From Tehran to technology, Obama’s Saudi trip is key to stability
The outcome of the meeting between Barack Obama and King Abdullah will determine whether the future is one of stability or chaos
As U.S. President Barack Obama gets ready to make his historic visit to Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah, it is important to take note of certain important realities in the region and on the global stage. The outcome of this meeting between the two leaders will determine whether the people of the world will see stability, progress and economic prosperity or chaos, instability and tension.
Within the region, the major clash is between forces in support of the arc of stability and those supporting the arc of instability. In short, within the region leaders such as King Abdullah are leading the charge for peace, progress, stability and reform.
On the other hand, leaders of some other countries in the region insist on interfering in the internal affairs of their neighbors. On top of this list is the regime in Tehran. Ever since the late Ayatollah Khomeini established a theocracy in Iran, Tehran’s goal has been – and remains to this date – the export of its revolution to countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestinian territories.
In short, instead of providing prosperity, dignity, and hope for its people, and exporting Iran’s rich culture of religious tolerance, peace and human rights, Iran’s rulers offer slogans and support for reactionary forces who want to create chaos.
Iran in focus
Therefore, one of the key subjects to be discussed between King Abdullah and President Obama will be Iran. It is important to start this discussion by accepting the fact that there are two Irans. One is an Iran that is heir to an ancient civilization with a longing to be free. And then there is the Iran of the ayatollahs. This Iran insists on undermining Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, and supports terrorist groups. This Iran led by Ayatollah Khamenei insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful use and will do anything to weaken the sanctions regime to live another day.
Although diplomacy must be given a chance and President Obama’s Iran strategy must be allowed time, King Abdullah can insist that any nuclear deal between the U.S., its European allies and Iran be tied to the following commitments from Tehran. Washington can insist that this commitment be in writing from Ayatollah Khamenei (since he, not President Rowhani, governs Iran). Points should include the end to financial support to groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah; to stop undermining the Kingdom of Bahrain; to sever all ties with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad; to leave Lebanon alone; and to end support for the Houthi in Yemen.
A resolution of the Iran portfolio led by President Obama in consultation with King Abdullah will give the region room to breathe, and time to heal. The Middle East needs more focus on building than destroying. It needs more understanding than misunderstanding. President Obama can find no better partner than King Abdullah to start the process of healing in the Middle East.
King Abdullah offers the American President an opportunity to tackle global and regional challenges and set the stage for another six decades of friendship and cooperationRob Sobhani
On the global stage, while challenges such as President Putin’s power grab in Ukraine has dominated the headlines, more fundamental and long-term issues remain to be addressed.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. President has a unique opportunity to forge a long-term partnership with King Abdullah to solve some of the pressing problems facing humanity. The foundation of U.S.-Saudi ties was laid over 69 years ago between the father of King Abdullah and President Franklin Roosevelt. Today, King Abdullah offers the American President an opportunity to tackle global and regional challenges and set the stage for another six decades of friendship and cooperation.
In King Abdullah, President Obama has a partner who can address the existential challenge of climate change. Or if President Obama is worried about the consequences of natural disasters, King Abdullah could become his partner by announcing a Saudi-based rapid deployment force to build shelters and provide clean water for victims of earthquakes or tsunamis.
On March 29, President Obama will be meeting with a man who believes in building better schools, eradicating poverty and homelessness, curing cancer, in innovation and in peace. President Obama should seize this historic moment and extend his hand to King Abdullah and join him in making this a better world.
Rob Sobhani is an Iranian-American author and lecturer on energy issues, U.S. immigration policies and U.S. policy toward the Middle East, Formerly a professor at Georgetown University, Sobhani is currently the president and founder of Caspian Energy Consulting, a company that specializes in working with companies that have business interests in the United States, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Sobhani has published one book on immigration: Press 2 for English: Fix Immigration, Save America, and two books on foreign affairs: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: A Leader of Consequence and The Pragmatic Entente: Israeli-Iranian Relations, 1948-1988. Sobhani ran as an Independent candidate for the United States Senate in Maryland in 2012.
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