Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 23, 2009

Prince Turki's Threats

The Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal is pretty high up in pecking order of Saudi Arabia. He was chief of Saudi intelligence, ambassador to the UK and Ireland and ambassador to the US. He left that job when he learned that Prince Bandar was talking policy with Cheney behind his back. Even though he is no longer in a official foreign policy role, I doubt that he would publish this op-ed in the Financial Times without the nod from the very top:

Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk.
...
If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact – especially its “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia – it will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

That is a strong shot across the bow for Obama. There follows some advice what Obama should do and then this part which I wonder about:

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over “this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children” in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom’s primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed in the region.

So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. When Israel deliberately kills Palestinians, appropriates their lands, destroys their homes, uproots their farms and imposes an inhuman blockade on them; and as the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel.

As I read it there are three threats contained therein:

  1. That Saudi Arabia could leave the alliance with the U.S.
  2. The possibility of an alliance with Iran
  3. Unleashing the mob in form of another Al Qaida

But how real are these threats? Yes, the Saudis could unleash some Jihadis and finance their adventure in some foreign country. But would the Saudis ever leave the U.S. alliance camp? Would they ever really cooperate with Iran?

Posted by b on January 23, 2009 at 08:12 AM | Permalink

Comments

Beats me. But if they're ever going to do it, now would be the time. The U.S. is going down, and they might be thinking of other arrangements before they go down too.

Posted by: Tim | Jan 23, 2009 8:54:22 AM | 1

It is difficult to asses with Turki in how much has been sanctioned. He has a rare position in the Saudi hierarchy. He and abdallah were seen as Arab nationalists but the king seemed to turn sometime later. He basically suffered constructive dismissal as the ambassador to the US as Bandar froze him out of Saudi foreign policy; So now he is in the strange position of being owed one by abdullah and therefore is probably free (or at least more free) to speak his mind without worrying about consequences. BUT on the other hand he already made similar remarks in Kuwait and if the Saudis had found them not to their liking he will have been stopped from repeating them here.

I think the answers and probably the questions need to be more nuanced. Will Saudi Arabia be forced to the fringes of the US alliance or out of it by a population sick of being seen as traitors to the Arab world because they never do anything about anything? Are they worried that it is only a matter of time before the spirit of resistance starting to spread across the Arab world reaches the dunes of Rhiyad? Its a slow buring fuse right now but once Egypt goes....
An alliance with Iran? Not this King, even if they fall out with the US but if things get a lttle hotter? I dont think he means unleashing another Al Qaida. I think since he is saying that if we wont be able to stop our people we will have to join them; Therefore I think he is threatening something far more formal.

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 9:03:22 AM | 2

Superb Op-Ed, b, thanks for bringing this to our attention. I was frankly shocked by Prince Turki's strong statements since every Arab government, through its deafening and shameless silence, either consciously or unwittingly, supported Israel's slaughter of the Palestinians. An Arab professor this morning on Al Jazeera slammed into the "toothless Arabs" and stated that Iran, by default, had become the conscience of Arabs thoughout the region.

I don't see your point 3. above as realistic. It's a double-edged sword and Saudi Arabia already has enough problems with the 1st Al Qaeda that seeks the overthrow of the decrepit, degenerate and corrupt Saudi regime. However, the threats described in points 1. and 2. are worthy of serious debate:

Points 1. and 2. are essentially two sides of the same coin. If Saudi Arabia were to leave the alliance with the U.S. they would obviously make a "Grand Bargain" with Iran because the desert nation couldn't survive on its own. Israel would be finished as an independent, Zionist, Fascist state, and the U.S. would gradually have to face up to the indignity of seeing its power disappear almost immediately.

However, while such a scenario may occur in the decades ahead, I believe Saudi Arabia will stay in the U.S. camp for the time being and that the brilliantly timed and cogently worded Op-Ed was designed to make an 'honest broker' out of the Obama Administration.

The Saudis are terrified of Iran and jealous of its 'leadership' among both Sunnis and Shi'ites as far as Israel is concerned. Turki's statements were an attempt to re-establish S. Arabia's reputation in the region, on the one hand, and to warn the U.S. on the other. The first aim is a non-starter (How many people in Gaza read the FT?!?), but the 2nd goal is attainable as it increases the already existing political pressure on Obama to radically alter his nation's Israel-policy.

I am delighted with Prince Turki's Op-Ed.

(I'll be travelling for a week and am one of those old-fashioned geezers who owns neither a lap-top nor a Blackberry, so please don't accuse me of 'trolling' if I reappear after an absence -- which, tough luck for all of you -- won't be as lengthy as the last one).

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 23, 2009 9:07:48 AM | 3

Great, mo, we're on the same wavelength. My post came just a few minutes after yours so we must have been communicating telepathically!

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 23, 2009 9:10:10 AM | 4

"Now, just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians," Obama said. "I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days, and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who have faced suffocating poverty for far too long."

To all those that told me to 'wait and see,' I've waited and I've seen, along with the rest of the world. If this is the best Obama can come up with, if this is his long-pondered summation of the Gaza atrocity, we truly are in a very dark place.

