London, 23 Apr – President Barack Obama visited Riyadh last Wednesday 20 April to meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The two countries have been increasingly losing patience with each other recently as past actions catch up with them.
The nuclear deal struck with Tehran has unnerved many Saudi officials. Obama’s decision not to order airstrikes against Bashar Al-Assad’s forces in 2013 was viewed as weakness in the face of what the New York Times calls an “implacable foe”. Obama in an interview with the Atlantic has saidthat Persian Gulf countries were not putting their fair share towards assuring security in the region.
During one of the most tumultuous periods the Middle East has undergone in years alliances are becoming fraught. As Obama approaches his final months in office the prospect of new leadership and potentially new policies threaten a decades-old alliance.
“The Saudis enjoyed a good strategic relationship that kept the region stable and allowed them to benefit from their wealth, so when this changed, there was a psychological response. This is the defining moment: Is it the country, or is it Obama? If it is the country, then things here need to change”, according to Awadh al-Badi, a scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.
Perry Cammack, a former US State Department official who now works at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that the two sides had different views on what a “more assertive, more confident gulf role in the region, and more confident role of the Saudis in particular, would look like”, according to the New York Times.