In his first political intervention since his two terms in office ended, former US President Barack Obama has directed sharp criticism at his successor, Donald Trump. As in many of his speeches, Obama used a sarcastic tone when speaking about Trump and his policies at the University of Illinois last week; he also mocked countries such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Obama criticised his country’s withdrawal, under Trump’s leadership, from the Paris Agreement on climate change. He also linked this withdrawal to the likes of Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia and Syria, as he expects them to withdraw from the agreement as well because of their record of breaking international laws. However, only Washington has withdrawn so far.
Referring to the Republicans, Obama told his audience, “They’ve made it so that the only nation on earth to pull out of the global climate agreement, it’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s us.” The comment was met with laughter and applause.
This is not the first time that Obama has criticised Saudi policies. He was cutting about the Kingdom in his famous interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine, just before the end of his second term.
Goldberg said that he had noticed that the then US President was frustrated by Saudi Arabia. “His frustration with the Saudis informs his analysis of Middle Eastern power politics,” he suggested. “At one point I observed to him that he is less likely than previous presidents to axiomatically side with Saudi Arabia in its dispute with its arch-rival, Iran. He didn’t disagree.”