Obama and Saudi King meet

Barack Obama and Saudi King Salman walk together following their meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh (Reuters)
Barack Obama and Saudi King Salman walk together following their meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama met Saudi Arabia's King Salman to seek joint action on security threats including Iran and Islamic State, but his visit is being overshadowed by Gulf Arab exasperation with his approach to the region.

The American president has come to the world's top oil exporter for a fourth and likely last time, hoping to reassure Salman and other Gulf leaders, whom he will meet on Thursday, of Washington's commitment to their security.

Most of the Gulf Arab monarchies have in private been sorely disappointed by Obama's presidency, regarding it as a period in which the US has pulled back from the region, giving more space to their arch rival Iran to expand its influence.

For his part, Obama has spoken of his desire to persuade Gulf states to arrive at a "cold peace" with Iran that would douse sectarian tensions and allow all sides to focus on what he sees as a greater threat emanating from Islamic State.

After a low-key arrival in Riyadh, which unlike some previous visits was not shown live on Saudi television, Obama met Salman and a group of top princes and officials at the Erga palace for a two-hour meeting on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, Obama was set to meet privately at his hotel with Abu Dhabi's crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan to discuss regional issues and ways to deepen cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the White House said.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan were among Obama's entourage, demonstrating the focus on security in the president's agenda with his Gulf counterparts.

Before Obama met King Salman, Carter had talks with his Gulf Arab counterparts on ways of countering Iranian influence and fighting the Islamic State group.

They agreed on joint cooperation towards improving Gulf missile defence, special forces and maritime security, but no new deals were announced.

Saudi television earlier broadcast Gulf rulers being welcomed on the runway by King Salman and a host of other robed officials, scenes that were widely contrasted by Saudi social media users with the lack of pomp on Obama's arrival.