Saudi king to meet Obama amid Gulf’s concerns over Iran deal

WASHINGTON – Saudi King Salman will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday to seek more support in countering Iran, as the Obama administration aims to use the visit to shore up relations after a period of tensions.

The visit is the king’s first to the United States since ascending to the throne in January, and comes after the United States agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran in July, raising Gulf Arab fears that the lifting of sanctions on Iran would enable it to pursue destabilizing policies in the Middle East.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has suffered strain because of what Riyadh sees as Obama’s withdrawal from the region, a lack of direct U.S. action against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and a perceived U.S. tilt towards Iran since the 2011 Arab uprisings.

“Both nations are close strategic partners in spite of their differences, and both states need each other,” wrote Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

But he said the Obama administration “needs to reassure its allies and reinforce its commitment to that partnership,” especially given Saudi concerns about the Iran nuclear deal. Salman skipped a Gulf Arab summit at Camp David in May, a move widely seen as a diplomatic snub over Obama’s Iran strategy – though both governments denied that interpretation.

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