— President Barack Obama just concluded a closely watched visit to Saudi Arabia. No major announcements or developments emerged from his meeting with the Kingdom’s leaders, and – WASHINGTONsome commentators suggested that the apparent coldness between Obama and the Saudi heads of state is a plus.
That means that when Obama returns to the U.S., he’ll still be able to sell the idea that he’s bringing reason and change to the decades-old, perennially troubled and increasingly unpopular American partnership with Saudi Arabia.
With the Kingdom attracting more bad press recently — because of its disastrous actions in Yemen, and because of activism by the families of people killed on Sept. 11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi — that’s not a bad way for Obama to be viewed.
Don’t believe the hype.
Obama’s policies toward Saudi Arabia have a lot to do with the Kingdom’s rash recent decisions — particularly the massacre of Yemeni civilians, including children, in a yearlong, U.S.-backed war that has helped al Qaeda develop a mini-statemaking millions of dollars a day.
Understanding why means understanding a number: sixty billion. In dollars, that’s the low valuation of how much U.S. weaponry the Obama administration has allowed to be sold to Saudi Arabia, according to Bruce Reidel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank who closely watches the Kingdom.
In fact, the figure could actually be as high as $90 billion, Reidel noted in an event at Brookings Thursday. In comparison, President George W. Bush approved $20 billion for the same purpose.
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