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President Obama with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah © PA Images

President Barack Obama’s trip to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh in mid March is arguably the most important foreign visit of his five years in office. It is an attempt to confront the collapse in relations with an old ally, after US actions—or inaction—in Egypt and Syria confounded the region’s expectations.

It’ll be hard for it to work. There’s a certain amount he can do by explaining why the US has done what it’s done, in the face…

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