Saturday, January 16, 2010

No Joy in Riyadh

According to an article on, Saudi King Abdullah has failed to put together a coalition similar to the coalition that allowed the current Lebanese government to be formed.

articlemakes several points none of which are particularly good for the United States and the Middle East.

1. For the second time in three months, he embarked on an action that required Riyadh to publicly concede that nothing can be achieved in the Middle East these days without Iran’s nod. (Bold mine.)

The Saudi monarch went ahead with his Palestinian maneuver, after listening politely to the visiting US National Security Adviser James Jones expounding on administration policy on Iran in Riyadh Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Then too he was not convinced Washington would pursue any effective policy against Iran and its nuclear program, any more than he had trusted the assurances given him last year by President Barak Obama in person, defense secretary Robert Gates or presidential envoy Dennis Ross.

This mistrust was summed up in Abdullah’s recent remark: “We have heard enough words from you [Washington]. Action we have yet to see.” (Bold Mine.)

Analysis. The Saudis have severe problems on all of their borders as well as internally.

DEBKAfile’s Saudi experts report that the Saudi military has meanwhile returned to the Yemen battlefield against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north, less than a month after striking a deal guaranteed by the Syrian president for a Saudi troop pull-out from Yemen to be matched by a Houthi withdrawal from Saudi territory.

Abdullah made the mistake of counting on Assad’s word binding Tehran too as the Yemeni rebels’ sponsor. But the departing Houthis turned round and quickly regained their former positions in the southern Saudi provinces.

The Saudis are doing their best to get the “Palestinians” unified so that they can negotiate with Israel over a Palestinian state. They really want to put an end to that festering sore.

But Iran will not accept any Palestinian coalition that does not put the “rejectionist” faction foremost in the PLO. It is doubtful that the Fatah faction under Abbas would accept this and there is a whole lot of doubt that Israel would negotiate with Khaled Mashaal siting across the table from Benyamin Netanyahu.

What the Saudis want to see is some action from the United States that implies American willingness to take a risk to shut down the Iranian nuclear program. Not from this administration.

This is not an administration that is willing to consider the judicious use of force when it is absolutely required. Nor is this administration willing to challenge the People’s Republic of China where their national interests in the form of energy are at stake.

There are news reports that the PRC is sending a low level diplomat to the advisors level 5+1 talks at the UN this weekend. The PRC has made its position quite clear that it does not support anything that resembles effective sanctions. The PRC will not support any actions that might cause the Iranians to even threaten to close the Straits of Hormuz.

As long as the Saudis see Iran as the eventual winner in the contest between the United States and Israel against Iran, they will defer to the Iranians.

The Saudis realize that this is a dangerous move for them in both secular and religious terms. The Wahabbist Saudis certainly do not want the Shiites to become the ascendant sect of Islam.

Nor do Arabs think highly of Persians. Both sides realize that eventually there must be another religious war on the order of Mutawiya against Ali. That war will not remain within the confines of the Middle East.

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