Administration defends Obama omitting Saudis from Mideast speech
May 23rd, 2011
04:58 PM ET
12 years ago

Administration defends Obama omitting Saudis from Mideast speech

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama did not specifically mention key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia in his Middle East speech last week because he couldn't single out every Middle Eastern country individually, an administration official said Monday.

"You can't, obviously, address every single issue and relationship in the Middle East," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday, answering a reporter's question at a press briefing.

Toner said Mr. Obama's speech was "fairly wide-sweeping," and described the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia as "important."

In what the Administration billed as a major policy speech Thursday laying out his policies toward the region, the president pointed to recent popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, but he "didn't talk about the 800-pound gorilla that is Saudi Arabia," said Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Saudi Arabia is "where America's interests and values most obviously clash," Zakaria said.

"Street protests in Saudi Arabia might warm our hearts, but they could easily lead to $250-a-barrel oil and a global recession. That's a tough one," Zakaria said.

As of February, Saudi Arabia exported over 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day to the United States, making that country the second largest supplier of foreign oil behind Canada, according to the Department of Energy.

Protesters have been staging demonstrations in Saudi Arabia in recent months, calling on the government to grant more rights and release Shiite prisoners.

And a 32-year-old Saudi Arabian woman who has crusaded for women to drive in her country said she was stopped Saturday for driving a car, despite no formal laws in that country precluding her from doing so. Manal al Sharif, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, told CNN authorities released her and then tried to detain her again early Sunday.

Filed under: Middle East • President Obama
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    What the H are these Republicans doing in Washington, I haven't heard one thing they've done since they took office in January but take a vacation during the President Obama killed OBL. It appears they are only good at Obama bashing campaigning.

    May 23, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. EatRunDive

    I am so tired of pundits and what someone DIDN'T say.

    And parental status isn't needed either.

    May 23, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. Thai

    Saudi Arabia has is a pretty big country not to mention. 15 out of 19 terrorists from Saudi Arabia. We did nothing to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has consistently been towards the bottom of the barrel on women's rights. Yet we say nothing about it while lecturing other countries about that issue. We have definitely been hypocrites on Saudi Arabia and I think it's perfectly valid to point out that this administration is continuing that hypocrisy from previous administrations.

    May 23, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. Mutt

    Kind of refreshing watching someone put the Saudis in their place after watching them dress down Bush & Cheney over every little thing for 8 years.

    May 23, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. D-Nice

    Why mention them? What have they done to help us in the region? Absolutely nothing. Oh yeah, they have oil so we need to kiss their butts, I forgot...sorry.

    May 23, 2011 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  6. Aaron

    Obama is playing it smart, not biting the hand that supplies most of the oil.

    May 23, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  7. Root and stem

    There would not have been an "Arab Spring" without George W. Bush. I fear Mr. Obama is pushing the liberation movements towards an accomodation with Iran and the building of the caliphate than toward open democratic countries.

    May 23, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  8. jracforr

    America will soon have to fight it's key ally Saudi Arabia just as it did it's Iraq they were both on the wrong side of history. This is an Iranian Pakistan era if only Pakistan can wake up and dump it's Taliban link

    May 23, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |