Thursday, October 24, 2013

"US officials scoff at much of the Saudi concerns"

           ' ...  Regarding Syria, US officials point out that in stripping the Assad regime of its chemical weapons capability was “no small thing,” notes one veteran US official.  “Remember Saddam Hussein was willing to defy the international community in order to maintain the pretense of having a WMD capability.  It shows how important this kind of capability is to a regime like Assad’s, to its prestige. “  Another well-placed US official adds that this has occurred because the Russians have turned on their long time ally (haha).  Says a veteran observer, “Putin, of course, loves walking tall on the world stage, but he is also savvy enough to know that if Russia is to have any influence in Syria in the future, it cannot allow itself to be inextricably tied to Bashar al-Assad.”  This official goes so far as to say that there has been a “sea change” in Russian attitudes towards the Assad regime and adds that US experts now believe, given the pace of weapons’ inspectors efforts, it is, indeed, possible that the deadline of June 30, 2014 for the elimination of Syria’s Chemical weapons stockpile will be met..
            However, eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons capability, while something of a boon to Israeli planners, is of modest, if any interest to Saudi Arabia.  Their goal is nothing less than the quick elimination of the entire Assad regime.  And US officials were aware, long before the Saudis went public with their dismay over President Obama’s decision to embrace the Russian plan on chemical weapons, that Riyadh was extremely unhappy with US policy across the board.  Through private channels US officials heard of the Kingdom’s dismay, indeed, anger over the Administration’s handling of issues ranging from Egypt to Iraq to Bahrain and, of course, its never ending criticism of the Israeli-Palestinian question.  But veteran US officials scoff at much of the Saudi concerns.  They note that Iran [which has come to encapsulate much of the criticism inherent in Saudi displeasure in US policy] has been an overriding concern of US Administrations going back to 1979.  “The Saudis should remember we spent eight and half years fighting Iranian surrogates in Iraq,” notes one veteran US official.  “The problem with the Saudis as well as the rest of the Gulfis is that they think we are on the verge of `selling them out’ no matter how bad our relationship is with Iran.”
            US Gulf allies are also irritated with our handling of policy towards Egypt.  Even Administration supporters admit it is “No mean feat”, to cite just one veteran observer, “For the Administration to have managed to alienate every major segment of Egyptian society,” with its back and forth support for ancien regime players like General Sisi as well as the Moslem Brotherhood, best embodied by the one time elected President Morsi, who now sits in an army prison.  This has prompted the wealthy Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, to step into the breach and provide crucial economic assistance, some of which replaces cut backs by Washington.  But US officials say both the Gulfis and the Egyptian military are misreading the world in which they live today.  Says one veteran official, “These are different times and a different dynamic is at work throughout the region.  The Egyptian `deep state’ cannot cope with the trends at work now as in the past.”  This official adds, “Unfortunately, the Gulfis are putting too much credence in the overblown Egyptian media.  There are underlying trends that cannot be denied.”  One former US government expert on the gulf in general and Saudi Arabia in particular, put it this way, ”US-Saudi relations have always best been served when kept out sight.  These are two countries who need each other but are two societies that could not be further apart.”
            Israel, on the other hand, is in many ways, a reflection of the US.  A rambunctious democracy (haha) peopled by immigrants and manned by a military second to none, at least in its region.  But, Israel remains as deeply concerned about the course of US policy as does Saudi Arabia.... The Israelis also argue that now that Iran has been brought to the bargaining table because of the effects of economic sanctions, those sanctions should be increased [The US Senate is now working on such a measure].  The US counters, as one official puts it,  “We are looking at the best chance in a long time for a deal.”  And underlying all of Israel’s concerns is that especially after the Administration’s performance on Syria, as one well-placed Israeli put it, “[President] Obama may want to have Israel’s `back’, ultimately he will be unable to deliver.”  This, despite reports that after seeing that he could not get sufficient Congressional support for military action against Syria, the President told leading Members of the Senate that he would not seek such support should it become necessary to act militarily against Iran.'

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