October 21, 2013:
I have been operating the Middle East since 1975 and after being challenged by Prime Minister in 1977, along with others, I was propelled into Southern Lebanon to meet with Major Haddad and see first hand what was happening on the ground.
That first trip speeding across the ridge line above the Latini River under the guns of Beaufort castle, being held by the PLO, and seeing the smoke trail of the missiles being fired our way told me this was not a movie.
That first meeting with Major Haddad in his fortified basement started a chain of events that changed my life. I knew something wasn’t right about what we were being told in the press about terrorism, it was more then a fight for a Palestinian home land. (For more on this get a copy of my first book Hostile Intent where I track terrorism to its source)
But in those early years as I was on the ground in Southern Lebanon I never envisioned the current emerging alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Who would have ever thought that world events would change and we would have an administration who would be viewed as soft on terrorism, take us from being a leader in the world to a ‘has been’ and one our friends could not count on.
After the election in 2008 friends in the Gulf states had high expectations of the new administration in Washington and what it would mean for them. A year later they were asking me ‘What did you people do electing Obama’. As the Arab Spring unfolded they knew they had to prepare to protect themselves and that the protection from the U.S. could not be counted on.
I was told early in my days in the Gulf that there were high level relationships between Israel and Saudi military officials. That was further defined when over the last 2 years the Saudis opened a corridor across their country for Israeli jets to fly and they encouraged them to strike Iran. ( More on this then I can put in this blog)
The following over view is gleamed from many sources and gives some insight into what is going on in the Gulf.
The Israeli-Saudi détente is slowly emerging from the shadows, with a media report on a secret Jerusalem meeting and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oblique reference in his UN speech. But this powerhouse collaboration could mean trouble for U.S. diplomacy in the Mideast, reports Robert Parry.
In October Israel’s Channel 2 TV news reported that senior Israeli security officials met with a high-level Gulf state counterpart in Jerusalem, believed to be Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States and now head of Saudi intelligence.
And, a day before that TV report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the new relationship in his United Nations General Assembly speech, which was largely devoted to excoriating Iran over its nuclear program and threatening a unilateral Israeli military strike.
Amid the bellicosity, Netanyahu dropped in a largely missed clue about the evolving power relationships in the Middle East, saying: “The dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy. And this affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.”
Besides the shared Saudi-Israeli animosity toward Iran, the growing behind-the-scenes collaboration also revolves around mutual interests in supporting the military coup in Egypt that removed the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and in seeking to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.
In mid-September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren even embraced the Saudi strategy in Syria when he announced that Israel would prefer to see the Saudi-backed jihadists prevail in Syria over the continuation of the Iran-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”
Saudi Arabia, which follows the ultraconservative Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, shares Israeli’s strategic view that the Shiite crescent, stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon, must be broken.
Further advancing the Saudi-Israeli détente is the presence of the worldly Bandar bin Sultan as Saudi Arabia’s new intelligence chief. As the former Saudi ambassador to the United States who worked closely with the neocon administration of George W. Bush, Bandar doesn’t share the crude anti-Semitism and visceral antipathy toward Israel that some earlier Saudi leaders did. He is a savvy player who understands the chess board of global geopolitics.
The emerging Saudi-Israeli alliance also reflects a recognition that the two countries have complementary “soft power” strengths that – when combined – could create a new superpower in the Middle East and arguably the world. While the Israelis are masters of propaganda and political lobbying (especially in the United States), Saudi Arabia can pull strings through its extraordinary access to oil and money.
Israel and Saudi Arabia showed how their new tag-team approach worked when they supported the Egyptian military in its ousting of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood repressive government in Egypt. While Saudi Arabia assured the coup regime a steady flow of money and oil, the Israelis went to work through their lobby in Washington to insure that President Barack Obama and Congress would not declare the coup a coup and thus trigger a cutoff of U.S. military aid.
According to a leaked diplomatic brief of a July 31 meeting in Moscow, Bandar informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that Saudi Arabia has strong influence over Chechen extremists who have carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Russian targets and have recently been deployed to fight the Assad government in Syria.
Amid Bandar’s calls for Russian cooperation with the Saudi position on Syria, Bandar reportedly offered guarantees of protection from Chechen terror attacks on next year’s Winter Olympic Games hosted by Russia in the city of Sochi. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year,” Bandar reportedly said. “The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”
The anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan brought to prominence Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who later consolidated themselves under the global brand, al-Qaeda. In the 1980s, these roving jihadists were hailed as freedom fighters and brave defenders of Islam, but – in the 1990s – they began targeting the United States with terrorist attacks.
As the near U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war shows, the Israeli-Saudi alliance can be problematic to U.S. interests in the Middle East by seeking to limit peaceful options available to President Obama. In yanking Official Washington around, Saudi Arabia and Israel can work different sides of the U.S. influence-peddling street.
Saudi oil billionaires can reach into both Wall Street boardrooms and the corporate offices of Texas energy giants, while Israel has unparalleled lobbying power with Congress and can deploy its network of neocon propagandists to shape any American foreign policy debate.
Thus, the new Israeli-Saudi alliance can threaten U.S.-Russian strategies for negotiating settlements to Middle East crises. When both Israeli and Saudi leaders say no, it’s hard to fashion an effective strategy for addressing the loss of democracy in Egypt, for instance, or pursuing negotiations to resolve the crises with Syria and Iran.
The only possible counterforce strong enough to take on this new Israeli-Saudi powerhouse would be a coordinated – and determined – effort by the United States and Russia. Thus, the odd-couple bonding of Netanyahu and Bandar might have the ironic consequence of pushing together another odd couple, Barack and Vlad.
It is an interesting and fast changing world we are living in.
Until next time be safe.