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Can Obama wake Saudis from their dream of continued dominance?

US President Barack Obama is expected to attempt some delicate diplomacy when he visits Riyadh this month: mending fences with Arab allies while still urging them to pick up the pace in fighting terrorism.
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman after their meeting alongside the G20 summit at the Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTS77JX
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After a month of unpleasant exchanges between Washington and Riyadh, US President Barack Obama will visit Saudi Arabia on April 21 to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. In an interview in the April issue of The Atlantic, the president’s remark about US allies in the Gulf being “free riders” — for not contributing their share on the world stage — widened the rift in an already-strained relationship with Riyadh.

The remark prompted former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Turki al-Faisal to write a detailed reply in which he reminded the president of a long list of Saudi contributions to regional peace. From humanitarian aid to Yemen and Syria, to fighting the Islamic State (IS) and sharing intelligence with the United States, the prince emphasized Saudi leadership contributions and credentials, debunking the president’s “free riders” comment.

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