21:42 GMT +322 September 2019
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    US President Barack Obama walks toward Marine One upon his arrival at King Khalid International Airport for a summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 20, 2016.

    Obama Insists Tensions With Gulf Allies 'Overblown'

    © REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque
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    Rumors have swirled that US President Barack Obama received a chilly welcome from his Saudi Arabian hosts during this week’s GCC summit. The President claims those reports are overblown, but few are buying it.

    As Obama visited Riyadh this week, US lawmakers debated a bill which would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia over alleged involvement in the terrorist attack. If passed, Riyadh threatened to sell off their roughly $750-billion-worth of US assets.

    Needless to say, tensions between Washington and its Gulf allies seem high.

    But President Obama downplayed those rumors on Thursday, calling the perception of diplomatic drama "overblown."

    "We remain united in our fight to destroy ISIL or Daesh, which is a threat to all of us," he said, according to The Hill.

    The proposed Senate legislation wasn’t the only potential flashpoint, however, as President Obama also had to assure his Saudi allies that the US wasn’t abandoning them for Iran, in light of the recent nuclear deal.

    Hinting at the possibility of diplomatic misunderstanding, however, Obama did stress a "need for more consistent, institutionalized communication between the countries," adding that the "possibilities of misunderstanding increase when there is so much activity taking place."

    Also on the table was the ongoing Syrian civil war. Obama described the Syrian ceasefire as "very fragile," and in danger of "breaking down."

    While the President attempts to downplay any notion that the US may be on the rocks with its Gulf allies, evidence suggests there may be something to the rumors.

    Writing for AntiWar.com, Jason Ditz pointed out that Obama’s arrival in Riyadh received a bizarrely underwhelming response from the Saudi government.

    "Saudi King Salman had been at the airport, broadcast on state TV greeting other arriving leaders for the GCC summit, by the time Obama got there, he and the local TV crew were long gone, and only the local governor was there to meet with him."

    Last month, a senior Saudi prince responded to comments made by President Obama in a recent interview with The Atlantic, in which the US leader mentioned his annoyance with allies that he dubbed "free riders."

    "No, Mr. Obama. We are not the 'free riders'…to whom you refer. We lead from the front and we accept our mistakes and rectify them," Prince Turki al-Faisal wrote in a letter to the magazine.

    "We will continue to hold the American people as our ally and don’t forget that when the chips were down, and George Herbert Walker Bush sent American soldiers to repel, with our troops, Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with soldiers."

    "Mr. Obama," the prince wrote, "that is who we are."

    The US President may insist that everything is fine and dandy, but the Saudi Prince Turki is casting some serious shade.


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    diplomatic relations, GCC summit, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Turki al-Faisal, King Salman, Barack Obama, United States, Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia
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