ZenPundit
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
 
HISTORY YET UNWRITTEN: THE SAUDIS AND IRAQ'S OCCUPATION

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in a rare burst of emphatic public diplomacy, is attempting to forestall any change of course in American policy in Iraq by the Bush administration. This is coupled with the abrupt resignation of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, former longserving intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal. It was Turki who was the Saudi bagman to the Afghan mujahedin and later to the pro-Wahabbi faction of the international Islamist movement.

Turki is the bursar of Sunni jihad and a one-man liason with a dozen foreign intelligence services and Turki's departure from Washington should be seen in that light. In case any of our more provincial members of Congress missed the significance, the KSA regime added the infamous tagline " to spend more time with his family". Kudos to the al-Saud for attempting to speak the language of the natives!

Clearly, the senior princes and King Abdullah are quite exercised over the ISG report. As they should be. Regardless of the content of the report, it represents pressure by the American elite on the Bush administration to change the status quo on Iraq and the House of Saud prefers the misery of the present to the risk of uncertainty.

This begs the question of what role backstage Saudi pressure and patronage of their Sunni co-religionists have played in the debacle that was the Iraqi occupation ? The Saudis were one factor among many the Bush administration had to consider and, naturally, the KSA would be playing to its perceived interests as was Israel, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Jordan, not to mention the European allies. But the drip, drip, drip of compromises to soothe Saudi sensibilities may have added a large weight on the scale toward the state of paralysis in which we find ourselves.

Or not. It will be sometime after 2008 when the memoirs start cranking out and even longer to the distant day when FRUS 2001-2004 is published.
 
Comments:
"This begs the question of what role backstage Saudi pressure and patronage of their Sunni co-religionists have played in the debacle that was the Iraqi occupation?"


The question that begs an answer is what diplomatic, strategic, and military cards could we play in the middle east today if we had used intellect instead of a neocon Big Bang to shuffle the deck. The temptation to say that the Big Bang strategy would have worked if we had not messed up the occupation (the second half) is simply no longer defensible. The civil war in Iraq exists because family, tribe, and religious beliefs are the understood foundations that are necessary for obtaining and holding power. The idea that this perception could be transformed peacefully through a well executed occupation by a foreign power(s) is still plausible only to those who refuse to stretch their singularly Western educated post WWII minds.

"But the drip, drip, drip of compromises to soothe Saudi sensibilities may have added a large weight on the scale toward the state of paralysis in which we find ourselves."

When you purposely walk uninvited into a meeting hoisted by the mob compromise should be expected and excuses of external blame ("in which we find ourselves") will not in any way help you leave the room in control of your own fate.
 
KSA's ambassador to America, America's ambassador to Iraq, America's ambassador to the UN. Something's afoot.

Dare I suggest... victory?
 
Anon,

"The question that begs an answer is what diplomatic, strategic, and military cards could we play in the middle east today if we had used intellect instead of a neocon Big Bang to shuffle the deck"

Barring the Big Bang you would have had business as usual as it had been conducted for the last forty years. Saddam would be in power and U.S. military forces would be stationed in KSA.

As the ISG report just demonstrated, there was/still is no serious " third way" strategy for the ME around which any political center of gravity in the national security-foreign policy establishment could coalesce. If there was, Clinton probably would have done it circa 1998. No one in the international community was interested with dealing with Saddam or enforcing sanctions until a unilateral American attack was imminent.

My published expectation pre-war was that in best case scenario ( occupation being done on German/Japanese model) Iraq would be a 5-10 year affair.

Had everything been done properly, the unintended consequences and mistakes and the insurgency would still have occurred but within the context of an actual strategic plan, resources designated for contingencies and some degree of local support/clientage network.

The difference between a managable quandry (Afghanistan) and self-immolation (Iraq).

Look, I'm not blaming the Saudis for pursuing their interests - Iraq imploding threatens the very existence of their regime. Some of their candid behind the scenes advice might actually have been quite sensible. But unfortunately the Bush administration decided to ad hoc the occupation on a string and a prayer without any endgame in mind, Saudi advice ( and Israeli, Jordanian, Brit etc.) would most likely have had the effect of inculcating inertia. Our fault, not theirs.
 
Forgive my ignorance but I can't seem to decipher "FRUS"...?
 
Ray,

Sorry for the jargon. FRUS stands for " Foreign Relations of the United States" which is a collection of declassified documents (cables, memoranda & notes on conversations) published by the State Department in chronological/regional volumes like " Eastern Europe 1961-64". It is the bread and butter primary source for diplomatic historians interested in American foreign policy. They don't declassify them fast enough :O)

FRUS
 
Anon states, "The civil war in Iraq exists because family, tribe, and religious beliefs are the understood foundations that are necessary for obtaining and holding power."

Hmmm.... sounds to me like an FAE, fundamental attribution error.

Anon suggests, "The idea that this perception could be transformed peacefully through a well executed occupation by a foreign power(s) is still plausible only to those who refuse to stretch their singularly Western educated post WWII minds."

Hmmm... not clear to me who has, or has not, been doing stretching exercises.
Here's a good warm up routine.
 
We have the Saudi lobby on one side, and the Israeli lobby on another. I find it remarkable that Bush's Iraq policy has managed to put us on the wrong side of both.

The conflicting pressures have to be more than enormous, and probably part of the reason for the Decider-in-Chief's delay in deciding.

In an administration that understood diplomacy, they would have been constantly working these issues to bring the various lobbies around or to get around the lobbies. This is what happens when you don't.

CKR
 
"Anon states, "The civil war in Iraq exists because family, tribe, and religious beliefs are the understood foundations that are necessary for obtaining and holding power.""

Not to try and answer for Anon but with regards to the FAE question, his or her use of the word "foundations" gives me the feeling that he or she is talking about structure more than personality. If family, tribe and religious beliefs were a three-legged stool, the one built in America would look different (if the length of each leg was proportional to the significance of the foundation) than the same stool built in Iraq. It would seem to me that the relationship that the Iraqi’s have between their family, tribe and religious beliefs is quite different than those of most Americans is this FAE? Just stretching to find the boundaries of this FAE thing. Perhaps their structure looks different than ours because of their geological location or physical environment, would that be FAE?
 
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