05-08-2021 08:26 AM Jerusalem Timing

Obama: Saudi Eager to Drag US into Grinding Sectarian Conflicts in ME

Obama: Saudi Eager to Drag US into Grinding Sectarian Conflicts in ME

US president Barack Obama stated that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, needs to learn how to “share” the region with Iran

ObamaUS president Barack Obama stated that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, needs to learn how to “share” the region with Iran, adding that KSA has showed eagerness to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts in the region, The New York Times wrote in an article that is based on a series of interviews with The Atlantic magazine published Thursday.

Obama lashed out at Saudi, saying a number of American allies in the Persian Gulf — as well as in Europe — were “free riders,” eager to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts that sometimes had little to do with American interests. He showed little sympathy for the Saudis, who claimed that they have been threatened by the nuclear deal Obama reached with Iran.

According to NYT, the Saudis, Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s national correspondent, “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” The US president said, “would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

Obama placed his comments in the context of his broader struggle to extract the United States from the bloody morass of the Middle East so that the nation can focus on more promising, faster-growing parts of the world, like Asia and Latin America, NYT added.

The US paper reported that Obama also said his support of the NATO military intervention in Libya had been a “mistake,” driven in part by his erroneous belief that Britain and France would bear more of the burden of the operation. He stoutly defended his refusal not to enforce his own red line against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, even though Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. argued internally, the magazine reported, that “big nations don’t bluff.”

The US president disputed criticism that he should have done more to resist the aggression of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Ukraine. As a neighbor of Russia, Obama said, Ukraine was always going to matter more to Mr. Putin than to the United States. This meant that in any military confrontation between Moscow and the West, Russia was going to maintain 'escalatory dominance' over its former satellite state.

"The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said. “This is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.”

The portrait that emerges from the interviews is of a president openly contemptuous of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, which he said was obsessed with preserving presidential credibility, even at the cost of blundering into ill-advised military adventures.

“There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow,” Mr. Obama said. “And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses.” This consensus, the president continued, can lead to bad decisions. “In the midst of an international challenge like Syria,” he said, “you are judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons.”

The paper mentioned that Obama dismissed the argument that his failure to enforce the red line in Syria, or his broader reticence about using military force, had emboldened Russia. Putin, he noted, invaded Georgia in 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush, even though the United States had more than 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.

Similarly, the president pushed back on the suggestion that he had not been firm enough in challenging China’s aggression in the South China Sea, where it is building military installations on reefs and islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines and other neighbors.

“I’ve been very explicit in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China,” Obama said.

According to NYT, the US president refused to box himself in as a foreign-policy thinker. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. But he went on to describe himself as an internationalist and an idealist. Above all, Obama appeared weary of the constant demands and expectations placed on the United States. “Free riders aggravate me,” he said.

He put France and Britain in that category, at least as far as the Libya operation was concerned. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, he said, became distracted by other issues, while President Nicolas Sarkozy of France "wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses.”

The New York Times pointed out that only on the threat posed by ISIL did Obama express some misgivings. The Middle East, Obama claimed, a corrupt metropolis. “Then ISIL comes in and lights the whole city on fire,” Obama said.

Still, Obama acknowledged that immediately after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he did not adequately reassure Americans that he understood the threat, and was confronting it, NYT noted.

“Every president has his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “And there is no doubt that there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”