I recommend this Counterpunch piece, short and to the point. Worse Than an Earthquake:

The doctor was interrupted by a phone call from a farmer who wanted to know whether it was safe to eat the oranges he was collecting from groves that had been uprooted and bombed during the Israeli invasion. The caller said the oranges had an offensive odor and that when the workers picked them up their hands became itchy.

Audrey Stewart had just spent the morning with Gazan farmers in Tufaa, a village near the border between Gaza and Israel. Israeli soldiers had first evacuated people, then dynamited the houses, then used bulldozers to clear the land, uprooting the orange tree groves. Many people, including children, were picking through the rubble, salvaging belongings and trying to collect oranges. At one point, people began shouting at Audrey, warning her that she was standing next to an unexploded rocket.

The doctor put his head in his hands, after listening to Audrey's report. "I told them to wash everything very carefully. But these are new situations. Really, I don't know how to respond," he said.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 23, 2009 9:29:27 AM | 5

BTW - one can read the full FT op-ed without bothering with the pay curtain by copying the headline into Google search and then clicking on the FT link that comes up.
The headline of the op-ed is "Saudi patience is running out"

Posted by: b | Jan 23, 2009 9:48:45 AM | 6

Parviz,
Coincidence? Or a higer being at work? ;)

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 10:09:45 AM | 7

b, your link works fine. Seems to show the whole piece.

Seen this channel 4 report from Gaza?

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1184614595/bctid8702580001

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 10:12:37 AM | 8

Chris Floyd: Thus Spake Barak.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 23, 2009 10:16:47 AM | 9

Of course they say this AFTER the fact. Smoke & mirrors. Wonder what's on the docket today in Chop Chop Square
...

Truth of the matter is, I'm not a pacifist, and had we (America)decided to have gone into Saudi Arabia after 911, I could have been convinced.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 23, 2009 10:20:44 AM | 10

I find the move from Ahmadi-Nejad to put Saudi Arabia in the front seat, recogninzing it as the leader of the Arab world is quite a smart one. It forces Saudi Arabia to act up on its pretense.

To b and mo, Al Quaeda is the US arab legion. It didn't do 911. The US did. Al Quaeda is a US controlled asset if not fabrication. Homework starts with Webster Tarpley and David Ray Griffin.

Posted by: Stephane | Jan 23, 2009 10:21:37 AM | 11

mo, definitely a higher being .....

Stephane (and 'b'), I searched everywhere for Ahmadinejad's letter to Abdullah and couldn't find it (not even on Ahmadinejad's website www.President.ir). It would help if we could actually read the full text which is nowhere to be seen, as I strongly suspect that there was more 'rebuke' in it than 'recognition' of "Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds" as claimed in the lead story.

Until I see the original text I shall assume that it was simply another attempt to embarrass Saudi Arabia and gain credit for any action that Abdullah may take against Israel. By writing high-profile letters to every Arab leader, as he has done recently, Ahmadinejad has now seized the diplomatic initiative (following the military initiative with Hamas/Hezbollah) and is actually reaffirming IRAN's role as "leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds".

Abdullah is between a rock and a hard place.

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 23, 2009 11:16:24 AM | 12

Parviz,

You're right except it was Turki himself refering to the letter not Ahmadinejad. That has to lend some credence even if Turki is only quoting the recognition rather than the rebuke. And if Ahmadinijad and the Iranians are true to form, it is very likely that the ltter will be real and say what Turki said it said. Its actually a great piece of diplmacy and puts Abdullah in a place where a rock and a hard place on either side would seem quite good in comparison

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 11:21:36 AM | 13

@Parviz - Googled "Ahmadinejad" "letter" "Abdullah" and there is this:

Ahmadinejad's letter to Saudi Arabia

As all free men and nations have raised their voices in protest of the Zionist regime and the atrocities it is committing in Gaza, it is expected of you as the Saudi Arabian King and the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, i.e Makkah and Medina, to break your silence on the catastrophic events and the massacre taking place in Gaza and take a clear stance on the murder of your children, who are dear to the Islamic Ummah.

That is in fact as Turki writes "explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds".

Quite remarkable!

Posted by: b | Jan 23, 2009 11:29:51 AM | 14

AhmadiNejad letter to Saudi King was not recognition of Saudi Islamic leadership. That letter mostly was a criticism if anything of silent position of Saudi Arabia about Gaza. Iranian government were accusing Saudi & Egyptian tacit approval of Israeli criminal policy to weaken Hamas and helping Abbas. Iran were openly criticized Saudi for undermining Hamas, AhmadiNajad letter was exposing Saudi hypocrisies and putting them in spot to react.

Posted by: Loyal | Jan 23, 2009 11:41:28 AM | 15

Response to # 14 b

In Saudi Arabian so called “constitution”, Saudi KING is recognized as Guardian of Haramains (Holly places Makkah & Madinah). Ahmadinajead letter pointing to that official title is nothing new or recognizing something new, just exposing their hypocrisies. Israeli Government official during first weak of GAZA invasion claimed Egypt and Saudi Arabian government approved their policies. Letter of Ahmadinejad to asked them indirectly if that is true or not.

Posted by: | Jan 23, 2009 11:49:27 AM | 16

which I think is a masterstroke from Iran; a backhanded compliment not in the usual sense but goading into action, praise.

