links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 27th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Is This An Awakening of The American Collective Mind in regard To The Saudis?

It seems that finally the US is awaking up to the fact that the Saudis may be good business partners, but they are not friends of the United States, nor do they honor many of the basic values of the US.

We found today many articles that hint to the above waking up as exposed best by the fact that politicians are trying to distance themselves from the present pro-Saudi attitude of the White House, but neigh, it seems that even the White House is uncomfortable with the Saudis. But what do you do with an economy you pushed to become addicted to oil? If you anger the Saudis they may not sell you cheap oil. But do we really need that cheap oil? Is this not the source of the troubles. Nu, Nu, we start to think – maybe someday the sum total of the three articles we post will cause the lights to shine in our collective mind.

The Jewish Week, July 27, 2007 – Adviser Sees Rudy As Tough On Saudis.
Podhoretz, filling in some blanks in Giuliani’s foreign policy, suggests GOP frontrunner would break from Bush.
Adam Dickter – Assistant Managing Editor, The Jewish Week

Rudolph Giuliani’s most prominent foreign policy adviser hinted this week that the Republican presidential hopeful would break from the Bush administration’s policy of close ties with terrorist-linked and oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

“Any president would have to hesitate before risking the kind of economic dislocation that would be caused by tangling with the Saudis,” neoconservative icon Norman Podhoretz told The Jewish Week Tuesday, referring to U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. “But I think that Rudy does actually have a different attitude [than Bush] and might very well try to change our policy.”

In a foreign policy address in Michigan on July 12, former Mayor Giuliani did not mention Saudi Arabia, its terrorist ties and its complicated relationship with the United States, a point of contention among many members of Congress, who in 2005 tried to cut off weapons exports and restrict official travel to the country until it cracks down on terrorists.

Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary magazine, who said he is supporting Giuliani because the Republican frontrunner’s mindset is closest to his own among the presidential contenders, said that in his own view the looming threat of a nuclear Iran created an opportunity to change Saudi policy.

“Because the Saudis are alarmed over the Iranian threat, we have a very good chance of persuading them that it is in their own interest to cease financing jihadist agitation,” said Podhoretz.

As to a Saudi role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the so-called “Saudi Plan,” which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has embraced, Podhoretz said “unless the Iranian threat also trumps their hatred of Israel, which it conceivably could, I don’t see a useful role for them in the so-called peace process.”

Following the terror attacks of 9/11, Giuliani returned a check to Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal intended to aid victims’ families after the prince cited U.S. policy toward Israel as a cause of the attack. “There is no moral equivalent for this attack,” he said at the time.

He has also made energy independence and reduction of oil imports a centerpiece of his campaign.

In his first detailed interview on his work for Giuliani, Podhoretz said he had not spoken with Giuliani personally in months, but was in touch with his campaign on a near-daily basis.

The Giuliani campaign did not respond to an inquiry about the candidate’s view on Saudi Arabia.

In his July 12 address, Giuliani spoke mostly of increasing trade in the Middle East and promoting the empowerment of women in the Middle East.

In an earlier address in Virginia on June 26, Giuliani called for active engagement with the Fatah government in the West Bank while continuing to isolate Hamas, which controls Gaza. “Let’s see if we can’t get Jordan and Egypt to help us try and create something with [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas in the West Bank,” he said at Regent University in Virginia Beach. Later in the same evening, Giuliani said of the Fatah-Hamas conflict, “I’ll have to leave that to other people to figure out.”      www.SustainabiliTank.info finds these statements shooting in two directions simultaneously. We rather believe that if the Saudis do not go to Jerusalem to prove leadership – they are less then trustworthy.)

But Giuliani has been short on specifics on the Mideast and in no rush to provide details. He often cites the day he called on then-Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to leave an international concert at Lincoln Center here as a foreign policy credential, as well as his stewardship of a city that includes immigrants from hundreds of national origins.

“His main foreign policy credential is his deep understanding of the issues involved in the war [on terrorism], which is the most serious issue of our time,” said Podhoretz.

