Guest Writer: Obama Puts Iran Ahead of Syria

HewarBy Nehad IsmailGUESTSM2

 

 

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is meeting today with President Barack Obama at the White House. They are discussing regional security, the deal on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. Syria, Yemen, ISIS and other regional issues are also on the agenda.

Of these, two are of particular concern to the Saudis. The future of the Assad’s regime and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. For the Obama administration how to fight and defeat ISIS is the most important. This is a source of friction between the two men.

To many observers President Obama has adopted the Iranian position lock, stock and barrel. The Tehran funded lobby in Washington and some of Obama’s advisors see the Middle East through Iranian eyes.

From the onset of the Syrian uprising, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council allies sought to back anti-regime resistance fighters as part of an effort to roll back Iran’s quest for regional hegemony.

However, with the rise of extremist groups, including ISIS, who successfully outmanoeuvred moderate factions, Saudi Arabia was quickly forced to revise its Syria strategy. Next, Riyadh found itself at odds with Washington over President Obama’s unwillingness to take military action against President Assad even after he had used chemical weapons against his own people.

Crown_Prince_Salman_June_2012_SPAAccording to Pro Saudi media “It is therefore likely that Salman will pressure Obama to reassess his Syria policy by Obamaarguing that a limited U.S.-military involvement is required to both defeat ISIS on the ground while helping stabilize the country in order to stem the massive migration of Syrians marching towards Europe”.

This is not the two men’s first meeting. In January President Obama paid a visit to King Salman following the death of King Abdullah a week earlier, and King Salman had met Obama in Washington in 2012 when he was crown prince.

There has not been a meeting of minds; In a joint article in the Washington Post in October 2013 Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, wrote:

“… the administration’s failure on Syria is part of a broader collapse of U.S. credibility in the Middle East. As recent reports make clear, Israel and our Gulf Arab partners are losing all confidence in the competence, capability and wisdom of the administration’s diplomacy in the region. America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, in particular, is deteriorating rapidly, to the detriment of U.S. national security interests.”

Their view that Obama is failing the Middle East, and the U.S. interests there are shared by many political observers in the Middle East. This is exactly the Saudi view of Obama.

Riyadh feels it is being ignored and even betrayed by Obama.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2013 that Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats of plans to scale back cooperation with the U.S. Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud’s move increased tensions and widened the rift between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. This came three days after Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on 18th October to turn down a 2 year seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Saudis still have not received satisfactory answers to a number of questions which were discussed with Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited Saudi Arabia in 2013.

-Is it in the U.S. interest that Syria ends up being controlled by Iran?
-Is it in the U.S interest that Moscow and Tehran call the shots in the region and the US stays isolated on the side-lines?
-Why the Obama’s red-lines had been crossed by the Syrian regime and nothing done about it?
-Why has not the Obama administration failed to honour its pledge to arm the Free Syrian Army with the right weapons?
-In August 2011 President Obama demanded that Assad must step down. Why has nothing has been done to force the issue?

It was my view then and now that the USA will not change its policies in the foreseeable future. The Saudis will remain understandably unhappy with President Obama.

With that in mind, according to Al-Arabiya, Riyadh is unlikely to let up on any military pressure on the Houthis in Yemen until the dust settles between President Obama and his Republican opponents over the high-stakes JCPOA battle in Congress.

According to Pro Saudi media “It is therefore likely that Salman will pressure Obama to reassess his Syria policy by arguing that a limited U.S.-military involvement is required to both defeat ISIS on the ground while helping stabilize the country in order to stem the massive migration of Syrians marching towards Europe”.

The question whether Obama will shift his position remains to be seen. What is certain is that Obama will continue to pay too much attention to the Tehran-funded lobby in Washington and the pro-Iran advisors in the White House itself.

Analyst believe that President Obama does not want to antagonize Iran in Syria by taking any action against the Assad’s regime.

Obama’s paralysis can be explained in one sentence. He doesn’t want to do or say anything that might alienate Iran”.

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