Saudi's former ambassador to US lashes out at Obama

Saudi's former ambassador to US lashes out at Obama
Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, former intelligence head and ambassador to the US, has criticised the kingdom's long-term ally for the president's suggestion that Saudi has exported fundamentalism to the region.
3 min read
14 March, 2016
Long term allies, US and Saudi have had increasing tensions under Obama [Getty]

A senior figure in the Saudi royal family has hit back at US President Barack Obama after he accused the kingdom of feeding Middle East conflicts by exporting religious extremism and "free riding" on the back of US foreign policy.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the kingdom's former intelligence chief and envoy to Washington, lashed out at Obama's recent comments to The Atlantic magazine through an opinion piece published by Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.

In it, he bluntly begins by addressing the president: "No, Mr. Obama. We are not 'free riders.' We shared with you our intelligence that prevented deadly terrorist attacks on America."

He then begins to list the kingdom's efforts in "eliminating terrorists" in the region, and particular focus goes to Riyadh's support for opposition fighters in Syria and Yemen and being a leading party in the fight against the Islamic State group.

"We initiated the meetings that led to the coalition that is fighting [IS], and we train and fund the Syrian freedom fighters, who fight the biggest terrorist, Bashar Assad and the other terrorists, al-Nusra and [IS]," he said. 

The prince alleged that Riyadh "offered boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the terrorists".

Al-Turki also makes reference to Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen - a plan that came about after Riyadh organised a military coalition of "more than thirty Muslim countries" without "calling for American forces".

However, despite these efforts Saudi Arabia has continues to be tainted with accusations that it has contributed to the spread of religious extremist and terrorism.

Saudi Arabia has funded countless mosques across the world which propagate its strict interpretation of Islam.

However, the prince assured the kingdom "combats extremist ideology that attempts to hijack our religion, on all levels".

The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians- which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen.
- US President Barack Obama

Riyadh has also been flexing its muscles in the region in a bid to show up Iran, which has left Obama unimpressed after recent efforts to reach reconciliation with its rival.

"You accuse us of fomenting sectarian strife in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. You add insult to injury by telling us to share our world with Iran, a country that you describe as a supporter of terrorism," Faisal wrote.

Obama has "pivoted to Iran so much that you equate the kingdom's 80 years of constant friendship with America to an Iranian leadership that continues to describe America as the biggest enemy that continues to arm, fund and support sectarian militias in the Arab and Muslim world", the royal added.

Al-Turk's outburst follows an article in US magazine The Atlantic which quoted Obama blaming Saudi for exporting its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam to other Muslim nations in a bid to spread its influence in the world.

He also said that Riyadh need to "share" the Middle East with their Iranian rivals.

"The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians- which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen - requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighbourhood and institute some sort of cold peace," Obama said.

Saudi Arabia is a long-term and major regional ally of the United States but the relationship has deteriorated under the Obama administration.