Though human rights are a major issue the US would like to talk about, it is unlikely that the ban on women drivers or policing of public opinion in Saudi Arabia will be on the top of the list.
Washington-Riyadh ties have run into rough weather ever since the former eased up on Tehran over its nuclear programme. Washington’s perceived support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Washington saying no to airstrikes on Syria have worsened the ties. Rebuilding confidence and whittling down differences would be Mr Obama’s priority.
Moreover this meeting takes place at a time when there is not one but at least four countries waiting for a power change in the region — Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. The US and Saudi Arabia have varying interests in these countries. Put into the picture the interest Iran has in these four nations and its conflict with Saudi Arabia.
Mr Obama’s meeting is expected, in ‘word and deed’, to shape a new phase of engagement in West Asia. How well it will succeed is yet to be seen. Peace and stability in West Asia are very important not only for the US but also for many countries, India included. Any tension in the region can cause a spike in oil prices, adversely affecting economies around the world.