Wednesday, June 01, 2011

US-Saudi split

From WSJ, 27 May 2011, by MATTHEW ROSENBERG, JAY SOLOMON and MARGARET COKER:

Saudi Arabia is rallying Muslim nations across the Middle East and Asia to join an informal Arab alliance against Iran, in a move some U.S. officials worry could draw other troubled nations into the sectarian tensions gripping the Arab world.

Saudi officials have approached Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asian states to lend diplomatic support—and potentially military assistance in some cases—to help stifle a majority Shiite revolt in Sunni-led Bahrain, a conflict that has become a symbol of Arab defiance against Iran.

Saudi Arabia's efforts, though against a common enemy, signal increasing friction with the Obama administration....

Prince Bandar—who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for more than two decades—told the Pakistani generals that the U.S. shouldn't be counted on to restore stability across the Middle East ...
...Saudi officials said their campaign was broad. ..."All the major Muslim states are willing to commit to this issue if need be and asked by Saudi leadership."

The official said any potential Pakistani troops could be integrated into the 4,000-man force of mostly Saudi soldiers that deployed to Bahrain in March to defend the ruling Khalifa family against the popular domestic uprising against its rule.

...The military intervention was invited by Bahrain's Sunni monarchy, which accused Iran of driving the protest movement.....

Security forces from other Gulf Cooperation Council members joined Saudi troops in stifling the revolt, in what Saudi Arabia said was a message to Iran not to meddle in other nations' affairs. The GCC includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia has sought to expand the GCC to include Jordan and Morocco.

..Saudi diplomats said that after the GCC force entered Bahrain in March, Riyadh dispatched senior officials to Europe and Asia to explain the operation and try to galvanize support. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal traveled to Europe while Prince Bandar traveled to Asia.

Prince Bandar's stops included India, China, Pakistan and Malaysia. Prince Bandar, who has no spokesman, couldn't be reached for comment.

Malaysia, which is also Sunni-dominated, said this month it was willing to send troops to Bahrain, during a visit to Riyadh by Prime Minister Najib Razak. "Malaysia fully backs all sovereign decisions taken by Saudi Arabia and GCC states to safeguard the stability and security of the region in these trying times," Mr. Najib said in a statement.

...Military ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia go back decades. Pakistan receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Saudi aid, much of it in the form of subsidized oil.

The Saudi overture in Pakistan is a sign of how diplomatic friction in two distinct regions—the Middle East on one hand and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the other—could make it harder for the U.S. to pursue its goals of ending the conflict in Afghanistan, stabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan, limiting Iran's power and keeping a lid on violent turmoil in the Mideast.

Pakistani and U.S. relations were already souring in March before the U.S. raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, which Pakistan viewed as a violation of national sovereignty.

But Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, relies heavily on the U.S. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia's closest strategic partner. Last year Riyadh and Washington announced a planned $60 billion arms sale, the largest in U.S. history.

The U.S. provides Saudi Arabia and other allies in the region with an air and naval shield against possible attacks by Iran, with military bases in Qatar, Bahrain and the U.A.E.

Still, U.S.-Saudi relations have soured over the past decade. Saudi Arabia was opposed to the toppling of Iraq's Saddam Hussein because of his role as a bulwark against Iranian power. And Riyadh has been skeptical of the Obama administration's efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, among other disagreements.

Riyadh upset officials in Washington in another nominal proxy fight with Iran, in late 2009, when Saudi forces entered Yemen to clear rebels from their shared border. ...

...Saudis blame the U.S. in large part for abetting the push to topple Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. The Saudis saw him as the last strong Sunni hedge against Iranian influence and fear Egypt's new government will be too friendly with Tehran...

From The NYT, 27 May 2011, by :

...The Arab Spring began to unravel an alliance of so-called moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were willing to work closely with the United States and promote peace with Israel.

American support for the Arab uprisings also strained relations, prompting Saudi Arabia to split from Washington on some issues while questioning its longstanding reliance on the United States to protect its interests.       
The strained Saudi posture toward Washington was outlined in a recent opinion article by Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi analyst, in The Washington Post that suggested Riyadh was ready to go it alone because the United States had become an “unreliable partner.”...

From Bloomberg, 27 May 2011, by Alan Purkiss:

...Prince Bandar bin Sultan al Saud, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, asked Pakistani generals in March to support the intervention in Bahrain....

The prince told the generals that the U.S. shouldn’t be counted on to restore stability in the Middle East or safeguard Pakistan’s interests in south Asia...

From WSJ, 16 May 2011, by Nawaf Obaid, RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA:

A tectonic shift has occurred in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

...For more than 60 years, Saudi Arabia has been bound by an unwritten bargain: oil for security. Riyadh has often protested but ultimately acquiesced to what it saw as misguided U.S. policies. But ...the Saudis recalibrate the partnership, Riyadh intends to pursue a much more assertive foreign policy, at times conflicting with American interests.

The backdrop for this change are the rise of Iranian meddling in the region and the counterproductive policies that the United States has pursued here since Sept. 11.

The most significant blunder may have been the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in enormous loss of life and provided Iran an opening to expand its sphere of influence. For years, Iran’s leadership has aimed to foment discord while furthering its geopolitical ambitions. Tehran has long funded Hamas and Hezbollah; recently, its scope of attempted interference has broadened to include the affairs of Arab states from Yemen to Morocco.

This month the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, harshly criticized Riyadh over its intervention in Bahrain, claiming this act would spark massive domestic uprisings. Such remarks are based more on wishful thinking than fact, but Iran’s efforts to destabilize its neighbors are tireless.

As Riyadh fights a cold war with Tehran, Washington has shown itself in recent months to be an unwilling and unreliable partner against this threat.

The emerging political reality is a Saudi-led Arab world facing off against the aggression of Iran and its non-state proxies.

Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies — the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco.

In Yemen, the Saudis are insisting on an orderly transition of power and a dignified exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh (a courtesy that was not extended to Hosni Mubarak, despite the former Egyptian president’s many years as a strong U.S. ally).

To facilitate this handover, Riyadh is leading a diplomatic effort under the auspices of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council. In Iraq, the Saudi government will continue to pursue a hard-line stance against the Maliki government, which it regards as little more than an Iranian puppet.

In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia will act to check the growth of Hezbollah and to ensure that this Iranian proxy does not dominate the country’s political life.

Regarding the widespread upheaval in Syria, the Saudis will work to ensure that any potential transition to a post-Assad era is as peaceful and as free of Iranian meddling as possible.
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