In a December 3rd article titled "Mideast Allies Near a State of Panic," Los Angeles Times writer Paul Richter looked at the growing concern on the part of our nominal allies across the Middle East over the deteriorating situation in Iraq and its effect on their nations. In discussing Vice President Cheney's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Richter wrote that "...Saudi leaders sought the visit to express their concern about the region...and what they see as excessive American support for the Shiite faction in Iraq."
Goodness gracious! The Saudis are concerned that we appear to be supporting the Shiite faction! I suppose they are referring to that faction which is somewhat less prone to extreme and unrelenting violence against Americans, as opposed to the Sunni faction which appears to be second in the Middle East only to the Palestinians in fighting against their best interests.
If the Saudis (and others) were truly interested in stabilizing Iraq, one might think they would exercise some influence over their coreligionists to ratchet back the violence and seek accommodation with the Shiites and the Kurds to secure the best deal they can get in the new Iraq. This is, of course, easy for me to say. The Iraqi Sunnis were used to being on top and are having a hard time reconciling themselves to their new second-class status. And the evil influence of the late and unlamented Abu Musab al-Zarkawi lives on in the unrelenting Sunni-vs-Shiite religious violence he worked so hard to foment.
But this is the real curse of the Middle East: the blind religious beliefs and tribal culture which lead to an unwillingness to cooperate with "the other" to seek a better future.
A major recurring theme of this blog is that America has become the world's greatest and wealthiest nation because its people have generally chosen to work together to build something unique in the world, rather than against each other in a search for individual advantage. This has, of course, resulted in our being at the same time the most admired and the most reviled country in the world...but I hardly think any American would have it any other way. Can the Iraqis manage to work together to build an "America Lite" in the Middle East as President Bush appears to have hoped? I doubt it.
Whatever else the Iraq Study Group and others pondering our next steps may recommend, one recommendation certainly ought to be strong encouragement of the Saudis, Jordanians, Turks, Syrians, and Iranians to apply pressure on the warring factions to stop killing each other and work toward the future that their children deserve.
But, as usual when considering the possibility of any rational action from any actor in the Middle East, I'm not holding my breath.
Have a good day. More thoughts later.