Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is meeting with United States President Barack Obama on Friday in Washington to seek additional support to counter Iran, as the White House administration looks to use this visit to shore up relations after a period of substantial tensions.
This visit is the first of King Salman to the U.S. since ascending the Saudi throne last January. It comes after the U.S. agreed to a deal with Iran over their nuclear program this past July that raised fears amongst Gulf Arab countries that lifting the sanctions against Iran would enable the Islamic republic to pursue its destabilizing policies across the Middle East.
The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has suffered great strain due to what the Saudi government sees as the withdrawal by Obama in the region, a lack of direction action by the U.S. against Syria President Bashar al-Assad and a perceived tilt by the U.S. towards Iran since the Arab uprisings in 2011.
Both of the countries remain strategic partners even despite their current differences and both states need one another, said an analyst who specializes in the Middle East and is based in Washington.
However, added the analyst the White House administration must reassure allies and reinforce its Middle East commitment to the partnership especially given the concerns by Saudi Arabia about the deal with Iran.
Salman skipped a summit of Gulf Arab nations in May at Camp David, a move that was seen by many as a diplomatic snub due to Obama’s strategy over Iran, though both of the governments denied that particular interpretation.
Obama was able to secure a political victory during this week, when enough Democrats in the Senate threw support behind his Iran deal to sustain a threatened veto of any vote disapproval by the Congress.
Critics said the deal would empower Iran economically to expand its support for radical militant groups across the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia oppose one another on many regional issues, especially in the Syrian civil war and the Yemen unrest where Arab states have assisted the U.S. in targeting the Houthi forces supported by Iran.