By Shane McGinley
The kingdom dominated the annual list of official gifts given to Obama, his family and gov’t employees last year
Three quarters of the value of all official gifts given to the US administration in 2014 came from Saudi Arabia, according to US government records.
US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters and US federal government employees received official gifts estimated to be worth a total of $3,417,559 last year.
Analysis of the annual disclosure, released by the US Department of State’s Office of the Chief of Protocol, found Saudi Arabia gave the US gifts valued at around $2,566,525. It dominated the report and represented 75 percent of the value of all gifts received by Obama and his government employees last year.
When all other Arab countries are added to the mix the total value rises to nearly $3 million, with the Arab region accounting for 87 percent of the value of all gifts.
The most lavish gift was an emerald and diamond jewellery set containing a ring, earrings, bracelet, and necklace, which was valued at $780,000. It was not given to Obama, his wife Michelle or his children, but Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The jewels were given to Mrs Kerry in January 2014 by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
First Lady Michelle Obama is included in the top five with two gifts of jewels from Saudi Arabia, each worth well over half a million dollars. The president himself is further down the list, behind his children and wife, and ranked 7th with a white gold men’s watch worth $67,000.
The six other Gulf states also gave lavish gifts to the Obama administration. Qatar gave Eric Holder, US Attorney General, a $24,150 gold and silver ship depicting United States and the State of Qatar flags in a case, in addition to an engraved Cartier bracelet.
The UAE also gifted a gold necklace and earring set with white stones worth around $3,200 to Deborah K. Jones, Ambassador of the US to the State of Libya. The gift was presented in March 2014 on behalf of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.