Obama to assure Saudi King of U.S. help against Iran threat

The upcoming meeting will be King Salman’s first U.S. visit since ascending to the throne in January. (File photo: AP)

President Barack Obama will assure Saudi King Salman of the U.S. commitment to help counter any Iranian security threat, White House officials said on Wednesday, despite concern among Gulf allies that a new nuclear deal could empower Tehran in the region.

The upcoming meeting with Obama with King Salman, the monarch’s first U.S. visit since ascending to the throne in January, will seek to allay the fears of Washington’s most important Arab partner that the lifting of sanctions on Iran would allow it to act in destabilizing ways.

The White House talks will come less than two weeks before a possible U.S. congressional vote on the nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran, Riyadh’s regional rival. The Obama administration wants to use the visit to shore up relations with Saudi Arabia after a period of tensions.

READ MORE: King Salman’s Washington visit: What are the regional implications?

“We understand that Saudi Arabia has concerns about what Iran could do as their economy improves from sanctions relief,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters in previewing the visit.

He said the U.S. believed Iran would use much of its assets, which will be unfrozen under the deal reached in July that also puts curbs on Tehran's nuclear program, to improve its battered economy.

Rhodes acknowledged there was a risk that Tehran could spend those funds on “nefarious activities.” But he said Obama would make clear the U.S. would do “everything that we can” to counter any Iranian threats to its neighbors.

IN OPINION: Why King Salman’s visit to Washington matters now

Gulf Sunni Arab leaders have accused Shi’ite Iran of fomenting sectarian violence in places like Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

The Obama administration is focused on providing assistance that the president promised when he hosted a Gulf Arab summit at Camp David in May, including helping them to integrate ballistic missile defense systems and beef up cyber and maritime security.

Obama and King Salman, leader of the world's largest oil exporter, would also discuss global energy markets and address the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, the White House said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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