Several foreign policy experts contacted by The Jewish Week declined to assess Giuliani’s foreign policy worldview because they did not know enough about it.

Should Giuliani become the GOP nominee, Democrats are likely to paint him as not only inexperienced but wrong on foreign policy.

In a statement prior to his July 12 address, the Democratic National Committee released a statement calling him “absent, ignorant and hawkish on Iraq” and claimed he was “poorly informed on Iran and North Korea.” The DNC also accused him of flip-flopping on Israel, initially supporting the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and now saying that the resulting unrest there “is a microcosm of what will happen in Iraq if you listen to the Democrats and precipitously leave with a staged, timed, planned-in-advance withdrawal.”

Asked if he saw Giuliani playing a more active role in Israel-Palestinian negotiations than has Bush, Podhoretz said, “He certainly supports Israel and I think he has shown, especially through his treatment of Arafat, that he recognizes that the main onus for any possible peace is on the Palestinians. To that extent he agrees with Bush.”

As to an international conference, of the sort alluded to by Bush in his recent address on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Podhoretz said, “I don’t think he has developed a detailed policy on the question of international conferences and the peace process. My advice to him is that a conference is pointless and can lead to nothing. The only chance for any kind of meaningful peace process will come when Arab nations call off their war against the Jewish state.”

When asked how Giuliani would differ from President Bush on foreign policy, Podhoretz noted that the ex-mayor on July 17 called for higher expectations of Pakistan, whose ruler, Pervez Musharraf, is a key Bush ally, in fighting al Qaeda. “Musharraf is important to us to the extent that he helps us remove this existential threat to him and to us,” Giuliani told USA Today. “And to the extent that he recognizes that it’s an existential threat to us and to him, he’s valuable to us. To the extent that he doesn’t, he isn’t.”

Podhoretz is a proponent of immediate military strikes against Iran to eliminate or set back that country’s nuclear program, and he said Giuliani felt the same way. “He has already said that the military option has to remain active,” said Podhoretz.

Asked about Giuliani’s reputation for ignoring advice while he was mayor, even from those he appointed to advisory panels, Podhoretz said, “That doesn’t concern me at all. He is free to take my advice when he thinks I’m right and ignore it when he thinks I’m wrong. He’s a man of very strong convictions and the character to back up those convictions and that’s one of the reasons I support him.”

———————-

Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials: King Abdullah asserted Saudi Arabia’s power in March when he led Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Ismail Haniya, right, into negotiations – what since?
Based on a HELENE COOPER article published July 27, 2007, The   New York Times.
This article was reported by Helene Cooper, Mark Mazzetti and Jim Rutenberg, and written by Ms. Cooper.

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2007   — During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. But, said administration officials who provided an account of the exchange, the Saudis remained skeptical, adding to the deep rift between America’s most powerful Sunni Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, and its Shiite-run neighbor, Iraq.

Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, “That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not.”

Senior Bush administration officials said the American concerns would be raised next week when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates make a rare joint visit to Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

Officials in Washington have long resisted blaming Saudi Arabia for the chaos and sectarian strife in Iraq, choosing instead to pin blame on Iran and Syria. Even now, military officials rarely talk publicly about the role of Saudi fighters among the insurgents in Iraq.

The accounts of American concerns came from interviews with several senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they believed that openly criticizing Saudi Arabia would further alienate the Saudi royal family at a time when the United States is still trying to enlist Saudi support for Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi government, and for other American foreign policy goals in the Middle East, including an Arab-Israeli peace plan.

In agreeing to interviews in advance of the joint trip to Saudi Arabia, the officials were nevertheless clearly intent on sending a pointed signal to a top American ally. They expressed deep frustration that more private American appeals to the Saudis had failed to produce a change in course.

The American officials said they had no doubt that the documents shown to Mr. Khalilzad were forgeries, though the Saudis said they had obtained them from sources in Iraq. “Maliki wouldn’t be stupid enough to put that on a piece of paper,” one senior Bush administration official said. He said Mr. Maliki later assured American officials that the documents were forgeries.

