RELEASE: As President Obama Travels to Saudi Arabia, He Faces Challenges of Shaping the Country’s Role in the Middle East
Washington, D.C. – Today, as President Barack Obama prepares to travel to Saudi Arabia, ThinkProgress released an analysis of the major items on the agenda in his meeting with King Abdullah, including Iran’s nuclear program, advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and responding to Syria’s civil war and the Arab uprisings.
“President Obama’s trip is designed to send the message that the United States remains committed as a military and diplomatic leader in the overall Middle East,” said Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “The United States can’t solve the region’s problems on its own, and it needs countries such as Saudi Arabia to play a more constructive role in advancing stability and inclusive governance across the region.”
President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week comes at a time of significant uncertainty in the region. However, expect few fireworks between President Obama and King Abdullah—Saudi Arabia and the United States will likely put the best face on things publicly during this visit. After several public tantrums and head fakes to align with countries such as Russia from Saudi officials last fall aimed at showing discontent with President Obama’s decision not to conduct targeted military strikes in Syria and the interim nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi leaders seem to have realized that no other country—not Russia, not China—is willing and able to fill the leadership role that the United States plays on security and diplomacy in the Middle East and the Gulf region.
Saudi Arabia plays a central role in the region, and it is a major factor. After the visit, the main challenge for the Obama administration is making sure that it is straightforward with the Saudis about what we see as our interests and values informing our overall strategy for the region, clear in our policies in the region, and honest in telling our partners like the Saudis when we disagree as well as agree.
Read the analysis: Obama Faces Challenge of Shaping Saudi Arabia’s Role in Middle East Strategy by Brian Katulis
- Saudi Arabia Walks Tightrope With Shift in Syria, Regional Policies (Center for American Progress) by Brian Katulis
- U.S.-Saudi ties Tested by Middle East Upheaval (originally posted in World Politics Review) by Brian Katulis
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