Joe Klein of Time magazine said today on the Chris Matthews show that Cheney was "summoned" to Riyadh. There has been a lot of talk about the vice president’s trip to Saudi Arabia. The White House has wanted it to be believed that Cheney went about the Middle East "lining up" the Sunni leaders to support the Zelikow plan for further empowerment of the Shia Arabs against the Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq. Klein, who is generally well informed about such matters, says that the opposite is true, that in fact King Abdullah summoned Cheney to Riyadh to tell him in person that such a policy "might" force the Saudi government to give all possible assistance to the Sunni Arab population in defending itself. That means the insurgents. Now, that sounds like the truth. The Saudi ambassador denies this scenario, but, he would, wouldn’t he? He also says the Obeid op/ed last week which threatened covert Saudi intervention had nothing to do with the Saudi government. Anyone who is familiar with the way the Saudis "operate" knows how unlikely that is.
The great untruth on which the Bush project in Iraq was founded was the notion that Iraq and its people were a "nation." As I have said many times before, the "Bush Iraq Project" interrupted the fitful progress of the "Historic Iraq Project." That project had sought for most of a century to weld the disparate peoples of Iraq into a nation. The "Historic Iraq Project" had been partially successful in that some Iraqis had come to think of themselves as primarily Iraqi. Many had not. The Iraqi nationalists were primarily secular and concentrated in the functions of government. We got rid of them in the CPA period. We shoved them out the door of the new government and its organs. What is left in the Iraqi political process is predominately sectarian or ethnic in self-identification. The present government is a Shia sectarian government with Kurds and Sunni Arabs added to the melange as "symbolic" tokens. The same thing is true of the "Iraqi" police and army. Everyone in Iraq knows that. We have now spent a great deal of money and time in building those forces. In spite of that effort we and the "Iraqis" have not been able to defeat the Sunni insurgent forces in their many varieties.
Our response to that failure seems to be that we will now drop any real effort to mediate among the peoples of Iraq and will back the Shia Arabs "to the knife." What will that mean exactly? We are already giving full support to the Maliki government. Does it mean that we will "green light" what some are calling the "Salvador" model? If it does, then we should expect that the Sunni Islamic World will rise up against us with a ferocity that we have not yet seen. pl