Not that it changes anything. But Iran can walk away when Yet-Another-Saudi-Plan-FAIL happens. We looked up to you and you failed.

I'm afraid it doesn't change the Gaza situation at all.

It has boiled into an end game of tit for tat and that's how it's all going to end. God's chosen people are going to get their wish, to get to God faster.

Posted by: shanks | Jan 23, 2009 11:51:37 AM | 17

I basically agree with Mo's analysis.

Saudi Arabia has been playing an interesting position. During the war, Saudi generally supported the PA-Egypt-Jordan block siding with Israel, and it boycotted the Qatar meeting (and kept most of the Gulf Monarchies away). But immediately after the war, Saudi pledged $1 billion to rebuild Gaza at a time when the US and Israel were still hamstringing aid as much as possible. The Saudi pledge may be all talk, but if it's real, Saudi is basically recognizing Hamas, since they'll have to work with the government to distribute the $1 billion.

The other factors to remember are American politics and the ties between the House of Saud and the House of Bush. EVERYONE in America, from whatever political angle, damns Saudi Arabia. We work with them, but we hate them. We love to hate the French in this country, but in sort of a friendly way. The hatred for Saudi is raw.

In the last 8 years, this was fine for Saudi, because they trusted Bush to control the hatred. However, now, even through they expect Obama to not rock the boat too much, they still don't know which way he'll jump in the end. So suddenly, Saudi is remembering it is COMPLETELY dependant on the US, but doesn't trust its sponsor any more.

So the Saudi "threats" here are really more along the lines of warnings. They are reminders that Saudi has a lot of pressures on it, and if US support waivers (if Saudi is forced to the fringe, as Mo says), then they may get desperate and do some absolutely crazy (from the US-Saudi perspective) shit, like aligning with Iran, giving reign to Al Qaeda, or launching an old-fashioned jihad.

One thing, of course, is certain. As always with Arab leaders, the discussion of Palestinians has nothing whatsoever to do with Palestinians. This is about US-Saudi relations, and about Saudi demand for further assurances to they don't do anything too crazy.

Posted by: Bill | Jan 23, 2009 12:03:17 PM | 18

Thanks, b, I'm usually good at finding these things ;-)

The text confirms my suspicions in their entirety:

"it is unfortunate to see a number of Islamic and Arabic governments in the region condone this unprecedented genocide with their silence and smiles of satisfaction." (He means Abdullah. This is an extremely insulting statement to anyone, let alone to the Saudi King, suggesting he's smiling with satisfaction at the slaughter of his brethren).

These governments are waiting to see the heroic resistance of a defenseless nation, God forbid, fall to the savagery and repression of the occupiers. (Guess whom the letter is addressed to! = Another really insulting accusation)

As all free men and nations have raised their voices in protest of the Zionist regime and the atrocities it is committing in Gaza, it is expected of you as the Saudi Arabian King and the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, i.e Makkah and Medina, to break your silence on the catastrophic events and the massacre taking place in Gaza and take a clear stance on the murder of your children, who are dear to the Islamic Ummah. (Here he accuses Abdullah of not even caring about the murder of HIS OWN CHILDREN!)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Nowhere is there any mention of Ahmadinejad "explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds". All he does is confirm Abdullah's custodianship of the 2 Holy Places, Mecca and Medina, which are on his own soil anyway! The letter is extremely insulting by Middle Eastern standards, for example: "... it is EXPECTED of you ....."

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 23, 2009 12:07:44 PM | 19

sounds to me like the US has threatened to switch alliances to Iran first. I am no expert, however I did get the impression that the US was working for Iran in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, whilst the Saudis were investing somewhere else. Israel nowadays seems to be in the role of hostage, Middle East countries threaten to pressure the US ...

Posted by: outsider | Jan 23, 2009 12:16:54 PM | 20

Parviz,

Expected can be insulting but it depends on the original wording. The title of the Custodian is one Abdullah conferred on himself and by recognising it Ahmadinijad is conferring a certain amount of respect to him.

But if you read between the lines it is saying:

"look, you've done f*** all so far but watch with satisfaction as Hamas are taken down. You are the only country in the middle east who can actually do something about it right now without the whole region going up in flames. So step up to the plate now and do your duty as the leader of the Arab Muslim world. If you won't we will and you won't like it."

And to be honest, if the Saudis had taken it in the spirit you are reading it, I don't believe Turkis op-ed would have taken the tone it did

So in a sense it is

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 12:22:05 PM | 21

Ignore the last sentence

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 12:23:11 PM | 22

I think he is threatening something far more formal.

me too. a caldron of fire indeed. tantalus, thanks for floyd's piece, it expresses my frustration.

parvis thank you for the invaluable translation and interpretation, i can't imagine anyone accusing you of trolling here, we are lucky to have you.

i hope this FI link travels far and wide. recognition of gazans pain as intolerable is wholly insufficient under the circumstances. i see no difference thus far in o's position from that of the neocons. it is not enough to state you will work for a plan towards peace without saying what that plan will look like. where is this willingness to talk to the enemy? as if the plo represents the enemy? pff.

thanks b, once again.

Posted by: annie | Jan 23, 2009 12:31:33 PM | 23

bill, EVERYONE in America, from whatever political angle, damns Saudi Arabia. We work with them, but we hate them. ...The hatred for Saudi is raw.

i didn't know this, nor is it reflected in the msm. who says this?

