White House

Saudi’s White House snub about this: Former ambassador

Saudi King snubs Obama

The decision by Saudi Arabia's King Salman to skip White House meetings and a summit at Camp David this week is likely the culmination of several factors that have been in the works for a long time, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Monday.

Robert Jordan told CNBC's "Closing Bell," he thinks King Salman's decision has the "element of a snub," although the White House denies that is the case.

"This has been a slow moving train wreck over several years," said Jordan, who also is the author of "Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11." Jordan was U.S. ambassador to the kingdom from 2001 to 2003.

Saudi new King Salman (R) meets with US President Barack Obama at the Erga Palace in the capital Riyadh on January 27, 2015.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

For one, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies were "greatly troubled" after President Barack Obama said it was time for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down, leaving them wondering if they were next, he explained.

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Jordan believes the nations were also unsettled by the U.S. failure to enforce any reprisals against Syria for using chemical weapons in its civil war.

However, the greater concern right now is the nuclear negotiations with Iran, he said.

"The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies feel that they really may be in the midst in a major shift in the balance in the Middle East in Iran's favor," Jordan noted. "If sanctions are lifted, Iran has billions of dollars to use against these monarchs in subtle ways."

On top of that, if Iran achieves nuclear status it can become a major threat in the region, he added.

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While Obama may be trying to reassure the Gulf states during the talks about the deal with Iran, Jordan believes it will be difficult to assure them the U.S. still has their backs when it comes to security.

"We have not delivered very much on other assurances we've provided in the past and so I think our credibility is really at stake here," he said.

Jordan is skeptical the summit will be successful, believing it will take more than one meeting to reconstitute U.S. credibility.

As for the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, it's not beyond repair, he said.

"I don't think we're quite ready for a divorce but I do think some marriage counseling is in order," said Jordan.