CAIRO, Egypt, March 22, 2014 – After three years of strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, President Obama plans to visit the country during the last week of March. President Obama will meet with King Abdullah to discuss security issues in the gulf as well as bilateral relations.
Strains between the United States and the Gulf countries have increased with American efforts to forge a deal with Iran, lack of action on the Syrian crisis and Washington’s support for the “Arab Spring” and the resulting Muslim Brotherhood wins in several Middle Eastern countries.
American-Saudi relations deteriorated when the U.S. lead Western efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran while failing to require strict concessions from Tehran. Iran is Saudi’s regional opponent, and Saudi Arabia and Iran actively work to court influence in the region while countering expansion by the other. Saudi Arabia is one of the most influential Sunni Muslim countries in the Arab world, and Iran is the headquarters of Shi’ite Islam.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia last year and again in January 2014 as part of efforts to address Saudi’s concerns and discuss peace and security in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bin Naïf met with White House officials to discuss co-operation and efforts to curb extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
Other countries in the Middle East are also watching the meeting. The summit will review the Arab countries co-operations in the fields of counter-terrorism, security and economic relations. Some political analyst in Egypt speculated that the stability and security in Egypt is on the agenda of the American- Saudi discussions.
On March 21, 2014 in Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour emphasized the importance of Gulf security to the whole region as well as to Egypt’s Stability. Addressing the editors in chief of Kuwait as the hosts the Arab summit on March 25-28-2014, Mansour described Egypt’s ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as deep-rooted and strong.
The two sides likely will also address the growing Sunni-Shi’ite conflict around the region, and Saudi Arabia’s support for Sunni groups, including militants.