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Thursday, January 22, 2004  
Egypt the Prize

Saudi Arabia is a divisive issue in Washington. Officially, the White House and the Pentagon maintain the House of Saud's elevated position as ally and client, paying lip service to a long history of friendship and trade (though with less emphasis than the nervous Saudi Royals).

BUT: an increasing number of representatives, house members, senators, etc. are in agreement with Perle and Frum, and coming around to their contention that, sooner or later, the US will have to take action against the Saudis unless they relinquish ALL ties with terrorism and Wahhabism. Some argue that the Saudis will never meet such conditions whatever they say - because, in the end, they can't - and should simply be deposed forthwith.

There is another element - (a phantom trace of personal suspicion...).

With the Iraq oil fields under US/UK control and, essentially, open to Western exploitation, Saudi Arabia is no longer the one significant oil producing State in the Middle East. But the exploitation of this bountiful natural resource necessitates a bottom threshold of national security. Iraq is obviously far below that threshold. The Iraqi resistance movement would not, however, be able to perpetuate such effective strikes against US forces and Iraqi cities if it was confined to national dissidents, ex-Baathists and Sunni muslims. The strength and expertise comes from alien elements; that is: a cynical pact with Islamist guerrillas. In other words, a (very) significant number of Saudi jihadists - ...the question is, do they recieve the tacit or even active support of the Saudi regime? Considering the regional stakes involved - Saudi oil hegemony = leverage with the US; without it the regime is more than vulnerable, internally and externally - ...blah blah...bullshit...

On July 10th, 2002, a rather shady character called Laurent Murawiec (an analyst for White House advisors Rand Corp.) gave a presentation to a Pentagon advisory group that included Donald Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich, Dan Qayle and Henry Kissinger. Murawiec had been invited by Richard Perle; the briefing was titled: Taking Saudi Out of Arabia. The contents of Murawiec's Powerpoint display proved explosive, especially when leaked to the Washington Post. It called for a full US invasion of Saudi Arabia, deposing the House of Saud, seizing the State's oil fields and its financial assets.

The presentation began with a critique of the Arab world, detailing its isolation from the industrial and digital revolutions; theological crises; perpetuation of wars, demagogues, criminal states and human rights abuse. At one point, Murawiec claimed that "in the Arab world, violence is not a continuation of politics by other means - violence is politics, politics is violence." This combination of politics, violence and regressive theology led the twin poles of terrorism and Wahhabism to migrate from Islam's "lunatic fringe to centre-stage".

Saudi Arabia, Murawiec stressed, was principal party to this migration. On from this, Murawiec then (correctly) pointed out that "Saudi Arabia is not a God-given entity," because the House of Saud received dominion over Arabia in 1922 from the British, and took guardianship of Mecca and Medina by force from the Hashemite dynasty. "There is an 'Arabia'," he added, "but it need not be 'Saudi'."

From here, Murawiec defined the outer edges of Neocon foreign policy. America must demand that the Saudi regime: 1. stop funding fundamentalist movements, groups, and mosques worldwide; 2. ban all anti-American/Isreali/Western propaganda, writing and teaching within Arabia; 3. ban Islamic charitities and confiscate their assets; 4. prosecute all sponsors of terrorism within the kingdom, including the Saudi intelligence services. Once clear that these demands were not being met (as if they could be), Murawiec suggested that the US threaten Mecca and Medina with force!

Murawiec's summation remained incomprehensible to everyone present. "Iraq is the tactical pivot; Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot; Egypt the prize," he stated, boldly. The room looked confused, then stunned (or vice versa).

When the story of Murawiec's briefing was leaked to the press, everybody distanced themselves from it. People said truly amazing things. The hypocrisy of the situation was palpable, and unwittingly justified parts of Murawiec's critique, if not his remedies.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said: "The Saudi's cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism" (yes, Victoria, on the other side!). Kissinger, typically, got to the realpolitik nub (highlighting the difference between the old-skool slippery Kissinger-style realpolitik and new-skool megablast Perle-style realpolitik; an important distinction to keep in mind): "I don't consider Saudi Arabia to be a strategic adversary of the United States. They are doing some things I don't approve of, but I don't consider them a strategic adversary," he said. Donald Rumsfeld, however, truly excelled, with this gem of all apologisms: "It is correct, as apparently someone said in the briefing, that a number of the people who were involved on September 11th happen to have been Saudi individuals and that there are those issues that Saudi Arabia is wrestling with, just as other countries of the world are wrestling with them." Which must mean, therefore: Afghanistan needs bombs, Iran needs international inspectors, but the Saudis need a good Manhattan therapist.

5:47 PM

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