You Can't 'Misunderestimate' This!
Today, NYT reports that Arab diplomats agree that Obaid nailed the Saudi contingency plan.
Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.On top of that, Saudi imams have been calling Sunnis to the battlements, to fight Shiite/Iranian attacks on Iraq's minority Sunni population.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.
The Saudi warning reflects fears among America’s Sunni Arab allies about Iran’s rising influence in Iraq, coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. King Abdullah II of Jordan has also expressed concern about rising Shiite influence, and about the prospect that the Shiite-dominated government would use Iraqi troops against the Sunni population.
Obaid wrote that Saudi Arabia would be willing to slash oil prices to cripple Iran's economy. Read the other side of that and the obvious conclusion is that the Sunni oil producers might also be willing to increase prices dramatically to get Washington's attention about the seriousness with which they view the threat of a crumbling Iraq.
Cheney's visit to Saudi Arabia is an indication that Bush isn't "misunderestimating" the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, the new Dem leadership in Congress -- a leadership that was eager to move cut-and-runner John Murtha into a position of more power -- doesn't seem to get it yet.
And no, their anticipated answer, "The Saudis were OK with Iraq when Saddam was in power so screw 'em," isn't sufficient. First, it's wrong, as strong support for the war among the Sunni Gulf oil countries indicates.
Second, the "stupid" war in Iraq has set up a not at all undesirable confrontation between Iran and most of the rest of the Arab world. We gave the Shiites and the Sunnis the opportunity to behave like grown-ups, and we need to let them continue to try.
Either they will, and it will be a model for the rest of the Arab world, or they won't, and Islam -- not just Iraq -- will fall into a bloody, bloody intra-religious war -- which just might be the only way for this dysfunctional religion to reform itself.
Related Tags: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Islam, Foreign policy