Ryan: Mideast leaders complained about Obama

House Speaker Paul Ryan says many Middle East leaders complained about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

Ben Ariel ,

Paul Ryan at 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference
Paul Ryan at 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that, during his recent trip to the Middle East, he heard many complaints about President Barack Obama’s leadership, Politico reports.

Days after ruling himself out of White House contention, Ryan discussed his recent tour of the Middle East, which included a stop in Israel, and echoed complaints from foreign leaders about Obama's foreign policy, as well as about Donald Trump's rhetoric.

Speaking to a group of foreign policy reporters in his Capitol office about his trip, Ryan said, "I felt like our allies needed reassurance that we... value these friendships and partnerships.”

Asked if leaders in the countries he visited — Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — had raised qualms about Trump, Ryan said, "Sure, I got it."

He added that Arab officials cited his condemnation in December of Trump's call for halting Muslim immigration into the U.S.

"People over there knew about it and thanked me for doing it," Ryan said, according to Politico. "I didn't realize people paid this close attention to it."

Ryan seemed more interested in repeating complaints about President Obama than in ones about Trump, noted Politico.

He said anxieties of Middle East allies were stoked by a recent Atlantic magazine article in which Obama complained about "free riders" who enjoy U.S. protection without contributing more to global security, and said that arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran "need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood."

"I can't tell you how often I heard about that Atlantic article," Ryan said. "It was quoted to me verbatim by heads of state.... It's rattled our allies."

Ryan, who traveled with a delegation of House members, said his meetings included a two-hour session with Saudi Arabia's defense minister Mohammad bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of the Saudi king, as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

While he made little mention of Israel in his remarks, Ryan did stress he was opposed to a potential move at the United Nations by the Obama administration that might set the outline of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We've got to make sure nothing funny happens at the UN to short-circuit a two-state solution by those two states," Ryan said, according to Politico.

The comments came as State Department spokesman John Kirby refused to say whether or not Washington would support a Palestinian Authority (PA) proposal for a United Nations resolution to condemn Israeli “settlement building” -- but ruled nothing out.

"We understand that there is an early draft that the Palestinians have shared informally in New York," said Kirby, adding, "I'm not going to comment on an informal draft resolution. Nothing has been formally introduced or circulated at the Security Council.”

PA officials have in recent days been circulating a draft resolution that would deem Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria “illegal” and “an obstacle” to a peace deal based on two states living side by side within agreed borders.

It demands that Israel "immediately and completely" cease all “settlement activities.”