Saudis Torn Over Way To Handle Iraq Crisis

Saudis Torn Over Way To Handle Iraq Crisis
December 14th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Saudis Torn Over Way To Handle Iraq Crisis

Saudis Torn Over Way To Handle Iraq Crisis
Houston Chronicle
December 14, 2006
Pg. 1

By Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press
CAIRO, EGYPT Saudi Arabia's royal family and government leaders are deeply divided over how to handle the growing crisis in Iraq and other looming Mideast problems like Iran, with some favoring strong aid to fellow Sunnis and others urging more caution.
The split played a key role in this week's abrupt resignation of the Saudi ambassador to Washington. It also could hurt U.S. efforts to forge a new overall strategy to calm Iraq.
More broadly, the internal dispute shows how Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, long key partners in U.S. efforts to stabilize the Middle East, are struggling to decide how to proceed as Iraq boils over and Iran gains influence.
The tension in the region is straining Saudi relations with the U.S., despite both countries' assertions that all is fine.
The resignation of Prince Turki al-Faisal, for example, after just 15 months as ambassador to Washington, came after Saudi officials concluded he was not succeeding at building strong ties with the U.S., a Saudi official said Wednesday.
"Many in the royal family concluded that if he stayed longer, things might even get worse," said the official, who has close working ties with the Saudi Foreign Ministry but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
The Saudis had no official comment, and the White House merely wished Turki well. Turki himself could not be reached for comment.
But Iraq was clearly central to the dispute.
Turki last week fired a Saudi security consultant, Nawaf Obaid, after Obaid wrote in The Washington Post that "one of the first consequences" of any American troop pullout from Iraq would "be massive Saudi intervention" in Iraq "to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."
Saudi Arabia denied that Obaid was speaking on its behalf.
But last week it was reported that Saudi private citizens are sending millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, much of it used to buy weapons, because they worry about Iranian influence in Shiite-led Iraq.
Iraqi officials have said they think some members of the Saudi royal family are either involved in that flow of money or turning a blind eye a charge Saudi Arabia strongly denies.
The Saudis and the United States also denied a Wednesday report in The New York Times that the Saudi king told Vice President Dick Cheney that the kingdom might provide financial aid to Iraqi Sunnis if the U.S. pulls troops out of Iraq.
"That's not Saudi government policy," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. He added that the Saudis, however, were "rightly concerned about the adventurism of Iranians in Iraq, and we share that concern."
The United States has been pushing Saudi Arabia to persuade Sunnis in Iraq to leave the insurgency and join with Shiites in political efforts an effort the Saudi government has said it is undertaking.
But the royal family has been sharply divided over what strategy to adopt toward Iraq, said two Saudis with close ties to the government, speaking anonymously because internal royal deliberations are highly sensitive. Some favor robust support of fellow Sunnis inside Iraq, while others urge caution.
The bottom line has been power struggles and indecision about the best course, both said.
"They have an obsession that Shiites and Iran will control Iraq, but they do not know how to stop that," said one. The other described what he called total confusion within the government over the best course.

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