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The Growing Wisdom of Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government publicly criticized Hezbollah last summer for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. This week, (Saudi) King Abdullah invited representatives of Hamas and Fatah to the kingdom to patch up their differences, saying the current fighting “serves only the interests of the enemies of Islam and the Arabs.” The Saudis have also hinted publicly that they will work to keep oil in the $50/bbl range. And when one Saudi official said the kingdom would fund Sunni jihadists in Iraq if their co-religionists were in extremis, others rushed to reassure the U.S.

The Saudi government publicly criticized Hezbollah last summer for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. This week, (Saudi) King Abdullah invited representatives of Hamas and Fatah to the kingdom to patch up their differences, saying the current fighting “serves only the interests of the enemies of Islam and the Arabs.” The Saudis have also hinted publicly that they will work to keep oil in the $50/bbl range. And when one Saudi official said the kingdom would fund Sunni jihadists in Iraq if their co-religionists were in extremis, others rushed to reassure the U.S. that no such thing would happen.

The Saudis are worried and that is an unalloyed good thing.

  1. Arab Sunni Saudi Arabia is worried about Persian Shia Iranian expansion in the Arab world – in Lebanon, in the PA territories and in Alawite (Shia)-ruled-but-Sunni-majority Syria.
  2. Oil-exporting Saudi Arabia is worried that very high oil prices will cause the U.S. to pursue alternative technology, making the protection of radical, dictatorial Saudi Arabia less important to the U.S. even as those same high prices fill the coffers of Iran, expanding the enemy’s influence.

It is a fairly public secret that Israel and Saudi Arabia have had contacts as regards their mutual concern about Iran. It is a fairly public secret as well that the U.S. wants the Saudis to help stabilize Iraq and provide pushback against Iran in Syria and with Hamas. But to the extent that Saudi Arabia is inclined to be helpful at all, it is for Saudi reasons – not for American or Israeli reasons. Notice that they didn’t say Hamas-Fatah fighting serves Israel’s interests, or infidel interests, but rather harms “Islam and Arab” interests, i.e., harms Saudi interests.

The trick now would be not to assuage their fears prematurely and certainly not to pay in advance for services not yet rendered and which may never be rendered. This is not the time to announce our closeness to the “moderate” Arabs, who really aren’t moderate at all. This is not the time for the U.S. to declare its intention to defend the kingdom, which is funding Sunni Islamic terrorism, including al Qaeda, as well as radical Wahhabi schools and mosques in our own country. This is not the time to reconsider the “Saudi Plan” for “solving the Palestinian-Israeli problem,” much as the Israelis might like to solve it for their own reasons.

This is REALLY, REALLY hard for both the U.S. and Israel, which have a similar tendency to throw bear hugs around allies – or potential allies – or countries that certainly are not allies but which have singular, similar concerns and might do some things that would make our lives easier for their own reasons. Such hugs are cousins to the kiss of death. [In a new Palestinian poll, for example, more than 50 percent of Palestinians said American and Israeli declarations of support for Abu Mazen reduce the trust of the people in his policies; only 13 percent said it increases their trust.]

The Saudis are worried and should be. That they are should make the U.S. and Israel happy, but not so happy as to undermine the growing wisdom of Saudi Arabia.