In today's Washington Post Nawaf Obeid, a mouthpiece for the Saudi Government weighs in with a threat "Stepping into Iraq." Hilariously at the end there's a disclaimer that Obeid's essay reflects on his view and not those of the Saudi government. I googled his name and it certainly appears to me that he's at least an apologist for the Saudi government if not representative of that government.
The gist of Obeid's essay is to say that if the United States quits Iraq before the Sunnis there are protected, it will be up to Saudi Arabia to step in.
As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene.
No doubt they will protect the Sunnis, but what then of the Shi'a if Saudi Arabia steps in? Earlier Obeid wrote:
Major Saudi tribal confederations, which have extremely close historical and communal ties with their counterparts in Iraq, are demanding action. They are supported by a new generation of Saudi royals in strategic government positions who are eager to see the kingdom play a more muscular role in the region.
Because King Abdullah has been working to minimize sectarian tensions in Iraq and reconcile Sunni and Shiite communities, because he gave President Bush his word that he wouldn't meddle in Iraq (and because it would be impossible to ensure that Saudi-funded militias wouldn't attack U.S. troops), these requests have all been refused.
Funny, did Saudi Arabia intervene when Saddam was massacring Shi'ites and Kurds in 1991? Minimizing sectarian tensions must include allowing Sunnis to take out their frustrations on Shi'ites, but not vise versa. I guess being the majority sect in Islam has its benefits.
The beginning of the article establishes the Saudi's great knowledge of the region.
In February 2003, a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned President Bush that he would be "solving one problem and creating five more" if he removed Saddam Hussein by force. Had Bush heeded his advice, Iraq would not now be on the brink of full-blown civil war and disintegration.
And those sectarian divisions would be under control whether the Shi'a wanted it or not. Right?
At least Shi'ite scholar Fouad Ajami acknowledges the nobility of the mission to oust Saddam. (via memeorandum) And he says that there's no going back. The history of Sunni domination of Shi'a is over or ending.
We can't shy away from the very history we unleashed. We had demonstrated to the Arabs that the rulers are not deities; we had given birth to the principle of political accountability. In the same vein, we may not be comfortable with all the manifestations of an emancipated Arab Shiism--we recoil, as we should, from the Mahdi Army in Iraq and from Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut--but the Shiite stepchildren of the Arab world have been given a new claim on the Arab political order of primacy and power. In the annals of Arab history, this is nothing short of revolutionary. The Sunni Arab regimes have a dread of the emancipation of the Shiites. But American power is under no obligation to protect their phobias and privileges. History has served notice on their world and their biases. We can't fall for their legends, and we ought to remember that the road to all these perditions, and the terrors of 9/11, had led through Sunni movements that originated in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Terror and ruin can come in Sunni and Shiite drapings alike.
I'm not totally comfortable with this. There is real reason to fear Shi'ite Iran. And it's impossible not to see that self-interest in Ajami's essay. Still it lacks the cynicism of the Obeid piece and makes it clear that the Saudis aren't simply concerned with the power of the radical Shi'ites, but are concerned that Shi'ites are not powerless anymore.
UPDATE: Buzztracker.Posted by SoccerDad at November 29, 2006 6:29 AM