Saud al-Faisal on “the threat”

"and the main worry of all the neighbors" was that the potential disintegration of Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states would "bring other countries in the region into the conflict."  Reuter and the NY Times.

Saud al-Faisal is one of the most careful, thoughtful men in the Middle East.  He came to Washington and New York to politely deliver the message that the disruptive, revolutionary policy of the United States is de-stabilizing the region and that a de-facto partitiion  of Iraq will lead to war across the Middle East on ethno-religious lines.

Yesterday, I sat with a member of the Saudi royal family to discuss this problem.  This American educated prince told me that the Saudi government is now very concerned about Iranian ambitions, not just in Iraq, but eventually throughout the area and especially with regard to the oil reserves in the Kingdom and the Islamic Holy places in the Hijaz.  He told me that American behavior is incomprehensible to the Saudis.

I have been told by American observers at the recent OPEC Vienna meeting and other recent meetings in the Gulf that the Iranian delegations at these meetings behaved with great arrrogance toward the Saudis, saying in private that they (Iran) will have Iraq and that the Saudis, and others, should adjust their positions accordingly.

We are going to reap the whirlwind.  There are those among us who probably think that will be good.  I do not.

Pat Lang

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22 Responses to Saud al-Faisal on “the threat”

  1. Geoff says:

    Why would someone think that this is good?

  2. Pat Lang says:

    Heard of “constructive instability?” pl

  3. nanook says:

    In many ways those with a reasonable understanding of history could see some of the possibilities of what the Iraq debacle adventure would wreak. Bush’s own father in his book outlined why he did not order the invasion of Baghdad and what some of the consequences could be. He was prescient. Iraq under Saddam was in many ways like Yugoslavia. Latent hatreds, ethnic and tribal allegiances, a very long history of battles and wounds all suppressed with fear. Bush in cahoots with Rove, Cheney and the neocons opened the Pandoras Box without a plan to keep the lid on. I still don’t get what their real motivation was, as I am certain they knew the weakness of intelligence relating to Iraqi WMD and role in 9/11. At best I can come up with hubris. At this stage I think the situation on the ground has moved past the ability of this Administration to influence. The Iraqi factions, Iran and others know that the US military cannot control and pacify all the urban areas in Iraq. It is going to require new leadership to pull together a coalition of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia to stabilize the situation if that is even possible. I hope Iran does not overreach, they cannot afford to as their own domestic situation is not exactly stable. Increased instability in any of these countries could really ignite the region into a maelstrom that cannot be controlled with western miltary power. China and Russia are already in the mix and so makes it even more complex.
    Those more wise and experienced should have ideas on ways that a semblance of stability can be achieved. It would be worth discussing those scenarios.

  4. Pat Lang says:

    He did not make the mess. He should not be required to “solve” it. pl

  5. nanook says:

    An article in the UK Times with the opinion that Iran has been the major beneficiary of deposing Saddam.,,251-1793148,00.html
    “THROUGH a combination of arms, money and political influence, Iran has established itself as one of the most powerful forces in postwar Iraq, where its Shia allies dominate local governments, the security services and parts of the economy.”
    Tougher language is being heard in the Arab world, where Iran has been a foe from the time of the Persians. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, said: “We fought a war together to keep Iran out of Iraq after Iraq was driven out of Kuwait. Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason.”
    Does Saudi Arabia have the military strength and domestic political ability to confront Iran?

  6. Some Guy says:

    I am not sure I can process all of this anymore, if I ever could. The combination of Iraq teetering, a region ready to be set ablaze, our Gulf Coast in ruins and about to suffer another drubbing, the bank shattered into dust, the broken political machinery of the nation throwing off wheels and gears . . . It is too much.
    Crisis is not really a suitable word but is seems like the only one that fits.
    A reactionary movement among republicans is lighting up in response to the reactionary neocon leadership, a recipe for still more ill-considered policies in an effort to get the stain of so many bad and incompetent decisions off the party. And the democrats appear to want to play angles on the schism rather than assert some leadership in opposition.
    What a bloody mess we have. How to begin to find a positive path? How many more years of crisis have we bought for ourselves and world? Unfathomable.

  7. ked says:

    well, I imagine the neocons are thrilled to add Arabia to the list… do you think they read the book, or just saw the movie?

  8. searp says:

    Maybe our policymakers perceive an opportunity instead of a problem. Iranian “meddling” in Iraq gives them a reason to formulate an aggressive policy towards Iran.

  9. Pat Lang says:

    Probably the movie, and are confused bacause Anthony Quinn doesn’t appear anymore. pl

  10. Pat Lang says:

    Thoughtful Eskimo
    There is no way that the Saudis could do anything meaningful against Iran. The principal problem that they have is the enormous disparity in population which is automatically reflected in military strength, pl

  11. Michael Murry says:

    As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger “Peace With Honor” Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-1972) I can’t help but view America’s current military misadventures (Iraq and Afghanistan) through the prism of my own life experience. I see the same yawning “credibility gap” disconnect between official government pronouncements and reality. I see the same shifting rationales as one “reason” after another explodes on contact with the awful truth. On the other hand, things look even worse today than they did then, so hopefully the collapse will come soon and we won’t have to waste too much more of our blood and money for nothing.

