Saudi Arabia snubs President Obama at the airport

CNN is reporting that Saudi Arabia appears to have snubbed President Obama when he arrived in Riyadh for his farewell tour. It is customary for a U.S. president to be greeted by a high-ranking government official. In Saudi Arabia that would be a high-ranking member of the royal family, perhaps the king himself or the crown prince. Today, Obama was greeted by the governor of Riyadh. CNN reports:

When Obama touched down in Riyadh shortly after 1 p.m. local time, there were no kisses with the kingdom’s ruler as President George W. Bush once exchanged. The Saudi government dispatched the governor of Riyadh rather than a senior-level royal to shake Obama’s hand, a departure from the scene at the airport earlier in the day when King Salman was shown on state television greeting the leaders of other Gulf nations on the tarmac.

Social media users quickly termed the reception, which was not carried live on state TV, a snub and a sign that a relationship long lubricated by barrels of oil is now facing deep questions on both sides.

Reporter Nic Robertson says the greeting was very different from the one President George W. Bush received when he made a similar farewell tour at the end of his presidency:

The Washington Post reports Obama’s fourth trip to Saudi Arabia is shadowed by plenty of current disagreement as well as revived controversy over the country’s role in the 9/11 terror attacks:

Obama and the Saudi leaders have diverged sharply at times over how to calm the sectarian tensions roiling the region, how to resolve civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and how to deal with Iran’s influence.

Adding to those tensions is the recently resurrected specter of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and long-classified documents from a congressional report suggesting that the Saudis may have played a role in the attacks.

A bill that could make Saudi Arabia liable for any role in the terrorist attacks is drawing support from both Republicans and Democrats, even as the Obama administration has lobbied against it. In Saudi Arabia, senior officials are furious about the possible revival of a matter they thought had been settled long ago.
Without being specific about what is in the classified portion of the 9/11 report, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes tells the Post it involved, “A lot of the money — the seed money — for what became al-Qaeda came out of Saudi Arabia.”
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