June 26, 2002

STRATFOR agrees that Bush is throwing down the gauntlet with the Saudis:

Bush in effect is washing his hands of trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington’s challenge, however, is not aimed at the Palestinians but at the country that pushed for greater U.S. involvement in the peace process: Saudi Arabia. Riyadh tried to shift U.S. attention from its war against al Qaeda by making resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key prerequisite for Saudi cooperation on hunting Osama bin Laden’s associates and financiers. Bush’s speech warns the Saudis that Israel and the Palestinians will no longer serve as a distraction.

This means that a Saudi-U.S. confrontation may be on the horizon. By no longer taking responsibility for the Palestinians, Washington is affirming its goal of destroying al Qaeda. To do this, it must strike at the network’s center of gravity: Saudi Arabia. In response, the oil-rich kingdom will now seek to create alliances to resist American pressure. Worried about U.S. military deployments in Yemen and the surrounding Gulf states and unable to trust U.S. ally Jordan, Riyadh likely will move to strengthen ties with the two countries bent on resisting U.S. dominance: Iran and Iraq.

That seems like a loser’s game, but since the Sauds are constitutionally unable to quit backing Islamist terror, they don’t have any other cards to play.

Also, if you believe (as many bloggers do) that the Administration was using the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation as a distraction tool while the military buildup took place, this probably means that the buildup is more or less over and that more serious action is imminent.

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