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Monday, October 23, 2006

Saudis try to lure Hamas away from Teheran - Damascus axis

Last night, I reported that the Saudis have invited the Syrian opposition to Mecca for talks, in a bid to undermine the chinless ophthalmologist's regime. There's a second part to that story. DEBKAfile is reporting today that the Saudis have also invited Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal to Mecca, in a bid to pry him loose from the Teheran - Damascus axis, convince Hamas to work with Fatah, and prevent a 'Palestinian' civil war. DEBKA describes the latter goal as "a last ditch effort." Saudi rulers offered Meshaal and Hamas 'generous terms' for breaking away from the Damascus-Tehran bloc, freeing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and signing a cooperation pact with 'moderate' Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen.

But on the Syrian side, it wasn't just Abdul-Halim Khaddam who was invited to Mecca:
In a back-up move, the Saudis last week invited to Mecca the heads of the Syrian opposition in exile: former Syrian vice president Khalim Haddam, today a sworn foe of Syrian president Bashar Asad, the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Sader e-Din Ali Bayanouni and Bashar’s uncle, Rifat Asad, who aspires to oust his nephew and take his place.

This act is seen as Riyadh’s warning to Asad of dire consequences, including punitive financial measures, if he tries to disrupt this Palestinian reconciliation move. To demonstrate its importance to the oil kingdom, King Abdullah granted Meshaal a private audience.

DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources describe this as a direct Saudi challenge to Iran and its schemes - in contrast to the inertia displayed by the Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli governments. The Hamas politburo chief is not generally expected to reject the Saudi proposition out of hand – certainly not the handsome remuneration on offer – but neither is Hamas inclined to turn its back on Syria and Iran, its principal suppliers of weapons and fighters....

On a single day, Sunday, Oct. 22, Fatah and Hamas staged 26 reciprocal assassination attempts of each other’s commanders in a further escalation of tension. Fatah was horrified to see a Hamas parading 500 new recruits in the West Bank town of Qalqilya, a Fatah stronghold. DEBKAfile’s military sources comment that if Hamas was capable of lining up 500 armed recruits in a small Palestinian town on the West Bank which is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s defense barrier, it betokens a much larger Hamas militia numbering thousands ready to go – a nasty surprise for both Abu Mazen and Israel.
What's clear from this article is that the Saudis - who are Sunni Muslims - are fearful of Iran exporting its Shiite revolution to Syria and the 'Palestinian Authority.' With the ongoing civil war between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, and the occasional civil war between them in Lebanon, were Iran to turn Syria and the 'Palestinians' into Shiite territories, it would leave only Israel and Jordan outside the Iranian envelope in this area. And that could have revolutionary consequences for the Saudis.


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