Posted by: annie | Jan 23, 2009 12:35:01 PM | 24

I would not read too much into it. Just a bit of muscle flexing with the new Administration. They both need each other, and none can afford a divorce. The Saudi regime needs umreekan support for survival and wont live long without it.

Posted by: a | Jan 23, 2009 1:07:02 PM | 25

Annie - A fair question, but it's something I see frequently. In left or right blogistan, or go to any talking head: you see the contempt for Saudi Arabia. Not as much in MSM reporting, you are correct. But it is similar to the contempt for the French: you don't see direct news reports on it, but everyone knows and understands it. However, in my observation, the contempt is more raw. The French are like us, only smellier and more assholish. The Saudis aren't even considered human, they're just useful in keeping the people there quiet and keeping the oil flowing.

Posted by: Bill | Jan 23, 2009 1:12:09 PM | 26

B

I wouldn't underestimate the potential for Saudi-Iranian cooperation - after all, they are the 2 leading members of OPEC, have improved relations substantively since the mid-1990's nadir, and can walk along the same paths quite happily without having to hold hands too tightly; it's not as if they have to agree on everything to do something about the things that they see eye to eye on.

If you cast your mind back to the 1970's and the post-1973 Arab oil embargo, you'll recall that Saudi Arabia was a keystone in that effort; the biggest obstacle was the Shah of Iran's non-participation, and opening of the Iranian oil spigot. The implied threat that lurks behind Turki's letter is that this time Iran and Saudi Arabia would be on the same page. When you factor in Iran's political clout with Iraq and Venezuela, that's equivalent to 20-25% of the global oil supply. Ouch.

Then again, it wouldn't surprise me if this is just Turki outlining his preferences for the new admin's ME policy ( call toll-free for bargaining sessions ) coupled with a subtle attempt to talk the markets up.

I think that the "defencelessness" of the Saudis is a tad overstated - this might apply to the Gulf Sheikhdoms, but I doubt that the Saudis are particularly worried about the prospect of any of their neighbours confronting them militarily.

Posted by: dan | Jan 23, 2009 1:18:40 PM | 27

I think that the "defencelessness" of the Saudis is a tad overstated - this might apply to the Gulf Sheikhdoms, but I doubt that the Saudis are particularly worried about the prospect of any of their neighbours confronting them militarily.

The Saudis have lots of modern equipment, M1 tanks, Patriot, F-16 etc but said to like as toys, but not so much for actual fighting. And who would they fight?

But what is often forgotten is that Saudi has some 60+ Chinese made CSS-2 rockets with a range of 2,500 km and 2 tons of possible "chargo". The Saudis never said what cargo. The missiles are quite inaccurate (1,500-2,500 meter circular error) and do not make sense to just through around some TNT. The original Chinese CSS-2 are nuke carriers. Saudi Arabia financed the Pakistani nuke program.

So if they see need to change the "strategic picture" and general threat scenario in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia could certainly do that easily and fast.

Posted by: b | Jan 23, 2009 1:34:27 PM | 28

mo, I stand by my conviction that the letter was as insulting as it can get, considering the Persian-Arab culture. Ahmadinejad accused the King of doing nothing, remaining silent, not caring about the death of his own children and even of of smiling at Gaza's destruction. It couldn't have been worse. And it didn't 'recognize' S. Arabia's right to anything other than Medina/Mecca (which goes without saying).

Now, why Prince Turki decided to write the Op-Ed and to place a positive spin on the letter may have a number of reasons, none of which I've fathomed yet. 2 diametrically opposed motives that instantly come to mind:

1. The letter was extremely insulting, therefore, by referring to it in a positive manner he was trying (with the approval of higher-ups) to make it appear as if Iran was pleading to Saudi Arabia for help and 'recognizing' its Arab leadership (which the letter didn't). = Positive spin. He was assuming the letter wouldn't be printed anywhere in full (which it hasn't, other than on the PressTV website which b kindly dug up). People will look at the FT, IHT/NYT, USAToday and say: "Oh, how nice!"

2. We are witnessing a palace revolt. Turki has been too quiet for too long. He knew damned well that by drawing attention (however positively) to this deeply insulting letter people would eventually see the original and that it would do the rounds, thereby discrediting the Prince Bandar clique, with Prince Turki feigning innocence. It reminds me of Shakespeare's Marc Anthony repeatedly saying "But Brutus is an honourable man .....". Here Turki is Marc and Bandar is Brutus. What better way to show that Bandar's policies have been asinine and self-destructive ......

annie (23), thanks for the kind words. It is I who feel privileged to be here.

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 23, 2009 1:45:34 PM | 29

Response to # 29
A- Ahmadinejad have a history of sending letter to despotic leaders , like sending to Bush... . this is in same tradition of his "Ershad"
B- Ahmadinejad as a president has no authority to recognize Kindome of Saudi for anything beyound normal diplomatic gestures.
C- Only IRI Leader has such authority and a week earlier he made his own letter toHamas leaders.
D- Saudi's policy as usual were deceptive and they miscalculated Hamas resistance and now they are trying to makeup for their deceptions.

