Will Obama’s Riyadh Trip Improve Saudi Relations?

U.S.-Saudi Relations
Amidst deteriorating popularity in the Middle East and the Arab world, United States President Barack plans to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh next month. The March visit will be Obama’s first to the Saudi capital since the outbreak of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011.

The Obama administration’s support for Egypt’s overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power; this is in addition to other policy positions during the series of Arab Spring revolts and uprisings that contributed to the rift that formed in U.S.-Saudi relations.

The meeting with King Abdullah will follow Obama’s attendance at the third Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, a summit meeting in Brussels and a discussion on income inequality with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The sequence of visits serves to highlight the President’s commitment to global security in a religiously charged world.

Discussion topics between President Obama and King Abdullah will inevitably concentrate on peace in the Middle East; the primary focus will be the conflict in Syria. The horrific civil war that began three years ago threatens security in the region as extremism grows an incubator of hopelessness and strife. If either country wishes to play a helpful role in the situation and not leave Syria to the bidding of Russia and Iran, both will need to acknowledge past mistakes and work together for an improved future.

In addition to improving U.S.-Saudi relations, analysts have speculated that the trip to Riyadh may have to do with the question of the Arab Israeli conflict. With Iran and Saudi Arabia competing for ultimate power in the region, Obama recognizes that Saudi Arabia maintains the potential to facilitate the Arab initiative for peace with Israel. By addressing King Abdullah’s stated commitment to Arab Israeli peace, Obama hopes to earn favor in the region for normalization with Israel.

The Arab world in recent years has experienced a surge of civil and political upheaval. Obama’s visit to Riyadh in March could create a reactionary current of improved leverage and relations throughout the region.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Huffington Post, Jerusalem Post, Washington Post
Photo: Outside the Beltway