it is true that there is more in the complex joint ties and interests that unite the US and Saudi Arabia than that which divides them, it is important we acknowledge there is something amiss in this relationship today.

It is not just oil or security cooperation from Saudi Arabia that the Americans are interested in. If you were to look at the situation rationally, you would see that Saudi Arabia enjoys an advantage over other states. The US, and indeed the rest of the world, cannot forget or marginalize this.

To be precise, Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam’s two holiest shrines, in Mecca and Medina, and Muslims come from around the world to visit them.

Second, the Kingdom is the hub of the global oil market, and oil is the lifeblood of industry, development and daily life.

Third, Saudi Arabia enjoys a sensitive geopolitical position, overlooking the Arabian Peninsula’s two waterways, the Red Sea and the Gulf. The Kingdom is the gateway to the Levant and to Iraq in the north, as well as to Yemen in the south.

Fourth, Saudi Arabia is one of the pillars of stability in the region, given that, first, abstaining from wars and revolutions and, second, the desire for peace and stability are the two key principles underlying its political orientation. If anything contrary to this principle happens in the region, Saudi Arabia works to get the situation back on the right track.

Fifth—and this is the aspect that most concerns the US media—Saudi Arabia plays an indispensable role in fighting and uprooting terrorism and pursuing terrorist leaders, as well as building and maintaining a valuable database of these ever-growing networks. This is all based on the Kingdom’s skill and experience in this field.

The reason behind this is simple: Islamist terrorist groups have always sought to target Saudi Arabia, whether with the support of external parties or on their own initiative.

Saudi Arabia’s experience in tackling global terrorism has saved the US and other Western countries from the evils of such groups. This is a fact that has been acknowledged by US officials, including even President Barack Obama himself.

The problem lies in the ingratitude shown by the US media and many of the members of US research centers. What is more dangerous, however, is that those with official capacity in the US have reduced the Kingdom into an oil well and a source of intelligence.

President Obama’s visit to Riyadh was a good opportunity for him to clearly hear Saudi Arabia’s views on a number of issues, including their opposing take on a number of policies being pursued by the Obama administration, particularly in terms of the Syrian crisis, Iran’s deceptive actions and Muslim Brotherhood agitation.

The speech delivered by Joseph Westphal—the next US ambassador to Riyadh—before US Congress on his confirmation this week indicates that there will be no major shift in Obama’s foreign policy in the region. Tomorrow is another day.