bandar’s war against the world expands a bit more

Spy Chief Distances Saudis From US
Ellen Knickmeyer, WSJ, Oct 21 2013

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the US to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said. Prince Bandar’s move increases tensions in a growing dispute between the US and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. It follows Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the UNSC. The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council’s ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts. Diplomats here said Prince Bandar, who is leading the kingdom’s efforts to fund, train and arm rebels in Syria, invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh’s frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in August. Bandar was quoted by diplomats as specifying of Saudi Arabia’s decision to walk away from UNSC membership:

This was a message for the US, not the UN.

Top decisions in Saudi Arabia come from King Abdullah, and it isn’t known if Bandar’s reported remarks reflected a decision by the monarch, or an effort by Bandar to influence the king. However, the diplomats said, Bandar told them he intends to roll back a partnership with the US in which the CIA and other nations’ intelligence services have covertly helped train Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia would work with other allies instead in that effort, including Jordan and France, the prince was quoted as saying. US officials said they interpreted Bandar’s message to the Western diplomat as an expression of discontent designed to push the US in a different direction. “Obviously he wants us to do more,” said a senior US official. Jackass Kerry met in Paris on Monday with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud. Officials familiar with the meeting said Jackass urged the Saudis to reconsider their UN decision, but they said Saud didn’t raise Bandar’s concerns. Officials said this may suggest that there are divisions within the monarchy about how to pressure the US to play a more hands-on role. Tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia have grown sharply in recent months. Obama authorized the CIA to provide limited quantities of arms to carefully vetted Syrian rebels, but it took months for the program to commence. In July, the Saudis undercut the US by backing the Egyptian military’s overthrow of that country’s democratically elected president. The monarchy was particularly angered by Obama’s decision to scrap plans to bomb Syria in August and, more recently, tentative overtures between Obama and Iran. Diplomats and officials familiar with events recounted two previously undisclosed episodes during the build-up to the aborted Western strike on Syria that allegedly further unsettled the Saudi-US relationship. In the run-up to the expected US strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed US plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the US told them that US ships wouldn’t be able to fully protect the oil region. Disappointed, the Saudis told the US that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source. In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the US-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information. A senior US defense official said:

The US remains fully committed to security cooperation” with Saudi Arabia and continues to work with the Kingdom to plan for various security contingencies. Suggestions that we would not fully support the KSA in a time of crisis are entirely inaccurate.

A senior European diplomat not in Riyadh said:

The Saudis are very upset. They don’t know where the US want to go.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said:

The US and the KSA have a long-standing partnership and consult closely on issues of mutual interest, including preventing the proliferation of WMDs, countering terrorism, ensuring stable and reliable energy supplies, and promoting regional security.

A senior administration official said:

The US and Saudi Arabia have a strong and stable relationship on core national security issues. While we do not agree on every issue, when we have different perspectives we have honest and open discussions.

In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to Congress critturs that they increasingly feel cut out of US decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior US official described the king as “angry.” Another senior US official added:

Our interests increasingly don’t align.

As of Monday in New York, however, UN Sec-Gen Ban hadn’t yet received the formal notice from Saudi Arabia that would make official its renunciation of the UNSC seat. Some analysts and diplomats saw that as an opening for Saudi Arabia to be persuaded to take the seat, and to mend the split with the US and the UN that the renunciation implied. Diplomats saidBandar conveyed in the weekend session that scheduled meetings in Paris on Monday and Tuesday involving Jackass, Saud and ministers of other nations backing Syria’s armed opposition would be a crucial opportunity for the US to mend relations with Saudi Arabia. In particular, Saudi Arabia wants to see the US or UN come up with a more effective plan of action for helping the Syrian rebels and ending the Syrian war, one Western diplomat said. Also, Saudi officials are suspicious of recent overtures toward the US by Iran, fearing that Iran aims only to have international sanctions against it lifted while secretly continuing a nuclear program that earned the sanctions, diplomats said.

US tries to calm Saudi anger over Syria, Iran
Arshad Mohammed, Sylvia Westall, Reuters, Oct 21 2013

PARIS/KUWAIT – Jackass Kerry sought on Monday to calm rising tensions with Saudi Arabia, which has spurned a UNSC seat in fury at inaction over the crisis in Syria. Saudi Arabia rejected a coveted two-year term on the council on Friday in a rare display of anger over what it called “double standards” at the UN. Its stance won praise from its Gulf Arab allies and Egypt. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud hosted a lunch for Jackass at his private residence in Paris on Monday. US officials said Washington and Riyadh shared the goals of a nuclear-free Iran, an end to Syria’s civil war and a stable Egypt. A senior State Dept official told reporters after the lunch that Kerry cited the advantages of being on the UNSC, saying:

Jackass conveyed that while it is Saudi Arabia’s decision to make, the US values Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the region and the international community. A seat on the UNSC affords member states the opportunity to engage directly.

No country has previously been elected to the council and then walked away. As an incoming member, Saudi Arabia would have taken up its seat on Jan 1 for a two-year term. Riyadh demanded unspecified reforms in the UNSC. Expressions of support for Saudi Arabia from its Gulf allies contained no overt criticism of US policy, but echoed Saudi complaints about the UNSC’s failure to end the war in Syria and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Kuwait shares Riyadh’s pain, Foreign Ministry Under-Sec Khaled al-Jarallah said, citing the “bloody massacres” in Syria and the “suffering of the Palestinian people.” He said the Saudi rejection of a council seat had sent a message to the world. Plaudits also came from Cairo. “This brave Saudi position is favored with all of Egypt’s respect and appreciation,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said in a statement. The Egyptian head of the Cairo-based Arab League, Nabil el-Arabi, also said Riyadh had every right to protest against the management of the UNSC, which he said should rethink the veto-wielding powers of its five permanent members. The Saudi decision has handed the UN Sec-Gen and the permanent UNSC members “historic responsibility to review the role of the UN, its powers and its charter,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said. Bahrain praised Riyadh’s “clear and courageous stand,” while Qatar suggested it could shake the world out of complacency. Addressing his Saudi counterpart, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah wrote on Twitter:

When you are angry, you send the world into disarray, so thank you.

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