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Obama met King Salman

21 April, 2016

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RIYADH: US President Barack Obama met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday to seek joint action on security threats including Iran and Islamic State, but his visit is overshadowed by Gulf Arab exasperation with his approach to the region.

The American president has come to the world’s top oil exporter for a fourth and likely last time, hoping to reassure Salman and other Gulf leaders, whom he will meet on Thursday, of Washington’s commitment to their security.

Most of the Gulf Arab monarchies have in private been sorely disappointed by Obama’s presidency, regarding it as a period in which the United States has pulled back from the region, giving more space to their arch rival Iran to expand its influence.

For his part, Obama has spoken of his desire to persuade Gulf states to arrive at a ‘cold peace’ with Iran that would douse sectarian tensions and allow all sides to focus on what he sees as a greater threat emanating from Islamic State.

After a low-key arrival in Riyadh, which unlike some previous visits was not shown live on Saudi television, Obama met Salman and a group of top princes and officials at the Erga palace for a two-hour meeting.

Later on Wednesday, Obama was set to meet privately at his hotel with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan to discuss regional issues and ways to deepen cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the White House said.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan were among Obama’s entourage, demonstrating the focus on security in the president’s agenda with his Gulf counterparts.

On Thursday, he will attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of monarchies comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Apart from Oman, they are ruled by Sunni Muslim dynasties who see Shia Iran as a threat to their security and say its involvement in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen has fueled conflict and deepened sectarian divisions.

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