Obama Middle East Trip, President Barack Obama paid a visit Friday to the desert oasis of wary ally King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, hoping to reassure the aging monarch who is nervously watching Washington’s negotiations with Iran and other U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Obama’s Marine One helicopter kicked up clouds of sand in his arrival at the king’s desert camp outside the capital of Riyadh for a meeting and dinner with Abdullah. The president walked through a row of military guards to an ornate room featuring a massive crystal chandelier and took a seat next to the 89-year-old king, who was breathing with the help of an oxygen tank.
Secretary of State John Kerry sat at Obama’s side for the visit that is the president’s third official meeting with the king in six years.
Despite its decades-long alliance with the United States, Saudi’s royal family has become increasingly anxious in recent years over Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and his tepid involvement in the Syrian civil war. During his evening meetings with the king, Obama’s task was to reassure Saudi Arabia that the U.S. is not abandoning Arab interests despite troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, greater energy independence back home and nuclear talks with predominantly Persian Iran.
White House officials and Mideast experts say the Saudi royal family’s main concern is Iran. They fear Iran’s nuclear program, object to Iran’s backing of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and see the government of Tehran as having designs on oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.