Posted by: | Jan 23, 2009 2:13:20 PM | 30

I agree with #30.

Saudis cant even think of breaking up with the US. Their immoral regime will not last a week. Saudis looked really ugly with their silence during the Gaza war, they are just trying to salvage some of their islamic world 'leadership'. At the same time doing crude muscle flexing with the new regime in US.

Posted by: a | Jan 23, 2009 2:21:29 PM | 31

Other than the nukes the Saudis actually 'own' much of Pakistan and their army. They have already used pakistani troops. And the pakistani actually knows how to operate much of those toys (specially F16s) that they buy from the US recicling petrodollars and buying protection.

Excerpt found http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2008/0128_saudi_arabia_riedel.aspx>here:

In turn, Pakistan has provided military aid and expertise to the kingdom for decades. It began with help to the Royal Saudi Air Force to build and pilot its first jet fighters in the 1960s. Pakistani Air Force pilots flew RSAF Lightnings that repulsed a South Yemeni incursion into the kingdom’s southern border in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s up to 15,000 Pakistani troops were stationed in the kingdom, some in a brigade combat force near the Israeli-Jordanian-Saudi border. The close ties continue between the militaries today.

Posted by: ThePaper | Jan 23, 2009 2:37:12 PM | 32

That Turki acknowledged this is the REAL NEWS.

Feh, diplomacy between nations in the ME other US/Israel is big.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 23, 2009 3:38:53 PM | 33

They might not mean old-fashioned formal jihad like if they were battling Byzantium, but still, I think Turki didn't mean creating another Al-Qaeda vs the West. If what he foresees is anything like AQ, it would be the AQ of the Afghan war, with thousands of mujahideen (more or less informally) sent against Israel and quite advanced military stuff to cripple IDF.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jan 23, 2009 6:11:09 PM | 34

Parviz,

Your analysis is logical and may be true. My reservation is that Ahmadinajad and the Iranians usually do dimplomacy too well for the letter to be as insulting as you read it.

Posted by: mo | Jan 23, 2009 7:29:18 PM | 35

Having watched Ahmadinejad often enough on TV - UN speeches etc - to have formed a certain personal impression of him, my interpretation is far simpler: the sheer horror of Israel's murderous onslaught against Gaza-and-Gazans affected Ahmadinejad as strongly as it did the readers of this blog.

Result being that as he watched the massacre continue day after day he became so distraught - and also intensely frustrated at the fact that Iran would/could do nothing-zero-zilch to stop it - that in an attack of late-night anguish and despair he ended up sending a personal midnight-missive to the Saudis (by e-mail?) without benefit of collegiate consent from Iran's higher Ayatollahdom.

This would explain why the main Iranian news sites make no mention of his letter ... and I'd say this odd wee snippet , with its distraughtly informal tone, kinda "backs up" my hunch?

In Tehran, an adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Iranian president planned to ignore [US presidential] inauguration coverage.

"The tragedy in Gaza made him so upset and he is so preoccupied with Gazans' problems that he does not feel like being glued to the television," the adviser told the Los Angeles Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.

OK admittedly it's a rare event in international affairs - but sometimes-just-sometimes the simplest, most fellow-human explanation may be the truest?

Posted by: parvati_roma | Jan 23, 2009 10:24:46 PM | 36

hmm, sometimes the simplest, most fellow-human explanation may be the truest

exactly! sometimes even powerful people are just people.

something I see frequently. In left or right blogistan, or go to any talking head: you see the contempt for Saudi Arabia...it is similar to the contempt for the French: you don't see direct news reports on it, but everyone knows and understands it..... The French are like us, only smellier and more assholish.

i would rethink your assumptions about what 'everyone' knows or thinks here in america wrt the french or SA. lots of people love france and the french, i think there are an abundance of people who have no opinion whatsoever about saudi arabia. i am well aware ALL the arabists have been systematically pushed out/banished from the state department w/the advancement of neocons, but that by no means should be interpreted as EVERYONE in America having raw hatred for saudi arabia.

i dare say the hatred of israel is palpable in many quarters lately, this is unmistakable since the gaza slaughter. i have hung out on the left blogisphere for years, and this hatred i am not familiar with although there are of course elements of SA culture i am well aware and consider highly oppressive. certainly we are driven by the press to hate iran but i don't even hear this echoed in the left blogs i visit. the right blogisphere i am not so up on. maybe it is there you get your facts and assume it is widespread. here is the council on foreign relations:

lately domestic groups--neoconservatives and the religious right in the United States, fundamentalist clerics in Saudi Arabia--are agitating against the traditional relationship.

that does not speak for all americans.

wiki SA and foreign relations.

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The country participates in an active economic boycott of Israel.

since beginning this post i was interrupted to attend an art opening where i ask several people, 'what do you think of saudi arabia'. the overwhelming response was 'oil'. nobody said, 'i hate them' or any other derogatory statement.

so take that bill.

Posted by: annie | Jan 23, 2009 10:54:15 PM | 37

What's the world's least-important holiday?

Election Day in Shitty Arabia.

Posted by: Peter | Jan 23, 2009 11:18:01 PM | 38

But how real are these threats? Yes, the Saudis could unleash some Jihadis and finance their adventure in some foreign country. But would the Saudis ever leave the U.S. alliance camp?

