Thursday, March 29, 2007

Et tu, Abdu?

A report from the Arab League summit in today's Star Tribune starts this way:

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, one of the United States' closest Arab allies, told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the U.S. presence in Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers such as the United States would continue to dictate the region's politics.

"In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war," the king said at the opening of the Arab League summit meeting here.

Juan Cole brings the comments into a little tighter focus:

King Abdullah followed up on these harsh criticisms of the US by cancelling his planned appearance at a White House dinner in April. The Saudi royal family is fit to be tied that Bush gave Iraq away to fundamentalist Shiite parties that have close ties to Iran.

Although the Saudi statement is remarkable for its brutal frankness and coldness toward the United States, its real significance is its slam of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Abdullah has not only said that the US presence is an illegal occupation, he has said that the al-Maliki government is nothing more than Shiite sectarian hegemony. The Saudis are known for their behind the scenes diplomacy and their public discretion. King Abdullah is hopping mad, to talk this way. It augurs ill for US-Saudi relations. Abdullah is also angry that Bush is letting the Palestine issue fester and that he pushed for open Palestinian elections but then cut off the Hamas government once it was elected. Abdullah thinks Bush is pursuing irrational policies, the effect of which is to destabilize the Middle East. He is so angry that he sounds a bit like Iraqi Sunni fundamentalist leader Harith al-Dhari, who is connected in some shadowy way with the Sunni guerrillas fighting the US.

Being criticized by the Saudi royal family brings no special moral opprobrium in Spot's opinion. But it does show just hope isolated the US is in the Middle East. Even our thuggish friends are abandoning us.

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