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Saudi prince slams Obama’s ‘free riders’ comment

Saudi prince slams Obama’s ‘free riders’ comment

Prince Turki Al Faisal criticised the President of the United States as “petulant” in a scathing open letter.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has launched a stinging attack on the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

In a 615-word open letter published in local media, the former ambassador to the United States slammed the President for labelling Saudi Arabia as “free riders” during a series of interviews with The Atlantic magazine.

Obama is reported as saying that a number of American allies in the Gulf and in Europe are “free riders” who are keen to draw the United States into regional conflicts that sometimes have little to do with American interests.

Referring to the US nuclear deal with Iran, and addressing the kingdom directly, Obama told the magazine that Saudis “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace”.

He added that backing Saudi Arabia against Iran “would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

Reacting to Obama’s comments, Prince Turki opened his response with: “No, Mr Obama. We are not “free riders”. We shared with you our intelligence that prevented deadly terrorists on America.

“We initiated the meetings that led to the coalition that is fighting Fahish (ISIL), and we train and fund the Syrian freedom fighters, who fight the biggest terrorist, Bashar Assad and the other terrorists, Al-Nusrah and Fahish (ISIL). We offered boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the terrorists.”

He went on to highlight Saudi Arabia’s role in initiating “the support — military, political and humanitarian — that is helping the Yemeni people reclaim their country” without calling for American forces; instead establishing a coalition of “more than 30 Muslim countries to fight all shades of terrorism in the world”.

Also in the letter, Prince Turki points to the kingdom’s contribution to humanitarian relief efforts to help refugees from Syria, Yemen and Iraq, as well as the country’s funding of the United Nations Counter-terrorism Centre.

Knowledge exchange, economic support and bilateral cooperation are also alluded to, with the prince reminding Obama “You noted “the Kingdom’s leadership role in the Arab and Islamic world”.

He added: “Now you throw us a curve ball. 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 and which you promised to counter its “destabilising activities”.”

The letter also called Obama “petulant” before concluding: “No, Mr Obama. We are not the “free riders” to whom you refer. We lead from the front and we accept our mistakes and rectify them.

“We will continue to hold the American people as our ally and don’t forget that when the chips were down, and George Herbert Walker Bush sent American soldiers to repel with our troops Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with soldiers.

“Mr. Obama, that is who we are.”

The White House is yet to respond to Prince Turki’s letter.


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