Monday, April 02, 2007

Prince Saud to Ahmadinejad: “You’re interfering in Arab affairs”

Most Americans haven't a clue, but Iran is not made up of Arabs. This reality is very important in that part of the world, but the average man on the street in America is as ignorant about the Middle East as the rest of the world. I was talking with a young woman yesterday who had no idea that Egypt was in Africa! An old saw about the US says the reason we go to war is in order to learn something about geography. The term ethnicity might be added to that. One would think that after all the years of living in history's most advertised "melting pots" we would be further along. Obviously not. Two oceans seem to have hindered our understanding of the rest of the world.

So make a note of this: when the king of Saudi Arabia accuses his political counterpart in Iran, he may be speaking peer to peer, even faith to faith. But he is not speaking Arab to Arab. He is speaking as an Arab (very candidly) to a NON-Arab.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during their talks in Riyadh on March 4 that he should not underestimate the US military threat to Iran, according to Newsweek.

The magazine quoted Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal as saying in an interview that the king said Tehran should take the threat of a possible US military strike on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program seriously.

In the interview, Prince Saud quoted the king as saying: “Why do you want to take a chance on that and harm your country? What is the rush? Why do you have to do it (enrich uranium) this year and not next year or the year after? Or five years from now? What is the real rush in it?”

The king “speaks to everybody frankly,” Saud said, adding that Abdullah told Ahmadinejad: “You’re interfering in Arab affairs,” a reference to Iran’s alleged interference in the affairs of other Middle East countries.

This piece from Arab News was picked up by John Burgess who makes the following comments.
This story, linked here to Arab News is appearing on the various wire services. It's pretty clear that Saudi Arabia wants to make its concerns about Iran public, perhaps as a counterpoint to its perceived slight of the US through calling the US presence in Iraq 'illegal foreign occupation'. It's also clear, though, that the Kingdom is not best pleased with Iran's conduct, calling its actions over the British sailors and marines a 'catastrophe'.

It's been my experience in the Middle East that Saudi Arabia is the country most likely to say exactly what it means, forgoing the misdirection and beating around the bush that typifies the foreign relations of certain other countries. Sometimes the Saudis can be opaque, or simply not answer a question. But when they answer, they usually say just what they mean. This may be one of the factors that made relations between the Saudis (well, Nejdis) and the Texans and Oklahomans who were the first real American contacts with the Saudis, due to the oil business, so easy.

"Nejdis" refers to the people of Riyadh and the surrounding area as distinct from the whole of Saudi Arabia. It is interesting that the Wikipedia article starts with a banner that says "This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources." I cannot speak for the king, but I imagine that when a king is speaking he is not interested in establishing his authority or credibility. Likewise, when a contributor to Wikipedia conveys an idea, the idea comes before supporting data. In this case nit-pickers might be advised to ignore the idea at their peril.

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