No, as the Saudi Royals are US-supported since the agreement between FDR and King Abdulaziz - Ibn Saud. Without the US behind them, they are toast.

Would they ever really cooperate with Iran?

- under certain conditions, they might.

What has changed since the early 1940s is that the US has passed from making what one might call friendly deals with despots to buy oil, to outright attacks on oil-rich countries (Iraq), to the take over of strategic or central choke-points (Afgh - Unocal, etc.) to prodding and provoking and stigmatizing other oil-rich (Venezuela, Iran) to territorially controlling, or attempting to (Nafta, etc.) near neighbors who furnish the where-with-all (Canada, Mexico.)

The US cannot maintain its military superiority without massive oil imports, cannot guarantee the US ‘way of life’, see Bush and predecessors - domination and waste - without control of oil markets in the large sense (dollars, benchmarks, transport routes, puppet Gvmts, shady deals, control of resources, banking, etc.) Without this life-blood it will die, spiral down into a combination of economic depression, already present; then, citizen revolt, violence, disruption.

Bush and Cheney and now Obama understand all of that perfectly well.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jan 24, 2009 11:36:03 AM | 39

I see Turki's letter as a way to make the Saudi's appear to be getting tough with america as opposed to any real desire for change.

The house of Saud and the U.S. are linked hand in hand because of the business of oil, without U.S. support, Saudi Arabia would be another back-water, crazy to do business country like Nigeria. Washington keeps the petrol dollars flowing to the House of Saud because the House of Saud helps the U.S. control OPEC. Meanwhile there are internal struggles (probably helped along by western powers) which are a constant thorn in the side of Saudi's ruling class, who then need align with western powers, because they can't'/don't trust the motivations of other regional Muslim powers

It may be crazy to write but america doesn't have an energy problem, only a cheap energy problem, which is what keeps the Saudi's in business. As we've witnessed recently, $150 a barrel oil isn't feasible. The reality of the current economic collapse can be linked directly to american's paying $3.00 and even more, for a gallon of gas.

America is sprawl; we're a big country, poorly linked by mass-transit so when people can't afford gas, they can't afford anything and the world's economies start to compress - all because Betty-Jo can't pay for gas.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most repressive governments by any measure and has many factions inside that would like to tear it down – imagine if a Saudi revolution, similar to what toppled to Shaw happened, what that would mean to western interest in the region...

For all we know Turki's letter was written by someone at the u.s. state department to make the Saudi's appear tough to help them quell their own internal struggles.

Posted by: David | Jan 24, 2009 1:08:59 PM | 40

A gathering of Saudi clerics issued a Fataw forbids any peace initiatives that recognize the right of the Jews in Palestine and normalizing the relations with Israel.

King Abdullah trying to say “Yes we can” ???

Posted by: annie | Jan 24, 2009 2:27:21 PM | 41

Turki is high up, but his views are not necessarily official foreign policy, as mo says. As he has no longer a post. His views are more likely representative of feeling widespread in Saudi Arabia, even within the elite, but not the official line.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 24, 2009 3:01:12 PM | 42

more re King Abdullah

at the kuwait summit, originally designed as an economic summit, was opened by King Abdullah w/an impassioned speech calling for a unified voice re palestine. a report from jordan times , 'Arabs mend fences at Kuwait summit'

KUWAIT CITY - Arab leaders have patched up their differences over the three-week Israeli offensive against Gaza in a Saudi reconciliation bid on the sidelines of an Arab summit, Qatar's prime minister said.

Differences over how to deal with the Israeli offensive that killed more than 1,300 people highlighted the divide between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their allies on one side, and Syria, Qatar and their allies on the other.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have tended to lean towards Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while Syria and Qatar have been more sympathetic to Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since routing Abbas' forces in June 2007.

Saudi King Abdullah called on Arabs at the summit opening to rise above their differences.

"This speech prepared for a reconciliation led today by [King Abdullah] with ... the emir of Kuwait," Sheikh Hamad said.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia had shunned a meeting in Doha to discuss the Gaza crisis, at which Qatar and Mauritania froze ties with Israel and Syria pronounced a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative dead.

In his speech, Saudi Arabia's king warned Israel that an Arab Peace Initiative won't remain on the table forever.

"Israel has to understand that the choice between war and peace will not always stay open and that the Arab Peace Initiative that is on the table today will not stay on the table," he said.

.....The Saudi king announced a $1 billion donation for Gaza, saying the cash would go to a proposed fund Arabs are setting up to rebuild the seaside territory.

more details at the link especially wrt hamas fatah reconcilliation.


voice of america has a much different negative spin w/the title Arab Summit in Kuwait Ends in Discord

"Arab leaders began their Kuwait summit, Monday, amid discord, and ended it, a day later, amid more discord. Attempts to find a common position on the conflict in Gaza and towards Israel seemingly failed, leaving rival Arab camps as divided as ever."

take that!

we tried, Monday, to start rebuilding after the important speech by [Saudi] King Abdallah [calling for an end to discord]."

