The Foreign Policy Blog: "Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting"


Last month, I was glued to the news during Obama's first Middle East visit like the rest of the world. However, my interest had less to do with the Cairo Speech delivery than with his closed-doors meeting in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, hardly any press following his stop gave me much information as to what exactly happened on the ranch (I use that expression literally, not figuratively). I found it bizarre that so little was published. Well the Foreign Policy Blog just wrote a little piece on this bit of Obamamania blackout in the press during the President's visit with King Abdullah.

"U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia are always something of a proverbial black box. And President Barack Obama's meeting with Saudi King Abdullah last month was no exception. A late add-on to Obama's planned June itinerary to Egypt, Germany, and France and conducted at King Abdullah's horse ranch outside of Riyadh, the June 3 meeting was quickly overtaken by coverage of Obama's high-profile June 4 speech to the Muslim world from Cairo.

But two sources, one a former U.S. official who recently traveled there and one a current official speaking anonymously, say the meeting did not go well from Obama's perspective. What's more, the former official says that Dennis Rosshas told associates that part of what prompted Obama to bring him on as his special assistant and NSC senior director for the "Central Region" last month was the president's feeling that the preparation for the trip was insufficient. The White House vigorously disputes all of that, some of which was previouslyreported by the New York Times.

Sources say Obama was hoping to persuade the king to be ready to show reciprocal gestures to Israel, which Washington has been pushing to halt settlements with the goal of advancing regional peace and the creation of a Palestinian state.

"The more time goes by, the more the Saudi meeting was a watershed event," said the former U.S. official who recently traveled to Riyadh. "It was the first time that President Obama as a senator, candidate, or president was not able to get almost anything or any movement using his personal power of persuasion."

"The bottom line is that the Saudis were not prepared," the former official continued, for Obama to ask them to take steps toward Israel. Obama changed his trip to go to Saudi Arabia, he pointed out.

"Senior sources in the Saudi national security team," he said, "think the president's trip was poorly prepared." From their perspective, "he was coming and asking them for big favors with no preparation," but "the Saudis never give big" in that situation.

The former official said that Ross has told associates that Obama was "upset" about the meeting "because he got nothing out of it." Ross didn't respond to a query."....(for full article, click here)

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