A SAUDI PRINCE'S THREAT TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Born in 1945 in Mecca to the future King Faisal, his official biography informs us Turki studied at the Ta'if Model Elementary and Intermediate School, the Lawrenceville School, and Georgetown University. His career began in 1973 as an advisor in the Royal Court. He served as Director General of the Saudi Kingdom's main foreign intelligence service for nearly a quarter-century, from 1977 to 2001, leaving that office just before 9/11. Between 2002 and 2007, he represented his government as Ambassador to London and Washington. In retirement, he is Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh and Co-Chair of the C100 Group, an affiliate of the World Economic Forum.
These credentials help gauge the import of the remarkable op-ed Turki published on January 23, 2009, in London's Financial Times, "Saudi Arabia's Patience Is Running Out." He begins it by recalling his own efforts over the decades to promote Arab-Israeli peace, and especially the Abdullah Plan of 2002. "But after Israel launched its bloody attack on Gaza," he writes, "these pleas for optimism and co-operation now seem a distant memory." Then comes a threat: "Unless the new U.S. administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and the stability of the region are at risk."
He goes on to whack George W. Bush in a way not exactly usual for a former Saudi ambassador: "Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region, but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents." Then comes the threat again, restated more directly: "If the U.S. wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact -- especially its ‘special relationship' with Saudi Arabia -- it will have to revise drastically its policies vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine."
Turki goes on to instruct in detail the new administration on what to do:
Condemn the Israeli actions that led to this conflict, from settlement building in the West Bank to the blockade of Gaza and the targeted killings and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians;
Declare America's intention to work for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, with a security umbrella for countries that sign up and sanctions for those that do not;
Call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Shab‘ah Farms in Lebanon;
Encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations for peace; and support a UN resolution guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity.
Turki maintains that Obama should strongly promote the Abdullah peace initiative.
Finally, Turki notes that Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on "Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel [that] would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed." He soothingly notes that, "So far, the Kingdom has resisted these calls," but then reiterates his threat a third time:
What to make of this extraordinary threat? Not much.
As a Financial Times article on Turki's op-ed notes:
In other words, we've experienced such a threat before, to little effect.
For all his years at the apex of the Saudi establishment, Turki left his final position ignominiously in 2006. Here is a contemporary account of his exit, from the Washington Post:
Turki has a history of Islamist radicalism and hot-headedness vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a speech earlier this month at a forum on relations between the Persian Gulf region and the United States, he addressed Obama:
"Seek martyrdom"? Sounds like the revolutionary Iranian regime, not the staid Saudi monarchy.
Turki's threats could conceivably sway the Obama administration, but the new President's comments about the recent Gaza hostilities suggest he is going in a decidedly different direction, having laid down three markers that Hamas must fulfill, before it can be accepted as a diplomatic partner ("recognize Israel's right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements"). In the words of a Washington Post analysis, thus far, "Obama appears to have hewed closely to the line held by the Bush administration."
© Daniel Pipes 2009
Originally Published in Front Page Magazine, January 26, 2009
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, January 26, 2009
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/6151
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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