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NYTimes.com Article: Saudi to Warn Bush of Rupture Over Israel Policy
by swsystem
25 April 2002 02:12 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by swsystem@aol.com.


"This is not a mistake or a policy gaffe," the person close to Abdullah said, 
referring to Mr. Bush's approach. "He made a strategic, conscious decision to 
go with Sharon, so your national interest is no longer our national interest; 
now we don't have joint national interests. What it means is that you go your 
way and we will go ours, economically, militarily and politically  and the 
antiterror coalition would collapse in the process."

Lots of talk from the Europeans, now some talk from the Saudis.  But will any 
of them go their own way?  And what would that look like?

Steven Sherman

swsystem@aol.com

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Saudi to Warn Bush of Rupture Over Israel Policy

April 25, 2002 

By PATRICK E. TYLER


 

HOUSTON, April 24 - Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
is expected to tell President Bush in stark terms at their
meeting on Thursday that the strategic relationship between
their two countries will be threatened if Mr. Bush does not
moderate his support for Israel's military policies, a
person familiar with the Saudi's thinking said today. 

In a bleak assessment, he said there was talk within the
Saudi royal family and in Arab capitals of using the "oil
weapon" against the United States, and demanding that the
United States leave strategic military bases in the region.


Such measures, he said, would be a "strategic debacle for
the United States." 

He also warned of a general drift by Arab leaders toward
the radical politics that have been building in the Arab
street. 

The Saudi message contained undeniable brinkmanship
intended to put pressure on Mr. Bush to take a much larger
political gamble by imposing a peace settlement on Israelis
and Palestinians. 

But the Saudi delegation also brought a strong sense of the
alarm and crisis that have been heard in Arab capitals. 

"It is a mistake to think that our people will not do what
is necessary to survive," the person close to the crown
prince said, "and if that means we move to the right of bin
Laden, so be it; to the left of Qaddafi, so be it; or fly
to Baghdad and embrace Saddam like a brother, so be it.
It's damned lonely in our part of the world, and we can no
longer defend our relationship to our people." 

Whatever the possibility of bluster, it is also clear that
Abdullah represents not just Saudi Arabia but also the
broader voice of the Arab world, symbolized by the peace
plan he submitted and that was endorsed at an Arab summit
meeting in March. 

Those familiar with the prince's "talking points" said he
would deliver a blunt message that Mr. Bush is perceived to
have endorsed - despite his protests to the contrary -
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's military incursion into the
West Bank. 

Abdullah believes Mr. Bush has lost credibility by failing
to follow through on his demand two weeks ago that Mr.
Sharon withdraw Israeli troops from the West Bank and end
the sieges of Yasir Arafat's compound in Ramallah and of
the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. 

If those events occur and Mr. Bush makes a commitment "to
go for peace" by convening an international conference, as
his father did after the Persian Gulf war, to press for a
final settlement and a Palestinian state, the Saudi view
would change dramatically. 

But those close to the Saudi delegation said there was no
expectation that Mr. Bush is prepared to apply the pressure
necessary to force such an outcome. 

"The perception in the Middle East, from the far left to
the far right, is that America is totally sponsoring Sharon
- not Israel's policies but Sharon's policies - and anyone
who tells you less is insulting your intelligence," the
person familiar with Abdullah's thinking said. 

Western analysts see the prince as a blunt Bedouin leader
whose initiative is regarded by many Arabs as a gesture
worthy of the late Egyptian leader Anwar el-Sadat, who flew
to Jerusalem in 1973 to sue for peace with Menachem Begin.
Abdullah's offer, now the Arab world's offer, calls for
recognition of Israel and "normal relations" in return for
a Palestinian state on lands Israel occupied in 1967. 

The Saudi assessment was apparently being conveyed through
several private channels. 

On Tuesday President Bush's father had lunch with the Saudi
foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, and the kingdom's
longtime ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin
Sultan. Their specific message could not be learned, but in
the familial setting, where Barbara Bush was also the
hostess for Princess Haifa, Prince Bandar's wife, the
strong strategic and personal ties of the Persian Gulf war
that characterized Saudi-American relations a decade ago
was a message in itself. 

Abdullah, in a luncheon today with Vice President Dick
Cheney, was to convey the seriousness with which he regards
the Thursday meeting with President Bush as a "last chance"
for constructive relations with the Arab world. 

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B.
Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also flew to
Houston to join in last-minute discussions before the
summit meeting. A senior official in Washington said Mr.
Rumsfeld and General Myers were dispatched to brief the
prince personally on the American accomplishments in
Afghanistan and in the broader war on terrorism. 

"The idea was, if he thought we were strong in Desert
Storm, we're 10 times as strong today," one official said.
"This was to give him some idea what Afghanistan
demonstrated about our capabilities." 

United States military commanders in the Persian Gulf
region have been building up command centers and equipment
depots in Qatar and Kuwait in recent months in anticipation
of a possible breach with Riyadh. 

Saudi officials assert that American presidents since
Richard M. Nixon have been willing to speak more forcefully
to Israeli leaders than the current president when American
interests were at stake. 

"If Bush freed Arafat and cleared Bethlehem, it would be a
big victory, show a stiffening of spine," the person close
to Abdullah said. "But incremental steps are no longer
valid in these circumstances," meaning that Mr. Bush would
have to follow up with a major push to fulfill the
longstanding expectation of the Palestinians for statehood.


The mood in the Saudi camp was that of gloom and anxiety in
private even as Saudi and American officials went ahead
with preparations for a warm public encounter with the Bush
family. 

On Friday, after his meeting with President Bush at his
home in Crawford, Abdullah is to take a long train ride to
College Station, the central Texas town where the former
President Bush will be host at his presidential library. On
Saturday, Saudi's Arabia's state oil company is gathering
the luminaries of the international energy industry to dine
with Abdullah and his party. 

But the person close to the prince said that if the summit
talks went badly, Abdullah might not complete his stay in
Texas. Instead, he might return directly to Riyadh and call
for a summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, to report to its 44 leaders, who represent 1.2
billion Muslims. 

"He wants to say, `I looked the president of the U.S. in
the eye and have to report that I failed,' " this person
said. His message to the Arabs will be, "Take the
responsibility in your own hands, my conscience is clear,
before history, God, religion, country and friends." 

The person close to Abdullah pointed out that Saudi
Arabia's recent assurances that it would use its surplus
oil-producing capacity to blunt the effects of Saddam
Hussein's 30-day suspension of Iraqi oil exports could
quickly change. 

That Saudi pledge "was based on a certain set of
assumptions, but if you change the assumptions, all bets
are off," he said. "We would no longer say what Saddam said
was an empty threat, because there come desperate times
when you give the unthinkable a chance." 

Abdullah is reported to be bitter over the White House's
assertion that the president is taking a balanced approach
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he wants to
evaluate in person whether Mr. Bush understands how his
actions are being perceived in the Arab world. 

"This is not a mistake or a policy gaffe," the person close
to Abdullah said, referring to Mr. Bush's approach. "He
made a strategic, conscious decision to go with Sharon, so
your national interest is no longer our national interest;
now we don't have joint national interests. What it means
is that you go your way and we will go ours, economically,
militarily and politically - and the antiterror coalition
would collapse in the process."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/25/international/middleeast/25SAUD.html?ex=1020700594&ei=1&en=6a780b53df7d7302



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