President Obama has changed his scheduled departure on his trip to India so as to personally meet the new Saudi King Salman (according to CNN). The POTUS is literally running to be among the first world leaders to genuflect to the new Saudi leader, only days after he was appointed.
Vice President Joe Biden was originally set to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on Obama’s behalf.
However, the schedule for the President’s departure from India has been adjusted to allow Obama to stop in Riyadh himself on his way home, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
King Abdullah passed away Friday, at 90 years old. The mainstream media describes him as a “moderate”, although Saudi Arabia is far from any kind of liberal reforms (see Repair Man Jack’s analysis). King Salman is a spry 79 years old, and he’s no newcomer to Saudi politics.
Salman, 79, is “a stalwart of the royal family” who is “viewed as a pragmatic and cautious reformer, much like his predecessor,” says CNN’s Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.
He has served as defense minister and deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia, a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East, for years. Like Abdullah, he’s one of the dozens of sons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdulaziz.
I wouldn’t expect much “cautious reform”.
Yet, our President refuses to meet Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in February, though Netanyahu will be a few blocks away at the Capitol, speaking at Congress’ invitation. You won’t see Obama changing his schedule, tee time, or sports-watching schedule for Israel (except to help remove Netanyahu from office). At the same time Speaker Boehner was reaching out to the Israeli PM to schedule the joint session, Obama was reaching out to Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s political opponents, and former members of his coalition government. From December:
Netanyahu’s fragile coalition finally fractured, with both Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, dismissed, and Netanyahu’s dissolving of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) with new elections to be scheduled.
Those elections are now scheduled for March 17. Now in a tsunami of irony, Obama cites the upcoming elections as his reason to shun Netanyahu.
“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “Accordingly, the President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress.”
She should add, “even if we had a hand in causing those elections.” How convenient.
For everyone else, the line to meet Obama forms at the
right left, but you can cut if you’re a Youtube or Twitter celebrity—he’ll only come to you if you lead a repressive, women-hating, terror-supporting regime run by religious extremists who flog bloggers who disagree with them. Perhaps Obama wants some tips on dealing with his own dissidents.