In an interview published in a Kuwaiti newspaper, the king of Saudi Arabia has said that he has advised Iran “not to expose the region to dangers,” the Financial Times (UK) reported Sunday.[1]  --  The 82-year-old Saudi monarch has been king since 2005, but has been the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since 1995, when King Fahd had a major stroke.  --  Abdullah is the fifth son of the eighth (and favorite) wife of Ibn Saud, Ibn Saud being the historic founder of modern Saudi Arabia and the man who sealed its pact with the U.S. national security state in a secret conversation with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in February 1945 on the way back from the Yalta Conference.  --  One year earlier, in February 1944, FDR had called the British ambassador in Washington to the White House to explain the American view of Middle East oil:  “Roosevelt showed the ambassador a rough sketch he had made of the Middle East.  Persian oil, he told the ambassador, is yours.  We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait.  As for Saudi Arabian oil, it’s ours” (Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power [NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990], p. 401).  --  King Abdullah, the current Saudi king, was about 20 years old at that time; he was about 55 when the Iranian Revolution completely upset the strategic balance in the Middle East and began a tumultous chain of events that continues to unfold dramatically.  --  Adbullah’s photograph hand-in-hand with President George W. Bush appears on the cover of Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties (Scribner, 2004).  --  Unger describes how on August 27, 2001, Abdullah provoked a crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations by threatening to end the U.S.-Saudi relationship on account of the U.S.’s embrace of Israel.  --  Within thirty-six hours, Bush had delivered a personal message stating in writing American support for the right of Palestians to “their own state in their own homeland” (Unger, p. 244).  --  It is generally believed that the crackdown on al-Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia after 9/11 represents the triumph of Abdullah over Interior Minister Prince Nayef, one of the Sudairi Seven (Ibn Saud’s sons by his sixth wife) who, Unger says, leans toward militant clerics and who was the Saudi who traveled to Tehran to reestablish relations with Iran in April 2001.  --  From the point of view of many Iranians, the House of Saud owes its tenure to British support, is beholden to U.S. power, and is greatly lacking in legitimacy, being chiefly an expression of Western imperialism.  --  Both U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have in the past ten days paid visits to the Saudi king.  --  In a long analysis in the latest issue of Al Ahram, Galal Nassar attempted an analysis of what is going on:  “Repeated visits by U.S. officials to Saudi Arabia suggest that the Bush administration is trying to extract a promise of support from the Saudis. . . . Riyadh may still be undecided.  Prince Turki Al-Faysal, former Saudi ambassador to Washington and former head of the Saudi intelligence services, has warned Washington of intervention in Iran.  Prince Turki said Riyadh was facing two possibilities, both bleak.  One is for Iran to obtain the bomb, and the other is for the U.S. to attack Iran.  ‘In both cases . . . Saudi Arabia sees the consequences as being tragic to say the least,’ he said.”[2] ...



Middle East & Africa

By Heba Saleh

Financial Times (UK)
January 28, 2007

Saudi Arabia has warned Iran that it could endanger the whole Gulf region if it does not resolve the problems in its "international relations," a reference to Iran's increasingly tense standoff with the United States over its nuclear program and its role in Iraq.

"We have advised them not to expose the region to dangers," said King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi monarch. "We do not interfere in anyone's affairs, [but] any state which resorts to unwise acts will have to bear the responsibility in front of the other countries in the region."

The king's remarks, made in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, *Al Seyassah*, comes amidst increasingly vocal criticism of Iran by officials and the press in the Arab world.

"We are extremely worried about the policies of Iran and the rhetoric coming out of Iran which adds to the tensions in the region," said an Egyptian diplomat. "Their rhetoric confirms the worst fears of the west has about Islam."

America's main allies in the Arab world -- Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia -- are deeply concerned about the influence Iran has come to wield in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

Iran, with its support for the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas -- two uncompromising opponents of Israel -- is seen to be propelling the region in a direction counter to that where America's allies want to lead it.

Tehran's backing of Hamas is said by some to be frustrating Egypt's efforts to mediate between the Palestinian factions to forge a national unity government which would, in theory, be more receptive to negotiation with Israel. "Iran's intentions are very clear," wrote Osama Saraya, editor of the government-owned daily *Al Ahram* on Friday. "It is . . . sowing corruption in every direction."

But even if the Arabs are alarmed by Iran's nuclear ambitions and its policies in the region, they do not want a U.S. military strike against it. Mr. Saraya says it would have "dire consequences" for the region.

"There is a kind of mobilization of Arab public opinion," said Abdul Moneim Said, the head of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "But Arab governments are wise enough to realize that an attack against Iran would be detrimental to them and would help their radical opponents."



In Focus

By Galal Nassar

** U.S.-Iranian tensions could escalate fast and bring catastrophe to the region **

Al-Ahram (Cairo)
January 25-31, 2007

The Middle East is becoming a vast disaster zone. The Americans, who are still bogged down in Iraq, are turning their sights on Iran, bullying it to placate Israel. This policy, which has been designed by the neocons, may end up wreaking havoc on the whole region. The region has every right to regard Iran with suspicion, mind you. Under the mullahs, Tehran has committed massacres in Iraq, especially in the south, and is currently bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. But a conflict between the U.S. and Iran is the last thing the region needs.

