Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Obama in Saudi Arabia

Barack Obama inspecting troops along side King Abdullah at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh earlier today.

President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia today ahead of his much anticipated address to the Muslim world in Cairo tomorrow which I will post on separately. I expect Obama and King Abdullah have three contentious issues to discuss. The first is Obamas domestic pledge to cut American reliance on foreign oil. Saudi Arabia is the worlds largest oil producer and the US is its biggest customer so naturally they will want to know how serious he is about his green revolution. Second on the agenda will no doubt be Iran. Saudi Arabia is the leader of the Sunni Arab World. It has always been opposed to Persian Shia Iran extending its influence into fellow Shiite Arab states like Iraq, Bahrain and the Lebanon. Therefor the Saudis see a nuclear Iran as a very real threat just as the United states and Israel does. The Saudis may in fact have a similar view to the American right and the Israelis that believe Obama's Iranian olive branch is deeply dangerous. In any case it will require some top class diplomacy from Obama to navigate through this thorny issue.

The third issue will of course be the Israeli Palestinian peace process. I suspect, I hope that Obama is talking to King Abdullah about Saudi recognition of Israel as part of a region wide Arab Israeli peace process. This is something I believe Tony Blair, George Mitchell among others have been working to achieve behind the scenes in recent times. The thinking being that the Saudis could drag the entire Arab league along with a peace proposal that involved universal Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdraw from the occupied territories as well as the dismantling of the most controversial Jewish settlements. Here's dreaming anyway.

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