Obama changes plan and will fly to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to 'pay respects' to late King Abdullah

The White House has announced a sudden change of plans. President Obama will cut short his visit to India this week, skipping a planned excursion to the Taj Mahal, in order to fly to Riyadh and pay respect to the man he famously bowed down to in 2009, the late King Abdullah. Update: Visiting Saudi Arabia is important enough to cancel the pleasure excursion, but commemorating the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz Tuesday was not important enough to plan around, even though heads of state from France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark will be present.  CNN reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in order to meet the newly appointed monarch, King Salman, and pay his respects to the family of the late King Abdullah, the White House said Saturday.

Vice President Joe Biden was originally set to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on Obama's behalf.

However, the schedule for the President's departure from India has been adjusted to allow Obama to stop in Riyadh himself on his way home, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The funeral was already held Friday. But I have to suspect that this trip is more than a symbolic bow. Saudi Arabia is facing a grave crisis with the fall of the pro-American government in Yemen to Iranian backed Houthi rebels. The Shia theocrats in Tehran are surrounding the Sunni Saud family business with Shia regimes in Beirut (via Hezb’allah), Damascus, Baghdad, and now Sanaa.

The Saud family maintains ownership of the country (the only country in the world named after a family) through its support of the vast Wahhabi clergy apparatus that justifies family rule through their guardianship of Mecca and Medina, and through subsidies to ordinary Saudi citizens funded by oil wealth. Both of those pillars of stability are currently under challenge. With oil prices half what they were months ago, Saudi treasury is no doubt running a cash deficit, financed by sale of assets held overseas. Though large, these reserves cannot pay the bills forever.

Sand now that world is waking up to the threat posed by Wahhabi clerics proselytizing overseas on Saudi-funded mosques, there is growing pressure to rein in the clergy, something that will be difficult to accomplish while maintaining their crucial domestic support.

To make matters much, much worse, the oil producing region of Saudi Arabia is mostly inhabited by Shiite Muslims, who are second class citizens. The long term goal of the mullahs is to seize control of all the Persian Gulf oil states (which are ruled by Sunni monarchs) and grab control of Mecca and Medina, thereby making Shia Islam dominant in the Muslim hierarchy.

With the mullahs working away on their nuclear bomb program, it is not hard to imagine that newly crowned King Salman has some tough questions for Obama that require a face to face meeting. Such as: “When do we get our nukes? We want bombs and delivery systems on our soil asap.” Or, “We are buying some of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. What are you going to do about it?” Or, “Do you realize what would happen to your economy if we cut back our oil production and doubled the price per barrel?”

Make no mistake, potentially the biggest crisis in a generation is brewing in the Persian Gulf region. The mullahs are implaccable and for whatever reason, Obama is not playing the negotiations with them in a way that suggests he wants to stop their nuclear weapons program. The Saudis see this and understand that they would be an even bigger (and softer) target than Israel, which, after all, is believed to have a substantial nuclear arsenal and a doomsday plan to use it (“Operation Samson”) if attacked with nuclear weapons. 

The White House has announced a sudden change of plans. President Obama will cut short his visit to India this week, skipping a planned excursion to the Taj Mahal, in order to fly to Riyadh and pay respect to the man he famously bowed down to in 2009, the late King Abdullah. Update: Visiting Saudi Arabia is important enough to cancel the pleasure excursion, but commemorating the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz Tuesday was not important enough to plan around, even though heads of state from France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark will be present.  CNN reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in order to meet the newly appointed monarch, King Salman, and pay his respects to the family of the late King Abdullah, the White House said Saturday.

Vice President Joe Biden was originally set to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on Obama's behalf.

However, the schedule for the President's departure from India has been adjusted to allow Obama to stop in Riyadh himself on his way home, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The funeral was already held Friday. But I have to suspect that this trip is more than a symbolic bow. Saudi Arabia is facing a grave crisis with the fall of the pro-American government in Yemen to Iranian backed Houthi rebels. The Shia theocrats in Tehran are surrounding the Sunni Saud family business with Shia regimes in Beirut (via Hezb’allah), Damascus, Baghdad, and now Sanaa.

The Saud family maintains ownership of the country (the only country in the world named after a family) through its support of the vast Wahhabi clergy apparatus that justifies family rule through their guardianship of Mecca and Medina, and through subsidies to ordinary Saudi citizens funded by oil wealth. Both of those pillars of stability are currently under challenge. With oil prices half what they were months ago, Saudi treasury is no doubt running a cash deficit, financed by sale of assets held overseas. Though large, these reserves cannot pay the bills forever.

Sand now that world is waking up to the threat posed by Wahhabi clerics proselytizing overseas on Saudi-funded mosques, there is growing pressure to rein in the clergy, something that will be difficult to accomplish while maintaining their crucial domestic support.

To make matters much, much worse, the oil producing region of Saudi Arabia is mostly inhabited by Shiite Muslims, who are second class citizens. The long term goal of the mullahs is to seize control of all the Persian Gulf oil states (which are ruled by Sunni monarchs) and grab control of Mecca and Medina, thereby making Shia Islam dominant in the Muslim hierarchy.

With the mullahs working away on their nuclear bomb program, it is not hard to imagine that newly crowned King Salman has some tough questions for Obama that require a face to face meeting. Such as: “When do we get our nukes? We want bombs and delivery systems on our soil asap.” Or, “We are buying some of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. What are you going to do about it?” Or, “Do you realize what would happen to your economy if we cut back our oil production and doubled the price per barrel?”

Make no mistake, potentially the biggest crisis in a generation is brewing in the Persian Gulf region. The mullahs are implaccable and for whatever reason, Obama is not playing the negotiations with them in a way that suggests he wants to stop their nuclear weapons program. The Saudis see this and understand that they would be an even bigger (and softer) target than Israel, which, after all, is believed to have a substantial nuclear arsenal and a doomsday plan to use it (“Operation Samson”) if attacked with nuclear weapons.