The White House has rethought its Mideast protocol: President Obama himself will travel to Saudi Arabia Tuesday instead of Joe Biden to meet with the nation's new king, reports Reuters. Obama will cut short a visit to India, ditching a trip to the Taj Mahal, to pay his respects in the wake of the death of King Abdullah, and to officially meet Abdullah's younger half-brother, the new King Salman. The meeting will come at a time of relatively strained relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, observes the New York Times.
"The close ties once nurtured so lovingly by the Bush administration have given way to complaints from the Saudis about an aloof American president who should have done more to unseat President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and less to unseat former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt," says the newspaper's analysis. Friction over how to deal with Iran isn't helping, either. Still, the White House decision might have been helped along by clashes between the Secret Service and Indian officials over security concerns in the city of Agra, where the Taj is located, reports the Washington Post. Given the ban on automobiles, Obama would have been in an electric golf cart. He and the first lady arrive in India tomorrow.