Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandar’s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.And King Abdullah has delivered yet another blow to the administration:
For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.
American officials also believed, again after speaking with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis might agree to direct engagement with Israel as part of a broad American plan to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah countermanded that plan.
Most bitingly, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh three weeks ago, the king condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.” The Bush administration, caught off guard, was infuriated, and administration officials have found Prince Bandar hard to reach since.
Since the Iraq war and the attendant plummeting of America’s image in the Muslim world, King Abdullah has been striving to set a more independent and less pro-American course, American and Arab officials said. And that has steered America’s relationship with its staunchest Arab ally into uncharted waters. Prince Bandar, they say, may no longer be able to serve as an unerring beacon of Saudi intent.
“The problem is that Bandar has been pursuing a policy that was music to the ears of the Bush administration, but was not what King Abdullah had in mind at all,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel who is now head of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
Saudi King Declines to Receive Iraqi Leader
In a serious rebuff to U.S. diplomacy, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has refused to receive Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the eve of a critical regional summit on the future of the war-ravaged country, Iraqi and other Arab officials said yesterday.What we see here is that none of the players in the region thinks that the Bush administration can do anything positive in the region. They are working behind the scenes without the Bush administration to try to broker some stability. The Iraqis have been talking to the Iranians, the Saudis have been talking to the Iranians - leaving the incompetent Bush administration out of the loop.
The Saudi leader's decision reflects the growing tensions between the oil-rich regional giants, the deepening skepticism among Sunni leaders in the Middle East about Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, and Arab concern about the prospects of U.S. success in Iraq, the sources said. The Saudi snub also indicates that the Maliki government faces a creeping regional isolation unless it takes long-delayed actions, Arab officials warn.
For the United States, the Saudi cold shoulder undermines hopes of healing regional tensions between Sunni- and Shiite-dominated governments and producing a new spirit of cooperation on Iraq at the summit, to be held Thursday and Friday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the sources warn.
The Bush administration has invested significantly in the Egypt meeting, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in a television interview last Thursday that the United States holds a "lot of hope" that the conference will serve as a catalyst for garnering regional and international support for solving Iraq's problems.
The end game may turn out to be just the opposite of what the Bush/Cheney cabal and the neocons had in mind - a middle east in which the US has little or no influence.
Cernig has a great analysis over at NewsHoggers,
Zen and The Art Of Iraqi Reconcilliation