Posted by Joshua on Sunday, December 24th, 2006
Here is Robin Wright elaborating on the Bandar-Turki fight:
Robin Wright in the Washignton Post explains some of the reasons for the tug of war between Saudi Arabia's ambassadors. Bandar's faction was able to cut off Turki's funds, forcing him to leave behind millions in un-paid emabassy debts when he departed the US. The important policy debate which under girded the factionalism was over how to deal with Iran and how much to support Washington's Middle East policy. Here are a few paragraphs from her story.
The woes within the royal family reflect a tug of war over how to handle foreign policy. Eighteen months ago, Prince Bandar bin Sultan ended a legendary 22-year career as the face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Word at the time was that he was bored, preferring his palatial Aspen, Colo., lodge to Washington. As it turns out, however, Bandar has secretly visited Washington almost monthly over the past year — and is at least as pivotal today in influencing U.S. policy as he was in his years as ambassador.
Last week, his successor, Turki, abruptly resigned from the post — partly, sources close to the royal family said, because of Bandar's back-channel trips to meet with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.
Turki was kept so out of the loop that Bandar often did not inform him he was in town, much less tell him what he was doing, the sources said. Twice, the Saudi Embassy was told by an outsider that Bandar had arrived — and the embassy sent someone to the airport to look for his private plane to confirm it, according to the source who provided the tip.
The rise of Bandar, who is now Saudi national security adviser, may reflect the waning influence of the sons of the late King Faisal, who dominated the diplomatic and intelligence services for decades, say sources close to the family. Turki, who was intelligence chief before becoming ambassador to Britain and then the United States, has poor chemistry with King Abdullah, they note. His brother Prince Saud al-Faisal, who has been foreign minister since Henry A. Kissinger's era, is ill….
The cutoff of funds appears to be one manifestation of a royal rift over, among other things, the way to handle the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East.
In his secret visits, Bandar increasingly pressed the Bush administration not to deal with Iran — and, instead, to organize joint efforts to counter Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, such as in Lebanon, said sources close to the royal family. The new model would be based roughly on the kind of joint U.S.-Saudi cooperation that assisted anti-Soviet forces during Moscow's 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, the sources said.
Washington and Riyadh are already planning a major aid and military training package for the beleaguered Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose government is besieged by thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
The Sunni kingdom sees Iran as a threat because of Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program. The kingdom also fears the shifting balance of power — under Iran's tutelage — between minority Shiites and majority Sunnis, who have dominated Middle East politics for almost 14 centuries. The monarchy faces its own restive Shiite minority in the main oil-producing province.
The kingdom grew particularly alarmed as the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group began to leak out last month, with recommendations that the administration talk to both Iran and Syria, say U.S. officials and sources close to the royal family. Even before the report was released, Abdullah summoned Cheney to again warn about Iran and the regional implications of its growing influence — and offer Saudi assistance and discuss joint U.S.-Saudi efforts.
The al-Faisal brothers, in contrast, have consistently urged dialogue with Tehran and are wary of joint U.S.-Saudi efforts against Iran and its surrogates. Turki often urged the United States to deal with its enemies. In one of his final public speeches, at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council last month, Turki said: "We speak directly with Iran on all issues. We find that talking with them is better than not talking with them."
Turki's frequent public events — in which he was frank about America's poor image abroad and urged progress on the deadlocked Arab-Israeli peace process as the key to defusing broader regional tensions — generated an unusual amount of attention in the Saudi media and made him a popular figure back home.
Saudi experts say differences within the royal family, like virtually everything having to do with the House of Saud, are heavily nuanced. "On Iran policy, they all make the same diagnosis but have a different prescription for what to do about it," said David E. Long, a former U.S. diplomat and the author of five books on Saudi Arabia.
After a year of internal tensions and failure to pay bills, Turki was not invited to Riyadh for Cheney's visit, Saudi sources confirmed. And Bandar returned to Washington again right after the meeting to discuss the specifics of the joint efforts. Two weeks later, Turki quit.
Report on secret Olmert-Sanyurah meeting in Egypt (mideastwire.com)
"The source further noted that "Olmert told the Lebanese prime minister that the enhanced international presence in Lebanon as well as the backing provided by the United States to its friends have created an unprecedented window of opportunity to rid Lebanon of Iran's and Syria's allies." The source added that Al-Sanyurah confirmed to Olmert that his government is determined to carry out what is required of it, such as implementing Lebanon's sovereignty, eliminating anything that stands in the way of this process, disarming the Hezbollah, and eradicating pro-Damascus and pro-Tehran forces. The source said that Olmert arrived in Sharm al-Shaykh on board a commercial airliner belonging to Arkia Airlines, which has commercial flights to Taba and Sharm al-Shaykh." – Ma'an News Agency, Palestine
Syria's 'isolation is over': Syria's Deputy P.M. spins that Syria's has broken out of its isolation
23/12/2006 08:32 - (SA)
London – The international isolation of Syria is over as Western powers have realised they need to work with Damascus, Syrian deputy prime minister Abdallah Dardari told a British newspaper published on Saturday.