The Bush administration’s frustration with the Saudi government has increased in recent months because it appears that Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to undermine the Maliki government and to pursue a different course in Iraq from what the administration has charted. Saudi Arabia has also stymied a number of other American foreign policy initiatives, including a hoped-for Saudi embrace of Israel.

Of course, the Saudi government has hardly masked its intention to prop up Sunni groups in Iraq and has for the past two years explicitly told senior Bush administration officials of the need to counterbalance the influence Iran has there. Last fall, King Abdullah warned Vice President Dick Cheney that Saudi Arabia might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulled its troops out of Iraq, American and Arab diplomats said.

Several officials interviewed for this article said they believed that Saudi Arabia’s direct support to Sunni tribesmen increased this year as the Saudis lost faith in the Maliki government and felt they must bolster Sunni groups in the eventuality of a widespread civil war.

Saudi Arabia months ago made a pitch to enlist other Persian Gulf countries to take a direct role in supporting Sunni tribal groups in Iraq, said one former American ambassador with close ties to officials in the Middle East. The former ambassador, Edward W. Gnehm, who has served in Kuwait and Jordan, said that during a recent trip to the region he was told that Saudi Arabia had pressed other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — which includes Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — to give financial support to Sunnis in Iraq. The Saudis made this effort last December, Mr. Gnehm said.

The closest the administration has come to public criticism was an Op-Ed page article about Iraq in The New York Times last week by Mr. Khalilzad, now the United States ambassador to the United Nations. “Several of Iraq’s neighbors — not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States — are pursuing destabilizing policies,” Mr. Khalilzad wrote. Administration officials said Mr. Khalilzad was referring specifically to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ms. Rice and Mr. Gates, as well as Mr. Cheney and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, have in recent months pressed their Arab counterparts to do more to encourage Iraq’s Sunni leaders to support Mr. Maliki, senior administration officials said.

“This message certainly has been made very clear in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” a senior administration official said. “But there is a deep reserve directed both at the person of the Maliki government but more broadly at the concept” that Iraq’s Shiites are “surrogates of Iran.” Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly concerned about the rising influence of Iran in the region.

A spokesman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not return telephone calls on Thursday. But one adviser to the royal family said that Saudi officials were aware of the American accusations. “As you know by now, we in Saudi Arabia have been active in having a united Arab front to, first, avoid further inter-Arab conflict, and at the same time building consensus to move toward a peace settlement between the Arabs and Israel,” he said. “How others judge our motives is their problem.”

Even as American frustration at Saudi Arabia grows, American military officials are still cautious about publicly detailing the extent of the flow of foreign fighters going to Iraq from Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, for instance, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, detailed the odyssey of a foreign fighter recently captured in Ramadi.

In his public account, General Bergner told reporters that the man had arrived in Syria on a chartered bus, was smuggled into Iraq by a Syrian facilitator, and was given instructions to carry out a suicide truck bombing on a bridge in Ramadi. He did not identify the man’s nationality, but American officials in Iraq say he was a Saudi.

The American officials in Iraq also say that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 40 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi. Officials said that while most of the foreign fighters came to Iraq to become suicide bombers, others arrived as bomb makers, snipers, logisticians and financiers.

American military and intelligence officials have been critical of Saudi efforts to stanch the flow of fighters into Iraq, although they stress that the Saudi government does not endorse the idea of fighters from Saudi Arabia going to Iraq.

On the contrary, they said, Saudi Arabia is concerned that these young men could acquire insurgency training in Iraq and then return home to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia — similar to the Saudis who turned against their homeland after fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The Bush administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has deteriorated steadily since the United States invasion of Iraq, culminating in April when, bitingly, King Abdullah, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh, condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.”

A month before that, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed a high-profile meeting between Israelis and Palestinians, planned by Ms. Rice, by brokering a power-sharing agreement between the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the militant Islamist group Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel. While that agreement eventually fell apart, the Bush administration, on both occasions, was caught off guard and became infuriated.

