Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tobin - Saudi Bluff on Palestinians Fools No One

Jonathan S. Tobin
12 September '11


(Yesterday I posted Caroline Glick's "Saudi Arabia's exploitation of Palestinian UN bid". Here by point of comparison, is Jonathan Tobin's comments addressing the same editorial, but arriving at a different conclusion. Yosef)

It appears the Palestinian Authority isn’t the only Middle East party playing liar’s bluff. In today’s New York Times op-ed page, former Saudi Ambassador to the United States Turki Al-Faisal writes if the Obama administration vetoes a motion recognizing a unilateral Palestinian declaration of an independent state, it will mean the end of the U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Al-Faisal’s threats are patently absurd. The Saudis need U.S. power as a shield against both Iran and al-Qaeda just as much if not more than Americans need Saudi oil. But the main conclusion to be drawn from this threat is not so much about the Saudi devotion to the Palestinian cause, which we know is mere lip service. The interesting thing is what it says about the Saudis’ opinion of President Obama. For such a threat — albeit one without much credibility — to be issued by a prominent member of the royal family and the regime illustrates how weak they think Obama really is.

As to Al-Faisal’s threat the Saudis will break their alliance with the United States for the sake of a doomed and counter-productive diplomatic gambit by the Palestinians, they’re fooling no one. Talk about a more “independent” foreign policy by Saudi Arabia is just that: talk. The Saudis desperately need to keep America engaged in the Persian Gulf to keep their Iranian rivals at bay. Without the United States, upon who will the Saudis depend to guarantee their security? Let’s remember that al-Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalists are a greater threat to the Saudi monarchy than anyone else. It is their shaky regime that will suffer the most if they pursue policies, as Al-Faisal threatens, that undermine stability in Iraq and Afghanistan merely for the sake of pique over the Palestinians.

Let’s also dispense with Al-Faisal’s eyewash about Saudi dedication to the rights of the Palestinians. The Saudis know the Palestinians’ UN gambit is an attempt to evade negotiations, not a path to peace. Rather than wasting time trying to persuade the U.S. to back a plan that will guarantee conflict and further instability, the Saudis should have leaned on their Palestinian Authority clients to back off, because the only winners from this initiative will be Iran and Hamas. They will benefit from the violence that failure in New York will set off.

That brings us back to the Saudi evaluation of Obama. For them to believe the administration would even for a minute think about backing off on a veto that is as necessary to defend American interests in the region as it is for Israel because of a blatantly insincere threat from Riyadh is testimony to their low opinion of the president. Obama came into office believing he would transform the world’s opinion of America due to the force of his personality. Al-Faisal’s contemptuous essay is merely the latest evidence demonstrating how in less than three years he has won over no new friends and alienated virtually all of America’s allies.

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