WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Barack Obama will host Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in their first and long-delayed White House summit Friday, with clashing views on Middle Eastern crises coming to the fore.
Salman’s inaugural visit as king — originally scheduled for May and cancelled by Riyadh — has been billed as a way of reinforcing US-Saudi relations.
But behind public statements of partnership, the meeting looks likely to be dominated by disagreements on Syria and Yemen as well as lingering doubts about the nuclear deal with Iran.
Saudi Arabia publicly voiced tepid support for the Iran deal, but privately expressed grave misgivings that the nuclear agreement may legitimize their arch-foe Iran.
Obama has now won enough votes to push the deal through Congress, easing the need for public Saudi endorsement.
But the White House would still like to assuage Saudi concerns that the deal equates to turning a blind eye to Iran’s activities.
These meetings normally end in “some kind of public statement that puts as positive a spin as possible on the meeting,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This meeting “is unlikely to be an exception,” he said. “Both nations are close strategic partners in spite of their differences, and both states need each other.”