Monday, September 25, 2006

Curious denials 

Stratfor sent around a strange "sitrep" this afternoon:

A prominent Saudi official denied that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with high-ranking Saudi officials Sept. 12. Olmert also denied reports that he met with Saudi King Abdullah.

The Jerusalem Post has a story that seems to be the source of the Stratfor report. It is chock full of sneaky Middle Eastern deviousness:
Olmert characterized the reports as "speculation, imagination, things that are beyond the limits."

Nevertheless, he did praise the Saudis for the positive role they have played in the region recently. "When you examine their performance over the last couple of months, you see something that you haven't seen in the past," Olmert said. "More sense of responsibility, and a greater degree of readiness to stand up and speak up against Shi'ite extremists like Hizbullah."

Olmert said it was no small thing that Saudi Arabia spoke out in the early days of the war against Hizbullah. "They stood up publicly against Muslims and criticized their actions and entirely disagreed with how they handled themselves," he said. "This is not insignificant. This is a very important sign. And I think they are very much opposed to Syria and the statements that were made by the Syrian president, and I think they have also signaled their opposition to Iran."...

The Saudis, however, were quick to reject the rhetorical embrace. A senior Saudi government official flatly denied the reports of a secret meeting.

"The information is completely incorrect," Hisham al-Niali, deputy director of the Saudi Foreign Ministry's information department, told the Post by phone from Riyadh. "There was no meeting, not at all. And we have already issued a statement to the press about this," he said.

Here's the truly great part:
Osama Nuqli, a spokesman for the Saudi Foreign Ministry, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Saturday that his country did not have any contacts with Israel.

Nuqli said Saudi policy was guided by "transparency," and that "its moves and diplomatic and political efforts are publicized and well-known," adding that there were no "secret" contacts with Israel.

You don't even have to be cynical to that's funny.

One gets the sense that these sorts of secret meetings happen all the time in this part of the world. Still, footprints in the sand are always worth examination, even if the wind blows them away before you can understand them. Suppose there is something to the rumor. If Israel were suddenly more worried about Iran and Hezbollah than the Palestinians, is there a deal to be done? Could Israel give the Palestinians enough that the Saudis and other Sunni regimes can declare "peace in Palestine," recognize Israel and then cooperate in the containment of Iran? Or is that idea so stupid I'm going to regret having written it in the morning?

No doubt you'll tell me.

UPDATE: (6:30 am Tuesday) Stratfor put out a report this morning on the significance of these contacts. Here's the money quote:
But Riyadh really does not have a choice when attempting to counter the Iranian geopolitical invasion of what it considers its turf. Saudi Arabia is trying to contain the Iranian/Shiite threat by underscoring its leadership role in the region. The Saudis know the Iranians and Syrians are trying to emerge as a player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are thus sending a message, particularly to the Palestinians, that Riyadh, not Tehran, can secure their interests because it has the leverage on both sides to be able to mediate. The Saudis, despite their many problems, are confident there is no domestic force capable of destabilizing them, and hope they will be able to use the international embargo on the Palestinians to wean them away from the Iranian/Syrian camp.

Just as Iran used Israel to enhance its position in the region, Saudi Arabia is trying to do the same. The only difference is that while Tehran exploited its conflict with Israel, Riyadh is trying to downplay its enmity with it.

Sounds about right.


By Anonymous Purple Avenger, at Tue Sep 26, 10:40:00 AM:

One gets the sense that these sorts of secret meetings happen all the time in this part of the world.

Isreal and most of the arab counties (a few excepted) have done things like this over the past 30 years when it was regarding issues of mutual interest. The meetings were not revealed because it wouldn't play well with the "street" and contradicts arab public positions.

If true I would not be suprised at all.  

By Blogger Papa Ray, at Tue Sep 26, 10:42:00 PM:

Arabs are born liers and only get better with age.

They lie when telling the truth would serve them better.

As far as the Palestinians (Hamas included) the only thing that they understand now (besides killing Jews) is money, they need lots and lots of it.

Whoever keeps their till full, will keep their attention. It should be interesting to see who can give the most, the Kingdom or the Persian [e]mpire.

Papa Ray
West Texas

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