President Obama planned a side trip to Saudi Arabia this week after meetings in The Netherlands, and a request from the Saudi King.
The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief, Michael Wilner requested a Saudi Arabian visa, so he could cover Obama’s trip to the Arab kingdom.
It seems Obama is welcome in Saudi Arabia, but the jewish scribe, Wilner, is not.
It is difficult to work out the reason for this symbolism from the Saudi government. Is it a message to the US for being too cozy with the Israelis, or is there something that Wilner has written that upset them?
Saudi Arabia has a long history of preventing Jews from stepping on Saudi soil. Speaking on this subject, Professor Alan Dershowitz said Obama should cancel the trip unless the Saudis back down and issue the visa. He also said Saudi Arabia was not really a country, it is a family-owned gas station.
Two related questions arise. Will Obama have any reaction to this and how closely will the Israelis be watching, considering their growing skepticism of Obama’s intentions with the Iranian nuclear crisis?
It wasn’t surprising that the White House Correspondents Association called the visa denial “outrageous.” It seems that every other member of the Washington press corps had their visa approved. Only Michael Wilner was denied a visa for the visit into Saudi Arabia.
The actual request was made by U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and presidential assistant Tony Blinken to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.
Reporting on the proceedings, the Jerusalem Post said “Rice and Blinken separately expressed extreme displeasure at the delay and the prospect of a denial.”
There was no official response from president Obama, who was looking tired at his press conference yesterday.
Michael Wilner is a Jewish American who does not hold an Israeli passport and never has lived in the country. He earned a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University in New York, and works for the Jerusalem Post, an Israeli English-language newspaper.
The Saudis have created an international incident of this matter. The intriguing question is: why? Are they planning to talk to Obama about a lot more than their oil? Even if they were, what difference would Wilner’s presence make?
The buzz in the press corps is that the Saudis are concerned about a nuclear Iran in their neighborhood, and the prospect that a weak USA will not support them. They may have plans of their own to build nuclear capability.
If the Saudis thought they would need nuclear protection or deterrence, it is possible that others would follow. Their decision could easily lead to an arms race in the Middle East. With the United States and Russia eyeball to eyeball on different sides now, that would not be good.
Thanks to what looks like a weak inept US, the Cold War has been roaring back to life, and the Syrian, Iranian and now the Crimean issues have turned America’s feckless foreign policy into a raging monster.