King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq is “illegal,” and he warned that unless Arab governments settle their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.
The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League summit meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater regional leadership role, partly at American urging. The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.
Oy. Less than six months ago the Saudi King read Dick Cheney the riot act when word got around that we might leave Iraq. King Abdullah was understandably concerned that our pullout would leave Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leadership with a hell of a job supporting Iraq’s Sunni minority and managing the inevitable rise of Iran as the dominant regional power. Better from their perspective to have Americans spending our lives on a peace rather than whatever bloody mess the alternative might be. Then there’s the oil relationship.
Maybe the Sauds want some cheap Arab street cred. Sadly, now more than ever that specifically means trashing America and Israel. Neocons should be especially proud of that factoid since legitimizing the US and Israel through intimidation and naked force sat at the vital center of the neoconservatives’ demented strategy. Now, thanks entirely to our own addled leadership, the faintest sign of aligning with the US or Israel is more toxic than ever.
Worse, the idea that the Sauds meant to burnish their street cred by trashing us might be the least troubling interpretation. Think about the significance if King Abdullah meant what he said.