Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Real Saudi Warning or Just Posturing?

In an interview with--no, not Arabic media, but the Financial Times, former Saudi intel chief Prince Turki made the following highly unusual (someone tell me if they were in fact unprecedented in their bluntness for a Saudi official) criticisms of U.S. policy on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute:

1. 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.

2. America is not innocent in this calamity. Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region, but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents. 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 revise drastically its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

3. President Barack Obama [should] condemn Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians and support a UN resolution to that effect; condemn the Israeli actions that led to this conflict, from settlement building in the West Bank to the blockade of Gaza and the targeted killings and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians; declare America’s intention to work for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, with a security umbrella for countries that sign up and sanctions for those that do not; call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Shab’ah Farms in Lebanon; encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations for peace; and support a UN resolution guaranteeing Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Mr Obama should strongly promote the Abdullah peace initiative, which calls on Israel to pursue the course laid out in various international resolutions and laws: to withdraw completely from the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, returning to the lines of June 4 1967; to accept a mutually agreed just solution to the refugee problem according to UN resolution 194; and to recognise the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, there would be an end to hostilities between Israel and all Arab countries, and Israel would get full diplomatic and normal relations.

4. 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.

It seems curious that Turki would select the Financial Times to make a warning that was just intended as posturing to satisfy Saudis angry about Gaza, so just possibly this constitutes a real message that the Saudis have had enough. Time will tell. Can Washington afford to gamble?

1 comment:

John Burgess said...

Actually, it's not surprising that Pr. Turki would choose the Financial Times. He was Saudi Ambassador to the UK, after all, and has many contacts in the British media.

Nor is his warning 'unprecedented'. The Saudis gave a similar warning to the US in 2002, urging the US to do something about Palestine.

You can read more about Turki's warning here, if you're interested. I blog about Saudi Arabia and US-Saudi relations at Crossroads Arabia. There's a lot going on there that doesn't quite make it into the Western media, to our detriment.