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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Assad playing Saudis and Iran off against each other?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah.
The embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, is heading to Riyadh on Wednesday to meet with Saudi King Abdallah bin Abdel Aziz, according Okaz newspaper

The meeting, according to the Saudi paper will highlight bilateral relations at the political, economic and trade levels; in addition, to discussing the Palestinian peace process and dialogue and the developments in the Arab world.
Note what apparently was not on the agenda: What is going on in Syria itself.

Ah, but you thought that Assad was in Iran's court and that Iran and Saudi Arabia are rivals. Well, that's true too.
Iran is secretly helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down pro-democracy demonstrations, according to U.S. officials, who say Tehran is providing gear to suppress crowds and assistance blocking and monitoring protesters' use of the Internet, cellphones and text-messaging.
Secretly? Back to the previous link.
At the same time, communications intercepted by U.S. spy agencies show Tehran is actively exploring ways to aid some Shiite hardliners in Bahrain and Yemen and destabilize longstanding U.S. allies there, say U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. Such moves could challenge interests of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and inflame sectarian tensions across the Middle East, they say.
Has anyone told the Saudis that? And by the way, why is the US disclosing this?
By disclosing intelligence about Iranian involvement, the U.S. appears to be trying to put Tehran on notice that it is under close surveillance in Washington. "We're keeping an eye on these activities," another Obama administration official said.

The U.S. disclosures also appear designed to help soothe anxious Arab and Israeli allies, who have privately complained that President Barack Obama, in his enthusiasm to embrace popular uprisings, is paying scant attention to how the revolts could play into the hands of their regional nemesis, Iran. By voicing concerns about Iran's activities, the U.S. appears to be trying to close ranks, at least in part, with Saudi and Bahraini leaders whose warnings about Tehran's influence in their internal affairs have long been played down in Washington.
Two observations. First, notice how Assad isn't calling Obama. It's not because he's afraid Obama won't support him. After all, Hillary Clinton called Assad a 'reformer' a couple of week ago.

Second, if you read the whole thing, you cannot escape the impression that once again US policy is totally clueless and contradictory. The Obama administration has no idea what it wants. And to think that I saw someone tweet last night that the difference between Obama and the Republicans is that Obama has a vision.

What could go wrong?

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