Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Saudi Arabia: Street Cred

From Informed Comment

The New Middle East Cold War: Saudi/Israel/Lebanon versus Iran/Syria/Iraq/Hizbullah

Helene Cooper with Hassan Fattah of the NYT has the scoop that Saudi King Abdullah told US VP Dick Cheney two weeks ago that if the US withdrew precipitately from Iraq, the kingdom would have little choice but to support the Sunni Arab guerrillas. The Saudi government had pledged to the US not to do so as long as US troops were in Iraq. But it is alleged that Saudi oil millionaires privately already send money to the guerrillas. Saudis, as Wahhabi Muslims, belong to a sect that is to the right of Sunnism. But the Wahhabi tradition dislikes Shiites and in any Sunni-Shiite struggle, the Wahhabis will come in on the Sunni side.

This item is no surprise, of course, and I have brought up this likelihood a number of times myself. What is remarkable is that it is being stated by the Saudi leadership and published in the press. The Saudis are usually circumspect. If they are leaking this sort of thing, their hair must be on fire with anxiety.

This public posturing is no surprise. There is now jockeying to see who will take control of the situation in Iraq. Iran, Saudi Arabia, or al Qaeda.

There is a lot of talk about how the Saudis are worried about Iran but this is not the case as much as they are worried about an al Qaeda friendly Iraq (on their border). The Saudi royals know that an al Qaeda's goal is to take them down and they need to show some "street cred" in Iraq to head off this challenge.

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