According to “Today’s Headlines” from the New York Times, the decision by new Saudi king Salman to snub President Obama by not coming to the U.S. to meet with him at the White House or attend the summit at Camp David “appeared to be a signal of Saudi Arabia’s continued displeasure with the Obama administration over United States relations with Iran, its rising regional adversary.” Well, yes. It is that. But unfortunately it’s also something considerably more serious.

It’s a signal of their lack of respect for him as president. It is one thing to disagree with his stand on Iran, or anything else, and even to make that disagreement known. It is quite another to show flagrant disregard for his favour or disfavour.

Barack Obama is neither respected by his friends nor feared by his enemies. And, speaking of the Saudis, he is neither respected nor feared by those who are both at once. Regardless of the excuses and yes-buts and extenuating circumstances, it is a severe indictment of his conduct of foreign policy that a man who, by virtue of his office, is famously “the most powerful man in the world” has reduced himself to such irrelevance that regional players like Saudi Arabia aren’t afraid to brush him off in public.

John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, an Invited Professor at the University of Ottawa and a commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D in American history from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in academia, think tanks and politics as well as doing print, radio and television journalism in Canada, and produced and hosted the documentary The Great War Remembered for Sun News Network in 2014. He is married to Brigitte Pellerin.

You are welcome to republish this Policy Options article online or in print periodicals, under a Creative Commons/No Derivatives licence.

Creative Commons License