Omri Ceren has a great take on what went down at Obama’s meeting with Saudi King Abdullah.
- It didn’t get nearly as much play as it should have, but Obama’s June 2009 meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah ended with the monarch flying into a tirade and more or less telling the President to get a grip. This was the Riyadh meeting that Obama took on his way to his insulting and failed Cairo Speech, the better to prepare himself by visiting “the place where Islam began.” The sit-down was such a disaster that Dennis Ross was hurriedly brought into the White House and given a broader role, yielding the impression that the President wanted a Middle East adviser who kind of understood something about the Middle East – and didn’t think he had one.
There were two theories on why the meeting went so badly.
“On one side you had typical left-leaning foreign policy experts, the ones who had been advising Obama from the beginning and who now needed to explain why things turned out the opposite of how they predicted. Their approach to the Middle East is grounded in the two dogmas of anti-Israel foreign policy sophistication: (a) linkage, according to which Middle East pathologies are a result of the unresolved Arab/Israeli conflict rather than vice versa and (b) “if only Israel would…,” according to which the Arab/Israel conflict could be resolved were Israel to offer more concessions. They had promised that an “even-handed approach” to the Middle East that “put daylight” between the US and Israel would lead to Israeli gestures, at which point Arab regimes would reciprocate. Nothing of the sort came out of the Riyadh meeting. Instead of admitting that they had somehow gotten Saudi priorities or intentions wrong, that crowd doubled down and insisted that the Saudis cared so much about the Palestinians that Obama needed to put even more pressure on Israel to bring around Arab countries.
On the other side you had Middle East experts like Dan Diker, who insisted on One Jerusalem Radio’s Omri Ceren Show that the Saudis gave Obama a bruising lecture on what they actually care about, and it wasn’t the Palestinians. Under this theory King Abdullah expected to talk about militarily confronting Iran, and he couldn’t believe it when Obama kept reciting bromides about the earth-shattering importance of the Israeli/Arab conflict and his enthusiasm for solving it. That was a regular public topic between the two – Obama’s first talk with Abdullah focused on Gaza and the President later emphasized his abiding support for Saudi Arabia’s “Israel Has To Commit Suicide” plan – but the King kind of thought he was dealing with a serious person who could separate spectacle from policy. Instead he got the equivalent of an International Relations graduate student enamored with pseudo-sophisticated “insights” he’d gleaned from Arab media outlets. Ergo, meltdown.
Its a great article and includes many links. Plus references to Wikileaks.