Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileaks: Arab World Agrees With Israel--Iran Is More Urgent Than A Palestinian State

Last year, it became clear that the Obama administration has made a point of putting pressure on Israel to make the peace talks work as the first step towards addressing Iran:
Israel risks losing support from Arab nations against Iran if it does not make progress in Mideast peace talks with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

..."For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts," Clinton told legislators on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

The two "go hand in hand," Clinton said.

Arab nations want "very much to support the strongest possible posture toward Iran," Clinton said.

"They believe that Israel's willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran," she said.

If there is progress on peace talks "then a lot of the Arab countries are saying to us there will be a sequencing of support that will strengthen the region's response to Iran," she said.
Now Mere Rhetoric has pointed out that based on the documents leaked by Wikileaks, it is clear that the Arab states do not share the focus on creating a Palestinian state.


For example, The Guardian provides notes in a US cable on April 20, 2008, noting how strongly the Saudi King urged the US to strike Iran
1. (S) Summary: US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, General Presidency of Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abd al-Aziz, and Interior Minister Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz during their April 14-15 visit to Riyadh. The Saudi King and senior Princes reviewed Saudi policy toward Iraq in detail, all making essentially the same points. They said that the Kingdom will not send an ambassador to Baghdad or open an embassy until the King and senior Saudi officials are satisfied that the security situation has improved and the Iraqi government has implemented policies that benefit all Iraqis, reinforce Iraq's Arab identity, and resist Iranian influence.

...The Need to Resist Iran

10. (S) The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq. The King was particularly adamant on this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.
The attitude in the Arab world did not change after Obama took office. A cable from November 4, 2009 obtained from the Embassy of Manama, notes King Hamad of Bahrain was vehement in insisting that Iran be stopped:
1. (C) SUMMARY: In an hour-long meeting on November 1 with CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus, Bahrain's King Hamad said Arab states need to do more to engage Iraq, discussed Afghanistan and the positive role India could play, urged action to stop Iran's nuclear program, and reviewed regional plans for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. END SUMMARY.

...4.(C) IRAN: King Hamad pointed to Iran as the source of much of the trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear program, by whatever means necessary. "That program must be stopped," he said. "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it." King Hamad added that in light of these regional developments, Bahrain was working to strengthen GCC coordination and its relations with allies and international organizations. He specifically mentioned NATO and confirmed that Bahrain had agreed to the Alliance's request to use Isa Airbase for AWACS missions, although the detail on numbers and timing have yet to be discussed.
In fact, Obama has made the same mistake vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia as with Abbas--insisting on making an issue into a priority to the extent that he has forced the Arabs to follow suit. In the case of Abbas, it was settlements; in the case of the Saudis, it is the issue of the peace process itself:
Whatever side of the political divide you are on, it seems clear that Obama’s June 2009 trip to Riyadh was a disaster. After pushing the Israelis on settlements, Obama counted on securing some minor confidence-building measures from the Arabs and instead wound up with an earful from the 85-year-old Saudi king. The administration had not done its homework.

“People at the upper echelons do not seem to understand the complexity of Saudi Arabia,” the former official said. “If you come at it blindly and conventionally, then you assume that their main concern is the peace process: ‘It is a huge issue for all Arabs, so the Saudis must care.’ The Palestinian-Israeli issue was not the highest priority with the last administration, and we found that if you don’t bring it up, the Saudis won’t bring it up either. But if you do bring it up, they feel they have to talk about it, or else they will be shamed—the Saudis can’t be less pro-Palestinian than the Americans. The Obama people didn’t know this or care, and they didn’t seem to know or care what the Saudis were really concerned about. The number one issue in Riyadh is Iran.”

...the Saudis themselves tell anyone who will listen that their major concern is not in achieving a just resolution for the Palestinians but in countering the Iranian threat [to] the kingdom.
In May 2009, Salah Nasrawi of the Associated Press wrote that unlike the US, Israel and the Arab world see eye-to-eye on Iran:
Israel and the U.S. suspect Iran's program to enrich uranium is aimed at developing nuclear weapons — a concern shared by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council].

"There exists a strategic and military threat (to Gulf countries) and we are against any nuclear program that isn't approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency because we believe that the Iranian nuclear program should not destabilize the region," the organization said in its statement.

...The London-based Palestinian daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi even said the Arab moderates governments are actively working on building an alliance with Israel to counter Iranian influence in the region.
Maybe it's time that Obama get with the program, realizing what the Middle East itself thinks is the top priority in the region--and acting accordingly. Who knows, it may afford Obama his best chance to get that foreign policy success he is looking for.

More at Memeorandum

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