Saudi Arabia slams Obama
From The Daily Mail:
Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,’ the source close to Saudi policy said. ‘Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.’
It was not immediately clear whether the reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.
The growing breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi prince criticized Obama’s Middle East policies, accusing him of ‘dithering’ on Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.
‘The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence.
Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its displeasure over Obama’s foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.
Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council’s failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now Lebanon adds:
But in the Middle East, hope was a far cry from the sentiment of many policy-makers in the region. Alarming reactions came from various Arab states, where the prospect of ending the 35-year-old hostility between the US and Iran is being interpreted as a major geostrategic shuffle in the world order. Saudi Arabia in particular refused to join the United Nations Security Council because it feels threatened by the US’ recent diplomatic outreach to its adversarial neighbor, Iran.
According to Johnathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, US foreign policy in the Middle East is at a turning point. “The administration seems to be so eager of disengaging from the region that it overlooks threats. Sometimes it even acknowledges them but allows them to continue. This is not a good sign for any of America’s allies in the [Middle East].”
Schanzer added, “I’ve been jokingly calling [US] foreign policy the Bizzaro doctrine; it plays off like the Seinfeld comedy show where everything that you think is going to happen, goes the exact opposite way. If you look at US foreign policy now, Iran appears to be pleased, the Syrian government appears to be pleased, even Sudan seems somewhat pleased.”
For the past few years, the Middle East had two main rivalries. Saudi Arabia on the one side felt reassured by its security alliance with the US. Iran, on the other, always played its Lebanese card (Hezbollah), and it slowly slid into a partnership with Russia.
Today, it is the Syrian war where the struggle for regional power is unfolding. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries back the insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, while Iran and Russia support the regime. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have asked the US to support military intervention in Syria and to aid the rebels. Iran and Russia, by contrast, have been supplying Syrian government forces with weapons and training.
But as policy-makers in Riyadh realized the US might not back Saudi Arabia’s regional aspirations, tensions have reached new heights between the two longtime allies. “The way Syria has been handled by Washington was a source of frustration for Riyadh. They have been begging Washington for intervention. The fact that Obama changed his mind again and again has triggered a lack of confidence from Saudi Arabia,” Schanzer said.
“For now, Saudi Arabia doesn’t have other choices. They don’t have other alliances that they can rely on. But what worries me now is that the Saudi [leadership] might choose other foreign policy options that take place more in the shadows. They might support radical groups and this would mean the return of the Saudi Arabia of the 1980s-1990s,” he added.
US diplomacy in the Middle East has been staggeringly incompetent.
But notice that even now, with Saudi Arabia and Israel on the same side of the Iran debate, the kingdom can’t resist pretending that the situation between Israel and the PLO is still a key component to the region. Arab regimes have known for years that they could get support for their positions by invoking Israel, and old habits die hard.