Dardari told the Financial Times business daily that the international community now recognised that it ought to talk to President Bashar al-Assad's regime if it wanted progress in the Middle East, particularly on Lebanon and Iraq.
"The former political isolation of Syria has ended. It is no longer there," he told the FT.
"I don't want to say there is a sense of 'I told you so' but there is a sense that people are realising in Western capitals that if you want to be influential in the Middle East, you have to come through Damascus."
Relations between the United States and Syria are tense. But earlier this week, two US senators, including John Kerry, the former Democratic party presidential candidate, were in Damascus for talks with Assad.
Dardari said that previously, the United States had simply presented Syria with a list of demands to end various practices, instead of talking about mutual interests, and that this attitude proved ineffective.
"It didn't work in April 2003, just after (the) occupation of Baghdad. If it didn't work then, at the peak of US influence in the region, it will not work now with Syria," he said.
Dardari added that Syria's priority was to secure the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.
The United States said Wednesday it supported Syrian opposition groups rivalling Assad, but said such support was overt, and not a secret bid to undermine his government.
US President George W Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy by funding and training the militant Hezbollah group.
The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra hit out on Friday at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel's recommendation to open a dialogue on calming neighbouring Iraq.
The paper was following a line already set out by Assad.
"They (the Americans) have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions," Assad said earlier this month.
The Israeli public is not yet ready for a Golan-for-peace
Yossi Sarid in Haaretz
It was not Bush, but the occupation. The findings of the Peace Index survey published in Haaretz about a month ago indicated a clear trend: Most of the Jewish public is opposed to a full peace treaty with Syria in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights (67 percent are opposed and only 16 percent are in favor). Some 51 percent believe that sooner or later a war will break out between the two countries. And nevertheless, the public is firm in its opposition to a formula of total peace for all of the Golan.
There is nothing new under the local sun, which beats down and dries up people's brains. Only being beaten over the head with a club or a hammer opens people's minds here and leads to a painful sobering up.
That's what happened when public opinion refused to give up Sinai, and only after a terrible war did it accept an overall withdrawal down to the last of the settlements; and that's what happened when public opinion supported the first Lebanon War before it became complicated and contaminated and forced us to flee by the skin of our teeth; and that's what happened when our public opinion rejoiced in anticipation of America's war in Iraq, of which Israel is the main victim; and that's what happened only five months ago when public opinion goaded Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz into striking at Lebanon mercilessly, and during the first week even crowned the two military commanders with more than 80 percent support.
Politicians tend to flatter and praise their nations: a smart and wise nation, they say; the public is not foolish, they say. But when nations are in distress, they are liable to be revealed not only as laymen but as absolute lunatics. In times of anxiety, the voice of the people is not the voice of God. Public opinion is a rooster-shaped weather vane that rotates with the direction of the winds, the winds of foolishness; public opinion is shifting sands – from the right to the left, just sand, mainly sand.
If Olmert and Peretz and Peres and Herzog and Bar-On had seen contrary surveys, indicating support for a complete withdrawal in exchange for complete peace, you can rest assured that they would be singing a different tune to Israel, and that the Bush excuse would have been erased without leaving a trace. They are yet to see other days, other surveys, immediately after the next war.
Michel Kilo, who is in jail and must watch his words, calls for Israeli engagement with Syria. He claims that the best way to promote democracy in Syria is to return the Golan and begin dialogue between East and West.
دعا الكاتب والمعارض السوري ميشال كيلو، من سجنه أمس، الرئيس الاميركي جورج بوش إلى «العمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية» وإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية الأراضي اللبنانية، وسحب القوات الاميركية من العراق. وقال مقربون من كيلو المعتقل في سجن عدرا شرقي دمشق، بعد توقيعه على «إعلان بيروت ـ دمشق»، انه بات يستطيع استخدام هاتف عمومي في باحة السجن، على غرار سجناء الحق العام.وقال كيلو، في مقابلة مع وكالة «فرانس برس» من سجنه، «كنت أتمنى لو أن بوش لم يكتف بالمطالبة بحرية المعتقلين السوريين»، في إشارة إلى بيان بوش مؤخرا، والذي دعا فيه دمشق إلى الإفراج عن جميع المعتقلين السياسيين في سوريا، وضمنهم كيلو. وأضاف كيلو «كنت أتمنى لو أعلن برنامجا زمنيا ملزما لانسحاب (القوات الاميركية) من العراق، وتعهد بالعمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية… كنت أتمنى لو التزم بإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية أراضي لبنان المحتلة». وأوضح كيلو «لو أن الرئيس الاميركي فعل ذلك … لقدم خدمة كبرى للديموقراطية وحقوق الإنسان، ولقيد بصورة جدية قدرة نظم الفساد الاستبدادية العربية على قمع شعوبها».