The Crash of the Bush-Rice Mideast Gamble


By the time the Arab League summit opened in Riyadh Wednesday, March 28, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice already knew the meeting would crush rather than fulfill the high hopes she and President George W. Bush had been encouraged to entertain by Saudi promises. While the festive opening saw such honored guests as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign affairs executive Javier Solana, the chair assigned to the US Secretary of State was empty.

Two days earlier, before her second conversation with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, she had said she would attend the Riyadh summit. However, by the following morning, plans had changed. Instead of heading east to Saudi Arabia, she headed home to Washington where by the end of the day, she was meeting with President Bush in what can only be described as a gloomy session.

The intricate diplomatic strategy she and her Saudi partners had worked hard for three months putting together hung on a final word from Riyadh that the Saudi hosts would carry through a resolution establishing a low-level delegation to engage a comparable Israeli group in peace negotiations on the basis of the re-launched Saudi blueprint of 2002.

After Olmert agreed, Rice, so sure of the Saudi promises, waited for confirmation from Riyadh. She was so certain of the reply that she even scheduled a special statement to the media for later that night, to announce the success of her mission and a breakthrough in the long Arab-Israeli conflict. When no word came from the Saudi capital, she rescheduled the announcement for Tuesday morning.

But before Rice went on the air, Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal telephoned her in Jerusalem and informed her that their deal was off; the agreed formula would not be put before the Arab summit. Instead, Arab rulers would be asked to approve an inter-Arab commission for exploring ways to bring to fruition the Saudi peace blueprint without negotiations with Israel and over its head.

This was just the beginning of the a Saudi letdown that quickly became an avalanche.

March 30, 2007 | 4 Comments »

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4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. The Saudis are playing their own double game. They forced Fatah to accept a gov’t with Hamas and then turned on the US, deliberately embarrassing Rice. They are obviously concerned with the rise of Shiite influence in the region and are prepared to make some kind of peace with the Shia in Iran and Iraq. The want to be well positioned when the Americans leave Iraq and the Iranians filling the void.

    The overture to Israel was not a peace opening. It was an in-your-face statement of Saudi intentions toward the Jews, timed to coordinate with their approach to Iran. It was more a message for the Arab league than for Jerusalem or Washington.

  2. The Saudis/Arab Quartet/Arab League could cave on promises because their testing of the waters showed them what they needed to know, Olmert and Israel have no problem giving up land to the ’67 “borders. The “refugees” and the kidnapped soldiers are just pawns to be yielded in order to give the appearance of a concession, but then having been emboldened by the ease of getting Israel to agree on the territories giveaway, there’s just nothing left to go for but Jerusalem. No restraining outcry (not even a problem with the “lords of war” threat), too surreal to see this all going down. Then there’s Abdullah and Ahmadinejad talking, the entire League (minus Libya) talking, and very little coverage, disturbingly weird IMO.

  3. This was just the beginning of the a Saudi letdown that quickly became an avalanche.

    Not so. First there was the engineering of the Mecca Accords and then there was the meeting with Iran. We can go back even further to the birth of the Roadmap. What have the Saudis done to further it at least to get the Palestinians to honour it? And on and on.

  4. One is almost tempted to laugh were it not so serious. Do you suppose she has finally realized what a fool’s errand she’s been on these last several months? Seems like the whole Arabic Middle East is infected with Yasser Arafat Syndrome, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. [Yes I know they took the opportunity to play games again with Western naivete]
    If I were President of the US [ha ha, juvenile fantasy] I would urge Israel to annex the Golan and the West Bank, take all the millions of dollars we currently send to Egypt and the Palestinkians and use it to arm Israel to the teeth. Next step, bomb Iran’s infrastructure to take them out of the picture as a serious threat and then maybe pay a visit to Damascus, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

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