Friday, May 29, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: US Crisis Looming with the Saudis?

by David Bedein

The United States has become concerned over what officials describe as a chill in its relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East Newline has confirmed the Saudi regime has been dismayed by President Barack Obama’s decision to seek a reconciliation with Iran, and Saudi leaders have sent a series of warnings saying this would directly harm U.S. allies in the Gulf.

“The Saudis are beginning to back away from us and consider other strategic alliances,” an official said.

President Barack Obama plans to visit Saudi Arabia on Wednesday during his three-day trip to Egypt, Germany and France. Officials said the president added Riyadh to his itinerary amid warnings that Saudi leaders were becoming increasingly frustrated with the U.S. policy of reconciliation with Iran.

The Saudi royal family was not comforted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit earlier this month, officials said. They said Mr. Gates, despite his promises of additional U.S. weapons and training, was treated coolly by King Abdullah and his aides.

“The president believes it’s an important opportunity to discuss important business, like Middle East peace, but it’s not born out of anything specific,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Mr. Gibbs said the president would discuss U.S. policy toward Iran during his visit to Riyadh and particularly its nuclear program. The spokesman said the president would also seek Saudi support for U.S. efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

The surprise Saudi visit stemmed from the cancellation of a summit between Egypt and the United States later this month.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, citing the death of his grandson, decided to cancel his trip to Washington in coordination with Saudi King Abdullah.

“There are a few Arab states who are very anxious over our policy toward Iran and have dismissed U.S. promises to compensate by additional weapons and an accelerated Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the official said.

President Obama was apparently persuaded to visit Riyadh before his scheduled address to the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, in order to personally assure King Abdullah said Saudi interests would not be harmed by a U.S. reconciliation with Tehran. Saudi influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as the kingdom’s role as the world’s leading supplier of crude oil and weapons importer, would remain stable.

Saudi Oil Industry Again Target Of Al-Qaida Terrorists

Al-Qaida appears to have renewed its campaign against Saudi Arabia’s energy industry.

Al-Qaida has resumed its campaign of tracking and striking Westerners in the Saudi kingdom. They said the focus once again appears to be the Western expatriate community in and around the Eastern Province, which contains the bulk of the Saudi crude oil reserves.

On Tuesday, al-Qaida was believed to have attacked a bus full of Western workers in Jubail. Three British nationals came under gunfire in the nighttime ambush.

“None of the passengers was harmed,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said.

Maj. Gen. al-Turki said the attackers targeted a bus that contained five foreigners in the industrial region of Jubail. He said the bus contained three British passengers, a Pakistani, a Saudi and a Syrian.

This marked the first attack on foreigners in Saudi Arabia since 2007, when three French expatriates were shot dead during a desert trip. Al-Qaida was also said to have been responsible for the killings.

View this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
View this story at Israel Behind the News

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