The Jig is Up with the Saudis

While I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated, and perhaps others with more foreign policy/Middle East expertise than me can comment, I noted two related stories this morn, one in the NYT and one in WaPo that I think are big time indicators with big time negative repercussions for BushCo. In the NYT, we learn Saudi King Abdullah has publicly condemned the US occupation of Iraq in this story.

“In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war,” he (Abdullah) added.

Jim Hoagland’s column in WaPo says Abdullah cancelled a state dinner to be held in his honor at the White House in April. Find it here.

Abdullah’s bowing out of the April 17 event is, in fact, one more warning sign that the Bush administration’s downward spiral at home is undermining its ability to achieve its policy objectives abroad.

It looks to me like the Saudis are turning their back on Bush, Rice, Cheney and the US and, if I’m not mistaken, turning your back on someone is a total insult in Arab culture. This seems to be a really big development to me.

Oh yeah. Hoagland notes Bush BFF King Abdullah of Jordan also cancelled a state dinner visit slated for September. An emerging pattern it would seem.

Cernig at NewsHog has more. ~eds.

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Sun Tzu

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  • Thanks Sun Tzu! Nice catch. I do wonder if his words are just meant for the Arab summit.

    Saudi king calls for end to occupation of Iraq
    17:36 | 28/ 03/ 2007

    CAIRO, March 28 (RIA Novosti) – The king of Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s few allies in the Middle East, joined the chorus of other Arab leaders Wednesday by calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

    The Arabic satellite television channel Al Jazeera quoted King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz as calling the continued military presence in Iraq “illegal” – the strongest pronouncement to date from a Saudi leader on U.S. policies in the country.

    Speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit in Riyadh, the Saudi monarch said brethren’s blood was still being shed in Iraq against the backdrop of an illegal foreign occupation, and urged other Arab nations to help stop the violence there.

    the editor formerly known as candy

  • Saudi gives ultimatum to Israel

    David Blair, Riyadh
    March 29, 2007
    Other related coverage

    * Israel alone in boycotting Palestinian unity government
    * New cabinet backs Palestinian resistance

    THE “lords of war” will decide Israel’s future if it rejects a blueprint for peace crafted by the Arab world, Saudi Arabia’s veteran foreign minister warns.

    As leaders began gathering in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for a summit of the Arab League, Prince Saud al-Faisal said the Middle East risked perpetual conflict if the peace plan failed. Under this Saudi-drafted plan, every Arab country would formally recognise Israel in return for a withdrawal from all the land captured in the war of 1967.

    This would entail a Palestinian state embracing the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Every Arab country will almost certainly endorse this blueprint when the Riyadh summit concludes tomorrow.

    Prince Saud said Israel should accept or reject this final offer. “What we have the power to do in the Arab world, we think we have done,” he said.

    “So now it is up to the other side because if you want peace, it is not enough for one side only to want it. Both sides must want it equally.”

    Speaking inside his whitewashed palace in Riyadh, Prince Saud delivered an unequivocal warning to Israel. “If Israel refuses, that means it doesn’t want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war,” he said.

    Prince Saud dismissed any further diplomatic overtures towards Israel.

    “It has never been proven that reaching out to Israel achieves anything,” he said. “Other Arab countries have recognised Israel and what has that achieved?

    “The largest Arab country, Egypt, recognised Israel and what was the result? Not one iota of change happened in the attitude of Israel towards peace.”

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received a humiliating snub from Israel on Tuesday when it refused her offer to act as negotiator between its Government and the Palestinian authorities.


    the editor formerly known as candy


    US ‘Surprised’ by Saudi Comments on American Role in Iraq
    By David Gollust
    State Department
    29 March 2007


    At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said there was no reason to believe that King Abdullah has been misquoted in the comments he made to the Arab League summit on Wednesday, and that the U.S. interest in an explanation is understandable.

    “We certainly had not seen that particular phrase before coming out, talking about illegal occupation,” he said. “I think it only stands to reason that we are interested in understanding better what exactly King Abdullah meant by that phrase.”

