U.S. President Barack Obama just can’t catch a break.
First he is questioned about Iranian aggression by Israel or members of the U.S. Congress, and now he’s about to be confronted by Arab leaders at a summit.
And that comes after some fast footwork to bring Saudi Arabia back into the loop altogether. Over the weekend King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud decided to excuse himself from Thursday’s upcoming summit, throwing the White House into ‘scramble’ mode.
The king was clearly sending a strong message to Washington: “Stop dithering and making excuses; let’s see some action on Iranian violations and on ending the nightmare in Syria.”
Saudi Arabia itself has led the way in its own mini-war against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Its disregard for “collateral” casualties and damage in favor of simply “getting the job done” is a typically Middle Eastern way of doing things but in fact also makes it clear that players in the region expect no less from Obama.
Leaders of Persian Gulf nations are arriving at Camp David to meet Thursday with the U.S. president, according to the Saudi state-run SPA news agency.
Discussion at the summit will focus on Iran’s “aggressive” moves in the region, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday.
“We see Iranian support for terrorist organizations and facilitating the work of terrorist organizations, so the challenge will be in how to coordinate US-Gulf efforts in order to collectively face these aggressive moves on the part of Iran,” al-Jubeir told the news agency.
Several weeks ago, Iran captured a cargo ship sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands and seized its crew of 34 sailors. The ship, its cargo and crew was stopped as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and boarded by members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its captain was forced to navigate the vessel into a southern Iranian port city, where it has remained since.
The United States is obligated under a mutual defense treaty to protect vessels and personnel operating under the flag of the Marshall Islands.
For a number of days after the capture, U.S. warships escorted American and British-flagged vessels traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. The escort, however, has since been discontinued, according to media reports.
At least four U.S. citizens still remain captive in the Islamic Republic of Iran.