Saudi Prince Slams Obama’s Mideast Comments

Saudi Prince Slams Obama’s Mideast CommentsSaudi Prince Slams Obama’s Mideast Comments

A senior Saudi Arabian prince on Monday condemned comments attributed to US President Barack Obama, saying the American leader had “thrown us a curve ball” in criticizing Riyadh’s regional role.

Obama, in comments to The Atlantic last week, described Saudi Arabia as a “free rider” on American foreign policy, and criticized what he saw as Riyadh’s funding of religious intolerance and refusal to come to an accommodation with Iran, Reuters reported.

The statements are seen as a realignment of ties with Saudis currently perceived more as a liability than an asset to the US interests in the Middle East.

“No, Mr. Obama. We are not ‘free riders’,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to Washington and London, wrote in an open letter carried by the local Arab News English-language daily.

“Now you throw us a curve ball. You accuse us of fomenting sectarian strife in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. You add insult to injury by telling us to share our world with Iran,” he added.

The White House is yet to respond to the letter of Prince Turki who does not presently hold any official position in the Saudi leadership, but feels obliged to put his two cents worth in because of his vested interests in the kingdom.

Ties between old allies the United States and Saudi Arabia, the top oil exporter, have been bumpy since the 2011 Arab uprisings when Riyadh faulted Washington for not doing more to stop the ousting of Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak.

Riyadh has since watched in alarm as Obama forged a deal with its top regional rival Iran over its nuclear program and as he declined to use airstrikes to destabilize Syria’s government.

In the interview, Obama said he did not believe the US could have effected a meaningful result in Syria without a big commitment of ground forces.