Monday, January 29, 2007

Saudi bigshot presents the hard-line interpretation of the king's interview remarks

Mamoun Fandy is a former senior fellow at the James A Baker III Institute of Public Policy and now a columnist for Asharq al-Awsat, a paper run by Salman bin Abdulaziz, a half-brother of the Saudi king. Today he devotes his column to an explanation of what the Saudi king was really trying to say in his lengthy interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah, published on Saturday.

His theme is based on the king's call for Arab control of Arab affairs. (In terms of the summary yesterday, this refers to the point about hopes for a rebirth of the ummah, unified Arab decision-making, and rejection of non-Arab interference in Arab affairs). Fandy says this was directed Iran, plain and simple.

He elaborates as follows: First, the remarks of the king on not supporting any enemies of Iran (summarized in that way in the Al-Seyassah headings) was part of a longer statement in which the king said: "I advised Larijani and I impressed on him that the policy of the Kingdom requires us not to intervene in the affairs of anyone, and not to support anyone who is the enemy of anyone else, whether [the enemy of] Iran or of anyone else, and by the same token the Kingdom doesn't want anyone to be inimical to it, or to any of its brother countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council or any other Arab country linked [to the Kingdom] by a common defence agreement."

And Fandy says the king's whole point in talking about an "unsatisfactory situation" in the Middle East was to warn Iran: First against underestimating the danger it is facing from the United States; and second against the consequences of its continued involvement in Palestine.

On the first point: Fandy says the decision by Bush to permit the killing of Iranian agents in Iraq (estimated at between 32,000 and 100,000, Fandy says) is extremely serious, and could result at any time in war between the US and Iran, whether that war was confined to Iraq, or whether is were to spill over across the borders of Iraq. It was on account of the seriousness of the situation, Fandy says, that the king sent Prince Bandar to Tehran for talks. Bandar is the person that is used when a tough message has to be presented bluntly and unvarnished. He is like Cheney in that respect, Fandy explains.

On the second point: Iran, directly via its support of Hamas, and indirectly via its support of Syria and Hizbullah, is a major player in the Palestinian issue, and in fact this is an issue whose nature is not completely changed: It used to be an Arab-versus-Israel issue, but now it is an issue of Iran versus Israel, via the use of Arab agents. Moreover, Iran has been able to use the Palestinian situation as a way of settling accounts with other countries (probably referring to the nuclear issue). Is it reasonably to be expected in these circumstances that Iran will adopt the interests of the Arabs as its own, over and above its own interests? If the Arab world is not alarmed by this state of affairs, says Fandy, then perhaps it will never be alarmed again by anything.

Fandy raised a third point as part of the "unsatisfactory situation", namely the Israel-Iran enmity, but his point there is merely that both Olmert and Ahmadinejad are acting irrationally, partly because they are both ex-mayors, unfamiliar with international affairs.

The situation is slipping out of our hands, says Fandy.

And by way of further elaboration of that general point, he says it has now come to this, that "every Tom Dick and Harry" (kullu min Habba wa Dabba) has something to say about Arab issues, "from Hugo Chavez to Ahmadinejad". Badger is not sure whether to be personally offended by this. In any event, this leads Fandy to his last point, which is that the king referred in the interview to "nests" or "dens"--Fandy doesn't quote the exact interview remarks here--but Fandy says this is a reference to "cancerous colonies" broadcasting on internet sites of unknown origin deceptive and lying reports about Arab affairs, and more than that, they have penetrated Arab news (outlets) "including the official ones" with the aim of upsetting regional stability, and making it appear that any Arab effort to stand up to Iran is merely a case of doing America's bidding.

It is possible that Fandy's remark about penetration of Arab news outlets "including the official ones" is tantamount to an admission that the Fandy hard-line position isn't the only position, even within the sphere of Saudi officialdom.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Badger is not sure whether to be personally offended by this"

As an Arab i can tell you don't be, it isn't as if he represents the Arabs anyway ( not that i do :p ), but at least you know some of us agree with you :).

4:46 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you, nice to hear...

5:49 PM  

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