Monday 23 July 2012

Saudi monarch now at daggers drawn with Assad

Saudi Arabia is now throwing its full weight behind the drive to rid Syria of President Bashar al-Assad.
King Abdullah
King Abdullah yesterday called a two-day emergency summit of Muslim nations in three weeks time to address “the dangers of fragmentation and seditions” they are facing.
Assumptions the planned August 14-15 summit is also linked to the Syria crisis were enhanced by another announcement from the Saudi monarch. He ordered the launch today of a nationwide fundraising campaign to help “our brothers in Syria.”
This is reminiscent of the mid-1980s, when Saudi public fund-raisers generated financial support for liberating Afghanistan from the Soviets.
Political analyst Sarkis Naoum, in his column this morning for Beirut’s independent daily an-Nahar, says Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia has “assumed the captaincy of Arab players backing the Syrian revolution politically as well as with arms, training and cash to help it topple Assad and his regime.”
The Kingdom’s motive he writes, “is not only to safeguard the interests, rights and freedoms of the majority of Syrians, but to face up to the challenge Iran is posing” to Saud Arabia’s Gulf and Arab partners after Iran made serious inroads in the Arab world’s heartland.
Naoum says insiders got wind last week of Saudi Arabia’s resolve and commitment to push Assad out when King Abdullah appointed Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States for 22 years, as the new chief of General Intelligence.
“And it is an open secret that Prince Bandar has been championing a face-off with Syria in Lebanon since at least 2005,” Naoum writes.
Saudi Arabia, in the eyes of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is “the most hostile country to Special Envoy Kofi Annan and his Syria mission,” according to a report published this morning in Hezbollah and Syria’s Lebanese mouthpiece al-Akhbar.
The report penned for al-Akhbar by journalist Nasser Sharara appears simultaneously on Syria’s state-run Champress website.
According to Sharara:
The relationship between Lavrov and Annan “is close-knit.”  When Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem once complained to Lavrov that Annan was not appreciating the Syrian regime’s goodwill initiatives, “Lavrov said: He (Annan) does nothing before consulting me first.”
Upholding the Annan mission is Lavrov’s brainchild. He believes the most hostile state to Annan and his Syria mission is Saudi Arabia. In many of his diplomatic contacts, Lavrov keeps asking: “Why doesn’t Riyadh receive Annan, albeit once?”
In his meetings with European Union ambassadors in Moscow, Lavrov cited three Syria-related Russian concerns: (1) Syria sliding to Muslim Brotherhood rule that would destabilize Central Asia (2) The empowerment of Muslim extremists and al-Qaeda members who are now threatening Algeria and the South African Development Community and (3) The safety of a 45,000-strong Russian community in Syria.
Ghassan Charbel, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, quotes one of Vladimir Putin’s recent interlocutors as saying, “The Russian president acts as if the West and Turkey fell into the Syria crisis trap. He says the West and Turkey posture but are unable to intervene militarily; they also fail to mobilize the UN Security Council to remove Assad.”
The interlocutor – who also heard Putin say Moscow can’t accept the massacre or ejection of Syria’s minorities -- left with the impression Russia is set on continuing to take advantage of the entrapment of its opponents.
Charbel says, “Putin’s Russia hates Western human rights and welfare organizations. It doesn’t want to see the disease spreading and infecting its Muslims. China has similar concerns in this respect. Russia could be reminding the United States of the need to redraw zones of influence and address such pending issues as ballistic missile defense systems.
“Developments on the ground in Syria foretell the derailment of Russia’s exploitation of what it deems to be its detractors’ snare.
“Clearly, the Syrian regime is still able to fight. But it is no longer able to exit the tunnel.
“Happenings in Damascus and Aleppo may change the scene. Russia was asking the West to pay for a solution. Developments could yet force Russia to pay for a doorway. Russia could still discover she walked into a trap herself after losing a bet in Syria and alienating the Arab, Islamic and Western worlds.
“Iran in turn will ultimately discover the magnitude of the trap in which she fell. Her stand on the Syria crisis adds to her Arab, Islamic and international isolation. It also exposes her to risks in a region full of surprises.
“Having previously reaped the benefits of America’s Iraq entrapment, Iran may now have to pay the price of her ambush in Syria. And so does Hezbollah…”