Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saudi press: The problem is Bush

Here's the first sentence from the lead editorial in the Saudi regime-oriented newspaper Al-Riyadh today:
President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI are visiting our region trying to undo their errors, for instance the former has learned that when you plunge politically and militarily into an abyss of tensions, then finding the way out is going to require something far different than occupation, and [far different than] looking at the Palestinian situation as an ordinary case of troublemakers and terrorists, as Israel insists, on the one side, and absolute force on the other, the latter driven by historic hatreds, and there is the collapse of the situation in Iraq, representing the Bush administration's worst reversal, so that this visit has its origins in domestic politics in America, as well as the politics of the region, which represents the most dangerous of the challenges facing Bush in the remainder of his presidency . . .
The dots are in the original. The spotlight is on Bush; on the facile use of military occupation; on the exploitation of ancestral hatreds and namecalling; on the question how he is now going to extricate himself from these problems of his own making. The tone is not one of panic over the fate of Iraqi Sunnis, as the Washington rumor-mill has been suggesting. The tone is that of quiet anger. Let's look at another Saudi paper, Al-Jazeera (no relation to the more famous satellite TV people operating out of Qatar). Here's the start of the Bush-Mideast summary on their international news page:
Iran agreed on Tuesday to talk to Washington about Iraq, and confirmed its readiness to assist in Iraq, but it conditioned this on the withdrawal of the American forces, which it accused of supporting Baathists and spreading divisions and chaos in the country. An Iranian official told Al-Jazeera that the Talabani delegation brought a proposal for Iranian talks with Washington, and he said Iran has agreed to assist the Americans in withdrawing from Iraq and restoring [normal]conditions in for Iraqis.
Bush finally has his say in the second half of the fifth paragraph, his points being that most of the current violence in Iraq is sectarian, and he will not order US troops to withdraw until the mission is completed, implicitly presenting these as clear non-sequiturs in the context of any discussion of regional cooperation. The implicit point here is the same as in the Al-Riyadh editorial: the underlying problem has a name, and the name is Bush.

Which in turn suggests that the Saudi intelligensia (can I use that word?) perhaps sees itself more in the role of a critical observer, than in the role of the half-crazed partisan which is so often assigned to them.