Saudis going south on Iraq – International Herald Tribune

Saudis going south on Iraq – International Herald Tribune: “The Bush administration and Saudi Arabia’s ruling family have a lot in common, including oil, shared rivals like Iran and a penchant for denial that has allowed both to overlook the Saudis’ enabling role in the Sept. 11 attacks. But their recent wrangling over Iraq cannot be denied or papered over with proposals for a big new arms sale. And if these differences are not tackled, there is an increased likelihood that the war’s chaos will spread far beyond Iraq’s borders.
While Washington hasn’t protested publicly, Riyadh is pouring money into Sunni opposition groups and letting Saudis cross the border to join Sunni insurgents fighting the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led government. Washington estimates that nearly half of the 60 to 80 foreign fighters entering Iraq each month come from Saudi Arabia.
So far, neither Washington nor Riyadh is spending any time thinking about containing the chaos that will follow the inevitable U.S. withdrawal. The only good news is that President Bush is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Saudi Arabia for what we hope will be a frank discussion.
A failed Iraqi state with Saudi Islamists holed up in Qaeda sanctuaries in its western deserts is clearly not in the interests of the Saudi monarchy. But for Rice and Gates to have any chance of changing Saudi policies, they will have to go beyond the administration’s usual mix of bullying and denial and address legitimate Saudi concerns.
One such concern is Iran, which is bankrolling and training Shiite militias, building a power base in Shiite areas of Iraq and drawing the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, into its orbit. Iran’s expanding influence poses a major threat to Saudi Arabia.”

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