King Salman is visiting Washington for the first time since ascending the Saudi throne. DW‘s US correspondent Spencer Kimball reports that the US faces a kingdom that has become very assertive in its foreign policy.
“It’s become infinitely more complicated than that,” James B. Smith, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2013, told DW.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama welcomes Saudi King Salman to Washington for the first time. Salman, 79, ascended the throne last January after his half-brother Abdullah passed away.
When the two leaders meet, President Obama will represent a nation that’s become increasingly self-reliant in energy production, while King Salman will represent a nation that’s become increasingly self-assertive in its foreign policy.
Last March, Riyadh launched a military intervention in neighboring Yemen after Houthi rebels drove the US-Saudi backed government from power. Though the US has provided intelligence and logistical support, Washington is largely on the sidelines, according to Smith. For the first time, Saudi Arabia is clearly in the driver’s seat.
“Traditionally they’ve operated in the shadows, using money or influence,” Smith, now president of C&M International, said of the Saudis. “The Yemen campaign indicates a much more muscular foreign policy. I don’t know if this is an aberration or a trend, it’s too early to tell.”