A couple weeks ago I wrote about US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s meeting with Syrian rebel forces ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks. During that meeting, Ford indicated that changes were coming to Saudi Arabia in March. Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama is planning a trip to the Kingdom to meet with King Abdullah “in a bid to smooth relations” in — wait for it — March.
Arab officials briefed on the coming summit, which was pulled together quickly in recent days, said it would be crucial to aligning American and Saudi policies as political change and sectarian strife continue to sweep the Mideast and North Africa. ‘This is about a deteriorating relationship’ and declining trust, said a senior Arab official in describing the need for the summit.
Recent developments have fractured the historic relationship. Saudi Arabia was angered when the US threatened military action against Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and then failed to follow through. At the same time, the US was holding secret talks with Iran, the Kingdom’s arch rival for power in the region.
‘What was surprising was that the talks that were going forward were kept from us,’ Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a leading member of the royal family, told an international policy conference in Monaco in December. ‘How can you build trust when you keep secrets from what are supposed to be your closest allies?’
Trust works both ways. In an article deliciously titled “Kerry Tells Senators That Obama Syria Policy Is Collapsing,” Jeffry Goldberg suggests that the Obama Administration is flailing around in search of new strategies for bringing Syria’s chaos under control, specifically to stop Al Nusra Front from importing Syrian terror to the US.
Assume for a moment that Goldberg is correct (that’s a huge assumption considering Goldberg’s previous winning pieces include writing about strong ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda). Suppose Obama’s switch from supporting Saudi Arabia to supporting Iran so angered the Kingdom that the House of Saud is prepared to let loose its mercenaries to strike the US. The new approach to Syria may be an attempt to neutralize Saudi Arabia’s proxy terrorists before they storm the US homeland in search of fresh liver.
If it is indeed true that the al-Qaeda-oriented Nusra Front is seeking targets in the U.S., then the Syria conflict must become, by necessity, a paramount national security concern for the U.S. The impact of Clapper’s testimony could be profound: If parts of Syria are becoming, in essence, al-Qaeda havens, and if jihadis are plotting attacks on American targets from those havens, then the Obama administration, which has made the fight against al-Qaeda the centerpiece of its national security strategy will have to engage in Syria in ways it has so far tried to avoid.
If so, Saudi Arabia pwnd the US.
March should be very interesting.
Off topic is always welcome at Over Easy, and lurkers are encouraged to delurk to chat. See you in the comments.
Caricature from DonkeyHotey licensed under Creative Commons.