  12. Pat Lang says:

    I hear you, brother. I was in SOF there and in Phuoc Long for a year. pl

  13. rebecca says:

    I feel that the biggest difference between this situation and Vietnam is that this one is smack, dab in the cenrter of our strategic interests.

  14. Michael Murry says:

    I have no problem with the pursuit of national interests. It just pains me to see the needless repetition of classic Folly: what historian Barbara Tuchman called “the pursuit of policy contrary to self interest.”
    For example: Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld once ridiculed the idea that America had gone to war in Iraq because of its oil. As a “fungible” commodity, Rumsfeld said, anyone who had the oil would sell it on the open market. America would then pay what it cost to buy the oil. Therefore, Rumsfeld concluded, it made no sense for America to go to all the expense and bother of war for something it could just as easily — and much more cheaply — purchase.
    As a result of the American War on Iraq, however, destruction of Iraqi oil producing infrastructure has reduced the output of Iraqi oil. Less supply of oil on the world market — along with other destabilizing effects of the needless conflict — has resulted in oil costing twice as much per barrel as it did before we initiated the needless conflict. So America has lost thousands of its soldiers and paid hundreds of billions of dollars from its treasury all so that America could then pay twice as much for a barrel of oil? That sounds like Folly, pure and simple. Whatever one means by “interest,” this doesn’t look to me like pursuing it very sensibly.
    As another example: the current American government claims to not like Iran and its brand of Islamic Fundamentalism. Former American regimes didn’t either, so they had this policy of keeping Iraq too weak to invade its neighbors but strong enough to hold itself together and keep Iran in check. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein blew that “balance of power” policy all to hell and now we have Iranian Islamic Fundamentalism alive and flourishing in Southern Iraq. Again, America has lost thousands of its soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars just to get more of what it says it doesn’t want? Folly.
    As I said, I don’t have a problem with the pursuit of national interest. I do have a problem, though, with American governments that (1) can’t accurately identify them, (2) can’t competently pursue them, and (3) wouldn’t tell the American people the truth even if they could.
    The American government once identified Vietnam as a “vital” (meaning “a matter of life or death”) interest of America. As a result of this cosmic misidentification, I spent eighteen lousy months in Southeast Asia finding out that my government didn’t know its collective, strategic ass from the proverbial hole in the ground — national interest wise. Needless to say, I have never since had much confidence in what the American government considers either “vital” or even an “interest.”
    Anyway, as Pat Lang says, the Sunni Saudi Arabians now find themselves terrified of escalating chaos and an expanded Islamic Fundamentalism coming at them from Tehran through Shiite Southern Iraq. I have no love for the medieval Saudi monarchy and its 7,000 pampered princes, but I would say that Saudi oil consitutes a very important “interest” for America as long as it gets on the market so we and others can buy it. Whether America can find itself a government capable of managing that interest remains the big question in my mind. So far, the signs don’t look too promising.

  15. J says:

    politicans and their ‘tunes’
    our wunnerful politco types, you know the ones who sing the pro-bush pro-iraq tune. howz about somebody grabbing them by their short hairs, shove them inside the next 130 outbound for the green zone, when they get there shove an m16, flak vest into their prim uncalloused hands and stick their booty on the next patrol hunting for ieds. let them eat the iraq sand flies for a year to 18 months and then ask them question — is iraq still a vital national interest.
    think they’d change their tune?

  16. rebecca says:

    Mr. Murray:
    You misunderstand me. My point is that we’ve created a witches brew right on our vital interests.
    We could walk away from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and not really suffer. If this explodes we have major problems.
    And I don’t have the slightest clue on what to do.

  17. rebecca says:

    The problem is that it isn’t just Iraq. Iran is pulled into this thing. Saudi princes are suggesting their fellow Sunnis are being oppressed, this could be a new Palestine or Kashmir for rubbing up tensions.
    And this is where the world’s oil comes from.

  18. J says:

    depending on mideast oil is not in our national security nor national interests. we don’t have to, and the oil barons know it. there are reserves on the planet which by their location, prevents the u.s. from international blackmail, the oil barons and our politicos know it as well. it’s all about greed, and the fact that they don’t want to spend anymore for extraction than what is absolutely necessary. oil/refining shortage and oil crisis are two of the biggest lies on the planet today. there is no need for oil being over $30 a barrel, except for greed and the oil barons wanting to condition the u.s. consumers to accept extortion prices. our media is going along with the big lie, hook, line, and sinker.