The Middle East is teetering on the brink of disaster with little to look forward to. And the prospect of an alliance between Arab "moderates" and the Americans is hardly reassuring. The region is caught between a rock and a hard place. Iran has its own ambitions, and Israel is not letting up.

The recent tour of the U.S. secretary of state was clearly aimed at getting moderate Arabs on the side of the Americans and the Israelis. The secretary used all her power of persuasion to tempt Arab leaders to join an anti-Iranian alliance. The U.S. and Israel want to bring Iran to its knees, but they cannot accomplish that in the absence of at least a semblance of Arab support.

The Americans, by the admission of the chief of the CIA, think that Iran is 10 years away from the bomb, and yet they're contemplating pre-emptive action. A strike against Iran is not simply a theoretical possibility. The maps and plans have been drawn, as U.S. officials keep reminding us. The U.S. president recently told the world that U.S. failure in Iraq would "strengthen" Iran and threaten world security. And Dick Cheney claimed that Iran was "destabilizing" Iraq and must be stopped. The U.S. national security adviser has refused to rule out the possibility of U.S. forces entering Iranian territories to capture "hostile" individuals.

In the speech delineating his new strategy in Iraq, President Bush portrayed Iran as the number one enemy. He promised that Washington would work with other countries to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms and "controlling" the Gulf region. A second U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier is on its way to the Gulf. USS John C. Stennis and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower are going to stay in the Gulf for a few months, the first such deployment since 2003.

According to Robert Gates, the new U.S. defense secretary, the U.S. build-up in Iraq is a message to Iran. There are people in Iraq who try to kill Americans and who transport weapons used to kill Americans, and confronting those people is a matter of military "necessity," he said.

When Admiral William Fallon was appointed chief of Central Command for the Middle East, analysts were quick to see the implications. The appointment of a naval pilot to supervise military operations in the Gulf can only mean one thing: that the U.S. is getting ready to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran would most likely retaliate by striking oilrigs and tankers and closing the Hormuz Straights. The U.S. would call upon the navy to respond, hence Fallon's appointment.

Tehran and Washington are already locking horns in Iraq. U.S. forces in Iraq in two separate raids have arrested Iranian individuals. And the U.S. president is said to have ordered U.S. troops to take action against Iranians in Iraq.

Israel, everyone knows, wants the Americans to get involved in Iran. In a recent statement, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the international community should put a stop to Iran's "nuclear ambitions." She claimed that Iran was a threat to all countries in the Middle East, not just Israel. Iran's aim, Livni said, was "not just to remove Israel from the map, but to reshape the region." The Sunday Times reported that Israel has made plans to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. The Israelis, however, are unlikely to attack Iran unless the Americans give them a green light. And once the conflict escalates, the Iranians are likely to retaliate, which means the Americans will have to get involved sooner or later.

For now, moderate Arab leaders are trying to stay on the good side of the Americans and the Israelis. They seem in general more eager to placate Washington than worried about Iran's role in fomenting sectarian strife in the region. Gulf countries and Jordan are not in a position to contradict U.S. wishes. And yet, the policies currently implemented by the Americans are likely to boost Shia power in the region. Jordanian King Abdullah has already warned of a "Shia crescent" extending from Iran through Syria and Iraq all the way to Lebanon. The emergence of such crescent would have dangerous political implications, he pointed out.

Before meeting Condoleezza Rice in Cairo a few days ago, President Hosni Mubarak warned of Iran's link to sectarianism in the region. Speaking to Al-Osbou, the Egyptian president warned of Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms. "Egypt cannot stay silent while another regional power acquires nuclear weapons. The Arabs cannot live under a potential threat . . . This is something I cannot tolerate. I have a certain responsibility towards my people, and we cannot allow our security to be jeopardized . . . Egypt will not stand idly by. We will not remain inactive."

Repeated visits by U.S. officials to Saudi Arabia suggest that the Bush administration is trying to extract a promise of support from the Saudis. According to a Pentagon official, Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz that Iraq would act as a buffer against Iranian expansion. The Pentagon is convinced that the Saudis are beginning to agree with its assessment of the situation in Iraq and the threat Iran is posing to the region. However, Riyadh may still be undecided. Prince Turki Al-Faysal, former Saudi ambassador to Washington and former head of the Saudi intelligence services, has warned Washington of intervention in Iran. Prince Turki said Riyadh was facing two possibilities, both bleak. One is for Iran to obtain the bomb, and the other is for the U.S. to attack Iran. "In both cases . . . Saudi Arabia sees the consequences as being tragic to say the least," he said.

Iran remains defiant. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper *El Mundo* during his visit to Nicaragua, President Ahmadinejad said that Israel and the U.S. wouldn't dare attack his country. "They are aware of Iran's strength. I believe they will not do such a stupid thing." Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov confirmed that his country delivered short-range Tor-M1 missiles to Iran, adding that Moscow was willing to give Tehran any defensive weapons if asked. Russian military officials say the missiles would help defend Iran against air attacks. According to media reports, the Iranians tried and failed to acquire spare parts for U.S. military systems through middlemen.

Should the Americans and the Israelis, with the help of Arab moderates, succeed in bringing Iran to its knees, the consequences would be dire for the entire region. Kenneth Pollack, director of research at the Saban Center of The Brookings Institution, has said that a U.S. campaign against Tehran may backfire, for it would widen the scope of U.S. operations and drag the Americans into an international armed conflict. The Iranians, he added, will try to prove that they're not easy prey.