But Saudi officials have not been too happy with President Bush, either, and the plummeting of America’s image in the Muslim world has led King Abdullah to strive to set a more independent course.

The administration “thinks the Saudis are no longer behaving the role of the good vassal,” said Steve Clemons, senior fellow and director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. The Saudis, in turn, “see weakness, they see a void, and they’re going to fill the void and call their own shots.”

———————————–

International:   U.S.-Saudi Tensions To Increase In 2008.
Oxford Analytica, July 27, 2007.

This article is part of Oxford Analytica’s Daily Brief Service.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on July 31. As the United States looks to regional actors for support on Iraq, Iran and Israeli-Palestinian issues, it will find that Riyadh is not going to play its assigned role. While President George W. Bush’s administration faces long odds on these issues already, the Saudi position makes the prospect for success even less likely.

On the major regional questions, the United States and Saudi Arabia are in agreement to a greater extent than at almost any time in their relationship. They each:

–worry about increasing Iranian regional influence and the Iranian nuclear program;

–see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a wound that needs to be healed;

–worry about the spill-over effect of Iraqi violence; and

–vigorously oppose al-Qaida and its regional affiliates.

However, they have very different tactical approaches, which will become more salient as Washington puts forward new initiatives to move the Arab-Israeli peace process forward, salvage something from Iraq and isolate Iran.

Bush announced on July 16 a high-profile diplomatic effort to move Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority (PNA) toward a political settlement. Saudi Arabia quickly voiced its support, but Washington and Riyadh have very different visions of how to approach the issue. The Bush administration seeks to isolate Hamas diplomatically and choke off the economy in Gaza. Meanwhile, it hopes to encourage economic growth and political progress in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, showing Palestinians that their best choice is to abandon Hamas and support PNA President Mahmoud Abbas. Riyadh is pushing for a renewal of Fatah-Hamas dialogue and a return to the Mecca Agreement on power-sharing, which the Saudis brokered earlier in the year.

In Iraq, the Bush administration needs to show tangible progress to fend off congressional pressures to begin troop withdrawals. To that end, it has opened direct (if low-level) talks with Iran and encouraged greater regional involvement to support the Iraqi government, symbolized by the May Sharm al-Sheikh summit. While Saudi Arabia attended that summit and agreed to forgive the bulk of Iraqi Saddam-era debt, it has made clear that it is not willing to take other steps to support the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which it sees as an extension of Iranian influence in Iraq.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia is supporting efforts by Maliki’s opponents (including former prime minister Iyad Allawi, various Sunni political factions and Maliki’s Shia opponents) to form a political front to challenge the government’s parliamentary majority. Saudi King Abdallah also very publicly refused to receive Maliki on the latter’s regional trip preceding the summit. With Riyadh facing the likelihood of a reduced U.S. role in Iraq, it is less likely to follow the U.S. lead there and more willing to forge its own alliances with Iraqi players and factions.

Both Washington and Riyadh want to limit Iranian regional influence and discourage Iranian nuclear plans. As long as the United States continues using diplomatic pressure, multilateral and United Nations sanctions and indirect military threats to push Iran away from the nuclear path, it will have Saudi support. However, if the Bush administration pursues a military option, this will change. The Saudi leadership is pursuing a subtle policy of both engaging and containing Iran. It does not want to return to the 1980s, when the two states were directly confronting each other and Tehran was actively encouraging domestic opposition to the Saudi regime. Moreover, it knows that it will be on the front line of any Iranian retaliation for a U.S. military strike.

Such tensions are a normal feature of the Saudi-U.S. relationship and do not necessarily herald a crisis in the making. However, while core relations will not be affected, they will add to the tensions likely to emerge between the countries on Middle East issues and make for an uncomfortable few months in bilateral relations in 2008.

To read an extended version of this article, log on to Oxford Analytica’s Web site.     (Oxford Analytica is an independent strategic-consulting firm drawing on a network of more than 1,000 scholar experts at Oxford and other leading universities and research institutions around the world. For more information, please visit www.oxan.com. )

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article

###