    “We are operating under [U.N.] Security Council resolutions in Iraq, as well as with the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he added.

    McCormack said the United States and Saudi Arabia have a shared interest in an Iraq that maintains its territorial integrity and stability, and that one indication of Saudi support for that was its participation in the recent Iraqi “neighbors conference” in Baghdad, in which Iran also took part.

    He also stressed what he termed the excellent personal relationship between King Abdullah and President Bush and said that overall ties between the two countries are good and sound


    the editor formerly known as candy

  • Saudis Publicly Get Tough With U.S.
    King’s Remarks on Iraq Follow Signs Riyadh Is Distancing Itself From Bush

    By Glenn Kessler and Karen DeYoung
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Friday, March 30, 2007; Page A14

    big snip

    Abdullah became king in 2005 but had been the de facto ruler as crown prince for many years. In August 2001, just before the Sept. 11 attacks, he sent Bush a private message expressing his concern over a new outbreak in Israeli-Palestinian violence and strongly suggesting that he would reassess U.S.-Saudi relations, according to U.S. officials briefed on the message. Bush responded contritely and promised to publicly support the creation of a Palestinian state, which he did at the United Nations two months later.

    The relationship was strained over the Sept. 11 attacks. Of the 19 airplane hijackers behind the attacks, 15 held Saudi citizenship.

    Then, in April 2002, Abdullah visited Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex., and was dismayed that Bush would speak only in generalities about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and, according to Saudi officials, appeared poorly briefed on a peace plan Abdullah had developed to extend recognition to Israel. Abdullah, who had brought along a scrapbook and a 10-minute video footage of Palestinians killed by Israelis, threatened to walk out until Bush pledged to do more to offer a vision for ending the violence.

    For much of Bush’s presidency, Saudi Arabia has been content to remain in the background, pushing the United States to take action. U.S. officials trace the new assertiveness of Saudi diplomacy back to the fall of 2006, after Sunni Arabs including those in Saudi Arabia became alarmed at the rise of Iranian influence in the region. Israel’s war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon highlighted Iran’s role in destabilizing that country. Saudi officials were concerned that the United States would abandon Iraq, handing the country to a Shiite-dominated government that in their mind had done little to prevent the slaughter of Sunnis.

    The day after Thanksgiving, Vice President Cheney unexpectedly flew to Riyadh to meet with Abdullah. No official from either government would speak in detail about the reason for the meeting, but Saudi officials suggested that it was the diplomatic equivalent of a tongue-lashing for Cheney. In an unusual statement issued by the Saudi government after the vice president departed for Washington, the Saudis indicated that they were concerned that the administration was allowing Iran — and also the Shiites in Iraq — to gain too much power. The statement said it was important for U.S. influence “to be in accord with the region’s actual condition and its historical equilibrium,” an unsubtle reference to the traditional Sunni-Shiite balance in the region.

    “The Iranian involvement is a result of the American occupation of Iraq,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a former adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal, until recently the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

    U.S. officials believe the Saudis now view Iran as a greater problem than Israel. So they have pressed for a reaffirmation of Abdullah’s peace plan that, five years ago, led to the tense meeting with Bush in Crawford. The Arab League yesterday endorsed the plan, which offers diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab world if the Jewish state gives up land it occupied after the 1967 war, as part of the creation of a Palestinian state.

    U.S. officials assert that, for years, the Saudis have been all talk and no real help on the Palestinian issue, providing little support to the Palestinians and exploiting the conflict for domestic purposes. Now, they say that the Saudis want to resolve the Palestinian issue so they can turn the region’s attention to combating the threat from Iran. Rice has spoken hopefully of forming a coalition of “moderate” Arab states to counter “extremists” such as Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

    But Saudi officials say that the purported moderate-extremist divide is silly, as demonstrated by Abdullah’s brokering of the Palestinian unity accord last month.

    the editor formerly known as candy

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