  19. Michael Murry says:

    Rebecca and J:
    I certainly agree that the Bush administration has made a royal mess of things in the Middle East — especially Iraq. I also agree that over-dependence on (and wasteful consumption of) oil and other fossil fuels makes America more vulnerable to instability in the Middle East.
    Having said all that, however, it remains now for America to extricate itself from a bad and deteriorating position. America can certainly reassess and reprioritize its interests: but not from a position that cannibalizes its military and drains its treasury. Sometimes a military-political position becomes untenable and one has to retreat and regroup. I consider this just such a time.
    I have no confidence whatsoever in the people now running the American government. Yes, they have made a mess through ignorance, incompetence, and mendacity; but who then would trust these same Keystone Cops to straighten things out? The Iraqi people themselves — and their neighbors — have a much more important role to play than we do. They live in that region and show no indication of going anywhere anytime soon. They know the place and the players. We don’t. We have proven that.
    During the American War on Vietnam, we had more available military manpower and a willingness to raise taxes to pay for our misadventure — so it went on far longer than it would have otherwise. Today, we have no additional manpower resources (in fact, they have begun to dwindle) and the American people won’t pay a dime of additional taxes to finance any of this. Resources have run out and now this lack of human and financial resources will drive events to their conclusion. Reality has intruded on the deluded neocon fantasy.
    Other people will figure this out and America will watch — in impotent rage or indifference — while they do. We had our chance to leave bad enough alone; but we didn’t, and so we have only made things worse. Now, all we can do is redeploy such assets as we can afford to maintain to positions where they can at least have a marginally beneficial effect. We don’t control things anymore — if we ever did. We just need to recognize that fact and deal with those who do.

  20. rebecca says:

    Mr. Murry:
    I think you may be too optimistic. I am uncertain that we can extradite ourselves from the problems.
    Yes we can possibly withdraw troops, but we have then created an extened Iranian alliance with increasingly strong ties to China and Russia in central Asia. We leave a simmering conflict in the west which may radicalize our existing allies as they struggle for survival against domestic pressures. And we quite possibly lay the grounds for a new Afghanistan providing terrorist infrastructure for various factions.
    I do not claim that holdin the course is a better solution. The situation might collapse around us. I do say we face tensions and possible oil cutbacks from several sources and one can lecture all day or night on how it was stupid to get so dependant, but the world is dependant and these people have the power to smash the world economy. And it is highly questionable that we have the governmental fiscal resources to weather the consequences.

  21. J Thomas says:

    Rebecca, I’m afraid anybody who’s paying attention is bound to be real frustrated about now.
    Bush is like a CEO. As far as he’s concerned, the military is like a big expensive subsidiary that did a major product rollout which bombed. He can’t sell it off because nobody would buy it. He can’t afford to write it off particularly since so many stockholders are fond of it. So he tries to ignore it.
    Nobody else can take initiative without his permission, and he just isn’t interested. Iraq was supposed to be Mission Accomplished a long time ago, it was supposed to be making money by now. It didn’t work out, it’s boring, why won’t we all just pay attention to tax cuts or something new?
    Ideally the Bush administration would start paying attention. Failing that, here’s my most optimistic scenario: House republicans, all of whom are out unless they win in November 2006, see the war is hurting their chances. They privately give Bush an offer; if he gets us completely out of iraq well before the election they won’t impeach him. He caves in and does it, without a whole lot of explanation. “The iraqis are ready to stand on their own feet now, and they asked us to go. We did the right thing going in there and we did the right thing leaving them when they asked us to.”
    After that, regardless who wins in 2006, regardless whether Bush or Cheney get impeached, regardless who winds up being president until 2008, nobody can really take much initiative. The president won’t have a mandate and neither will anybody else. We’ll be running on autopilot for 2+ years. In 2009 we’ll be ready to do something.
    The CIA won’t run rogue while supervised — Bush has already gutted it. The military will have a couple of years of stasgnant budgets and not much interference, they can try to recover and plan the real re-organization that Rumsfeld interrupted.
    Short of the administration waking up, this is the best I can imagine. They pull the troops out of iraq in one last gasping flounder and then do essentially nothing the rest of their term.
    The world will just have to manage without our intervention for a couple of years, and we’ll figure out how to start picking up the pieces in 2009.
    I hate it that this is the optimistic side. But there it is. I just don’t see a better line.
    Like, say we got undoubted proof that the 2004 election was rigged, and the courts accepted the proof, and …. I don’t know what would happen but it doesn’t look like an improvement. Bring in Kerry for president? Assuming he could actually do things, what could he do that would matter? More likely we’d have a lot of governmental chaos for quite awhile.
    Nobody but Bush *can* lead in the short run. And Bush *must not* lead.
    And all the world problems that will get worse without competent US action? We can wait and hope they turn out OK. Maybe in 2009 competent US action will go unpunished.

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