....Arab leaders did, however, agree to a plan to rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip, promising a total of $2 billion to reconstruct what was damaged or demolished in the 21-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

.....The 2002 Arab peace initiative, he says, did not figure in the summit's closing statement, but he said it remains valid, and he said Arab leaders have no quarrels over the initiative, which he calls a common point of view. But, he adds, the initiative can't remain on the table much longer, if after seven years Israel still hasn't accepted it.

..... it was necessary to save face for the Arab leaders, in general, for the regimes in general, to show that they could agree, at least after the Gaza war was over,"

.......more areas of agreement as to how to move forward in terms of bringing Hamas and Fatah together, in terms of reconstructing the Gaza Strip, in terms of trying to revive negotiations with Israel, and encouraging the U.S. administration to do so," he said.

syrian take on it:

Syria Surprised by Saudi Reconciliation-

(i presume this is in reference to the (iran) qatar syria vs SA egypt views on I/P)

Well-informed sources in Damascus have revealed that the Syrians were surprised by the Saudi reconciliation describing it as "a pleasant surprise." Political circles in Damascus were surprised at the Arab media's focus on inter-Arab disputes, especially on the statements released in preparation for the Kuwait summit, and the focus on the continuation of differences in spite of the Saudi Arabian - Syrian reconciliation.

The sources have stated that the statements issued by the Kuwait summit was "good and positive" in terms of its focus on Gaza and the demands of the Palestinian people, which include Israel being called to account for its crimes. As for the differences in opinion, that is natural, and a system has been put in place for foreign ministers to monitor the situation.

The sources confirmed that what happened [at the summit] was major, and that we will see its results in the coming years. The sources also paid tribute to the Palestinian martyrs and to the steadfast Palestinians who stood up against the brutal Israeli aggression

As for the Saudi – Syrian reconciliation, the sources described it as "an important and serious step which created a conciliatory atmosphere at the summit" even if differences in opinion remained, the important this is "reaching a [mutual] Arab understanding with regards to our interests and political views."

Commenting on the optimism stirred up by President Barack Obama's inaugural speech, and whether this signaled a return to the peace process, the source said that the speech was "very reasonable" but felt that "it is premature to talk about peace now." The sources welcomed the appointment of George Mitchell as US Envoy to the Middle East, but stopped short of commenting on Obama's desire to replace fear with hope, or of Obama's intentions to withdraw US forces from Iraq. The sources confirmed that optimism in Syria is based upon Arab will, and said that what was achieved in Gaza confirms that "resistance is the path to an honorable peace."

from china

According to a Kuwaiti foreign ministry official, Arab ministers of foreign and finance agreed Friday to add "Solidarity Summit with Gaza" to the theme of the two-day Arab economic summit.

so maybe the SA king is stepping up to the plate.

Posted by: annie | Jan 24, 2009 3:36:39 PM | 43

here's a good wrap on the arab summit up from Aj

King Abdullah "We have to overcome Arab political differences that led to a division in the Arab ranks which can be exploited by those who want to achieve their regional ambitions," he said.

While Qatar and Syria favour a firm stance on Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia has said that the conflict has its roots in the alleged interference of Iran.

"The meeting ended with a very positive note. Basically, the leaders were able to come together and reach a rapprochement in their views, in regard to Gaza," Mohammed Vall, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kuwait City, said.

and from israels debka files we have the most pronounced bent on the results of the SA king.

4. For the first time in its history, Israel bound itself to a major Arab power in a battle against an Arab force. This commitment has not ended. It obliges Israel to continue to respect the partnership for its next steps, especially when Egypt is the only party dealing with the Palestinian terrorist group on Israel's behalf

5. Until last week, Egypt enjoyed solid Saudi backing for its policy of diminishing Hamas and putting a damper on the Iranian-Syrian drive for influence in the Arab world – even Cairo's cooperation with Israel's military operation was accepted in Riyadh.

But then came a royal about-face. When the Arab League summit opened in Kuwait on Jan. 19, Mubarak was dismayed to find the Saudi king pulling the rug from under his feet on both counts. Abdullah then demanded that the Egyptian president make the peace-making gesture of appearing publicly with his Syrian and Qatari colleagues, Iran's Arab partners. Reluctant to offend the monarch, he agreed, but the next day walked out of the summit and flew home, signaling the Saudi king that his campaign against Iran, Syria and Hamas was far from over.

6. Abdullah's wish to appease the Iran-led radical camp has also divided the Saudi leadership. Foreign minister Prince Saud al Faisal, who espouses the Egyptian line, also removed himself from the Kuwait Arab summit, leaving the other Arab foreign ministers high and dry without an agreed final communiqué on the Gaza crisis. Al Faisal is supported by another senior Saudi prince, the national security adviser Bandar bin Sultan.

7. The divisions in the Arab world have encouraged Tehran to persist in rearming Hamas and the Hamas-Damascus faction to maintain its intransigent posture. They are certain that high military tension against Israel in the Gaza Strip and the diplomatic pressure on Egypt will break them down.

This contest of strength crackles with inflammatory potential, exacerbated by two key dates: Israel's general election on Feb. 10. Arab foes have traditionally sought to influence the outcome of Israel's elections, which this time right-of-center Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is practically sure of winning; and Feb. 12, the first anniversary of the violent death in Damascus of Hizballah's military chief Imad Mughniyeh, which the Lebanese Shiite militia blaming Israel has sworn to avenge.

