Inkyk–the Australian-born protégé of indicted AIPAC official Steven Rosen, former US Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, and current director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy–has welcomed signs that the Bush administration is looking to forge a US-Israeli-Arab front to challenge Iran.
Hence the recent cheerleading for Bush’s anti-Shiite tilt in Iraq from Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, Indyk’s Brookings brothers.
Indyk is even more blunt in a recent Op-Ed published in The Age (Australia), entitled “Securing the Arab World.”
By insisting on elections and reinforcing the power of a Shiite Government in Iraq, the US has exacerbated Sunni-Shiite conflict…
For some time Sunni Arab leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan had been warning that a Shiite arc was spreading its influence across the region….
They found it unacceptable that a Shiite-dominated, historically Persian Iran should blatantly interfere with Arab Iraq, Arab Lebanon and Arab Palestine and attempt to become the arbiter of Arab interests….
Given these Arab concerns, the Shiite rise presents the US and Israel with a measure of opportunity. The only way Sunni Arab leaders can counter Iran’s bid for regional dominance is by securing US and Israeli actions….
Presumably, then, Indyk is well pleased by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s efforts to use the promise of US military aid to construct an Arab-Israeli, anti-Iranian regional bloc.
The conventional wisdom appears to be that Arab leaders will welcome this strategic alignment. An Associated Press report suggests the formation of the anti-Iranian bloc is a slam dunk.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia for a rare joint lobbying effort…
The Cabinet secretaries also will try to solidify what the U.S. sees as a bulwark of generally moderate Arab states against an increasingly ambitious and unpredictable Iran.
Unity against Iran is not a hard sell….
While the Saudis may not actually go so far as to refuse the US military aid, I’m not sure the Saudis are sold on the Iran plan.
Saudi King Abdullah has not yet embraced the Bush administration’s talking points on Iran, Lebanon, or Palestine.
Indeed, a case could be made that Secretary of State Rice–and Zionists like Martin Indyk–are dreaming of (and promoting military aid to…) a different Saudi King than the one who currently occupies the throne.
Saudi King Abdullah has refused to cooperate with the US in any of its major proxy wars against Iran. Instead, the King has consistently favored dialogue over confrontation with Iran.
Saudi Resistance in Lebanon
In Lebanon, Abdullah did everything he could to kill the anti-Iranian Cedar Revolution and to foster unity between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Saudi-backed Siniora government.
Saudi Resistance in Palestine
King Abdullah’s “Mecca Agreement” fostered unity within the Palestinian Authority between Iranian-backed Hamas and the Saudi-backed Abbas government, even as the Bush administration encouraged Abbas to launch a proxy war against Iran in Gaza.
When Hamas defeated Fatah in the Gaza proxy war, the US pressed for Fatah and Abbas to completely isolate Hamas.
There are important indications, however, that King Abdullah continues to resist US efforts to isolate Hamas.
The US may have Egyptian support for the anti-Iranian effort, but a rift might have developed between the Saudis and the Egyptians in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas victory in Gaza.
In late June, the Associated Press reported on the split:
Egypt and Saudi Arabia may not be seeing eye-to-eye over how to deal with the inter-Palestinian rivalry — with Cairo feeling its traditional leading mediator role has been sidelined by Riyadh’s growing influence.
In March, Saudi Arabia — not Egypt — managed to bring Hamas and Fatah leaders to Mecca for a reconciliation agreement. Since then, relations between the two nations have been cool, with Egyptian state-owned media recently reported that Saudi Arabia was undermining Cairo’s position.
In early July, Reuters affirmed the Saudi position:
[Israeli] officials said some Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, opposed U.S.-supported efforts to isolate Hamas following its defeat of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group in Gaza last month…
In remarks to Reuters in Riyadh, Saudi political commentator Adel al-Harbi, an editor at the semi-official al-Riyadh daily… said King Abdullah was trying “to get the Palestinian factions to come together in a unity government” again, due to his objections to the political split between Gaza and the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.
“Saudi Arabia is against the idea of two authorities, one in Gaza and one in Ramallah … that’s not Saudi Arabia’s policy,” Harbi said.
Even as Abbas wraps himself in the security of US and Israeli support he has been snubbed by Saudi King. Moreover, Abdullah has pressed–against the objections of the PLO–for an Arab League commission to investigate the events leading to the showdown in Gaza.
Saudi Resistance in Iraq
As I suggested in a previous post, there are signs that within the Saudi royal family, King Abdullah represents a position that is relatively soft on Iran but hard on Iraqi Shiite rule.
It would not be surprising, then, if Secretary of State Rice receives something of a lukewarm response to her request that Arab leaders rally around the Shiite-led Maliki government in Iraq.
Dreaming of a Crown Prince?
Martin Indyk may fancy himself the next Lawrence of Arabia, but Saudi King Abdullah seems unwilling to play the role of the cooperative Hashemite, Faisal bin Hussein.
Is the US really throwing massive amounts of military aid toward a leader who seems so resistant to the American agenda in the Middle East?
Perhaps Indyk and the Bush administration are merely naive about Abdullah.
Or maybe all that US military aid is meant to strengthen a specific element of the Saudi kingdom, the defense establishment headed by Crown Prince Sultan and the National Security Council, heading by Sultan’s son, Prince Bandar.
Is it possible that Indyk and the Bush administration are already dreaming of the next Saudi King should something untoward happen to King Abdullah?