Judith Miller: Obama's Saudi Trip 'Long Overdue'

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 02:55 PM

By Lisa Barron

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President Barack Obama was not wrong to have gone ahead with last week's trip to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom refusing to give a visa to the Jerusalem Post's Washington bureau chief, says investigative journalist Judith Miller.

"That would've been an overreaction. There are different ways to manifest our displeasure with that. The action itself did more harm to the Saudis than it did to either the reporter, who was covered by his colleagues, or to the Obama administration," the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter told Newsmax TV's John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" Monday.

"Look, this is a very crass and crude and stupid thing to do, and it speaks for itself. But there was so much important business to be done between Riyadh and Washington, and this trip was so long overdue that these two men had to sit down and have this conversation."

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Miller said she believes the two sides are still far apart on certain issues.

"Both sides were able to issue a statement that said that while they had tactical disagreements, there was strategic accord on how the world looks to us both. That's actually not right; the problems remain rather severe, and the Saudis just have a very different way of looking at the world from President Obama."

She maintained that one of the biggest areas of disagreement involves Iran.

"This is exactly the point. President Obama wants to engage the Iranians and try to retard their nuclear program through engagement and a series of incentives after sanctions have really taken a toll, and that is certainly worth trying, and as you know, I've been a supporter of the six months of negotiations to try and stop the program," Miller said.

"But to the Saudis, Iran is their eternal rival … and any more engagement with them by the United States is a low for the Saudis. They really see this as a zero sum game, and that's not the way the United States views it. Obviously, there are just two different ways of looking at the world here."

Asked about Obama's move to publicly give an award to a Saudi woman who has worked to prevent domestic violence while failing to bring up the issue of human rights with King Abdullah, Miller replied, "We don't really know what was brought up between these two men. We really don't ... But right now, let's look at the issues in front of us. There's the nuclear agreement with Iran or the lack of such an agreement, there's the slaughter in Syria that is ongoing, there's what to do about Russia in the Ukraine, and there's Syrian chemical weapons, there's the mess in Egypt.

"There are so many more pressing, strategic issues for the United States and for the Saudis to deal with that if they didn't get to human rights on this trip, I would not be surprised nor would I be offended, and the president's gesture by giving that award to the Saudi woman spoke volumes, and it said everything that needed to be said."

She continued, "What I fault him for is taking so long to get this trip on his very crowded agenda. This is a really important issue. The Saudis are the single most important country financially in the Middle East. They are our longstanding ally, and they are very unhappy with the United States and its policy under President Obama, so these conversations had to be held."

Miller also said she cannot recall a time when the president has upset both the Saudis and the Israelis in the way that Obama has.

"It's rather an extraordinary achievement to raise the most profound questions in the minds of both of your allies on both sides of the conflict you've been trying to solve. Saudis have been really good citizens here in terms of trying to put forth a plan that would help bridge the gap between Israelis and Palestinians. They feel strongly that conflict has to be settled ... because it detracts attention on what they consider the real issue, which is this fight with the Iranians," she said.

"The president must understand how profound the questions about his leadership are both in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and in Riyadh, because both leaders ... Bibi Netanyahu and the King of Saudi Arabia, have real doubts about America's ability and willingness to defend its friends, and that's not a place where we want to be," she said.

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