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Friday, February 04, 2011

Backlash against Obama in Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Remember how I warned that there would be a price to pay with Saudi Arabia and others for the US abandonment of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak? We're starting to see some of that.
In deciding to set itself against Mr. Mubarak, a U.S. ally for decades, the U.S. is now facing the disquiet of other friendly Arab governments, who have long provided support for American policy goals. Meanwhile, Islamists in the region, including Hamas and Hezbollah, believe they are on the ascent as U.S. allies falter.

Such a scenario was one that defenders of the Middle East's status quo warned was possible, and shows how Mr. Obama's options were all, in some sense, unpalatable. The president was criticized early in the unrest for not clearly favoring antigovernment protesters. Now, having done so, he might have alienated key regional U.S. partners in the fight against al Qaeda and Iran. People familiar with the situation said Israel, the U.S. closest ally, has privately echoed Arab concerns about a U.S. push to kick out Mr. Mubarak, and worries Washington underestimates domestic Egyptian support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties.

It is unclear how much sway the Saudis have with Mr. Mubarak's regime in Cairo, given that the extent of its financial aid to Egypt isn't known. The U.S. gives Cairo about $2 billion a year. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are major trading partners, and experts say Saudi and Egyptian intelligence services have especially close ties.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has harshly criticized Egyptian protesters in a statement carried by the Saudi state news agency, describing them as "infiltrators" bent on destabilizing Egypt and the region, accusing them of "malicious sedition."

"You don't need to read between the lines too much to see [the Saudis] are in favor of stability," said Richard Fontaine, an analyst with the Center for New American Security and a former adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Senior officials from the U.A.E., another key regional ally, have said in recent days that the unraveling of Mr. Mubarak's government threatens to provide breathing room for Islamic extremists and Tehran. Egyptian security forces have been among the most aggressive in seeking to combat Hamas and Hezbollah, Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups that receive their arms from Iran and Syria.

"What hurts men and women as well as the leadership in Egypt hurts us all, and our standing with Egypt is an urgent need," U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on a visit to Iraq this week. "But our disapproval is of certain parties who might try to exploit the situation with an external agenda."

Another Arab official from a government aligned with Washington said the Obama administration seems to be humiliating Mr. Mubarak, despite his close cooperation over the years. This could lessen the willingness of Arab states to cooperate with Washington in the future, said the official.

"[The Saudis] are at odds with the U.S. position, publicly pushing Mubarak out. And frankly so are we—this isn't how you handle issues in region," said the Arab official. "Egypt needs to be treated with respect."
I have a sick feeling that Israel is going to be asked to pay the price to clean up Obama's relations with the Arab countries through 'concessions' to the 'Palestinians' (remember how the Madrid Conference came about in 1991?).

What could go wrong?

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At 10:55 AM, Blogger ryanshaunkelly said...

the dogs of war are very near

At 11:38 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - the Obama Administration has no credibility with the Arabs or the Israelis.

Its ability to exert leverage is significantly diminished. Mubarak told America's imperial envoy to stuff it and mind his own business.

And Israel can't help Obama clean up his image with the Arab World. He wrecked it all by himself!

What could go wrong indeed


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