It is no wonder therefore that part of the Israeli reservist force called up for the Gaza operation is still under arms and a strong tank force surrounds Gaza's borders against any contingency.

This simmering stew will greet the Obama administration's new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, when he launches his mission this week with visits to key capitals. He will find Jerusalem and Cairo moving forward with their agendas for the Gaza Strip following a script put together during the hiatus in Washington between two presidencies.

so, the king pulled the rug out from under the puppet Mubarak. he is their ace in the whole. there is bickering going on over who should be able to allocate the money for reconstruction. israel or egypt. fuck them both.

Posted by: annie | Jan 24, 2009 4:02:51 PM | 44

I think I see that the Debka report was removed. It was pure propaganda, feeding the folks at home in Israel what they want them to hear. It was in sharp contrast to all the other reports, although the latter varied a bit in content and emphasis.

Impressions of this summit left with me -- Two Big Ones:


1. Ahmadinejad's wisdom and method of communicating bore fruit, far more than I expected. He chose the right words and the right letter recipient who then did the right thing.

2. The Saud King came through beautifully. He accepted the challenge to show his leadership. Other kings and potentates followed his example. The sums of money involved begin the suggest the real extent of the devastation.

Other impressions I am less sure of:

1. Has the leadership role of Hamas been really recognized? (I did note that the illegally installed puppet leader of Gaza *Abass?* was not mentioned).

2. Eqypt's puppet leader (Mubarak) has been isolated as perhaps Israel's only friend in the area. There has been evidence elsewhere (an Egyptian Legislative session, I think) that the Eqyptian people never approved of keeping the border closed to Palestinians in dire need during the long year of near starvation.

3. Now that the American Election is over, Israel must feel it has a total grip on support from the American government to do anything it wants, come what may, so the opinions of its own neighbors do not matter to them at all.

I guess it remains to be seen how our new Middle East Special Envoy decides to operate. That is a big unknown. This situation does not match in any way the "troubles" in Ireland, where he was acknowledged as a great success, as I see it.

Posted by: TheOldOne | Jan 25, 2009 3:00:45 AM | 45

it was not removed, here's the debka link>

1. Has the leadership role of Hamas been really recognized? (I did note that the illegally installed puppet leader of Gaza *Abass?* was not mentioned).

abbas was very much mentioned in the links on my posts, including debka and specifically check the jordan link for a more thorough flushing.

the theme of the conference was 'unity', not only of the arab states but between palestinians. abbas apparently asked for unity but brushed off turkeys offer to negotiate.

Abbas' aide, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, politely brushed off Turkish offers for mediation, saying that this would be the role of regional power Egypt.

"We are still ready for national reconciliation through Egyptian mediation," Abu Rdeineh said by telephone.

egypt has a puppet government not in sync w/its population albeit trusted by the US and israel. if abbas was true about wanting unification one would assume it wouldn't be bound by a negotiator w/an obvious bent towards fatah who is seen as a traitor by many palestinians.

wapo Obama's Signals on Middle East Scrutinized by All Sides (he sends envoy to palestine) is a worthwhile read, including the obviousness of this statement

Levy said that with an Israeli election set in February, Obama is unlikely to tip his hand on the evolving U.S. policy toward the region. After the election....."

that remains to be seen. the last section of the WAPO article


In the wake of the violence in Gaza, however, patience is running out in the Arab world. Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to the United States, published a sharply worded article in the Financial Times yesterday, warning that U.S.-Saudi relations were at risk over what he called the "butchery in Gaza" and the "sickening legacy" of the Bush administration.

Obama called Saudi King Abdullah yesterday and "underscored the importance of a strong U.S.-Saudi relationship," the White House said.

i wondered what they really discussed.

also, wrt feeding the folks at home in Israel what they want them to hear, it is valuable in assessing the distain for Mubarak in the arab world, the way israel slobbers all over him, and the way abbas clings to him as being the 'mediator' when he is in no way impartial or balanced. they should have accepted turkeys offer. if abbas are serious about the inclusion of hamas (which was his position at the summit) will the US/IS be pressed to deal w/democracy in palestine. if abbas knows he is 'in the bag' as the deal maker or breaker, and not in partnership w/hamas but instead israel, or egypt ot the US, this will not be fruitful. when abbas calls for unity and then elections, it will mean nothing if he looses, or the election is fixed (likely). he has to be willing to at least appear to be compromising w/hamas.

Hamas expressed a willingness to accept the presence of members of Abbas's presidential guard at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the Palestinians' only window to the outside world that does not go through Israel.

But Hamas wants to choose which members of the presidential guard will be stationed there, a non-starter for Israel.

Israeli officials said they were confident Obama and his envoy would shun Hamas. That policy was spearheaded by former President George W. Bush, whom critics accused of ignoring the conflict for too long.

why should this be a non starter. is israel picking and choosing which fatah members is its puppets.

so the division i see is the unity w/arab countries to unify palestine, the claims from abbas to want unity that isn't quite believeable if that unity means giving in to hamas one inch, the determination to sideline hamas by israel and perhaps obama, tho that remains to be seen imho.

Posted by: annie | Jan 25, 2009 2:33:20 PM | 46

asdf

Posted by: | Jan 31, 2009 5:43:28 PM | 47

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