In whose interest is Saudi Arabia acting?

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Saudi Arabia’s recent moves to broker an inter-Palestinian government of national unity –” known as the Mecca Agreement –” and followed through with re-floating a five-year old “peace offer” to Israel, has led to a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region.

Even before the proverbial ink had dried, analysts and critics alike have been searching for the real motivation behind the Saudi’s renewed enthusiasm and rush to package the Palestinian issue. As different perspectives are scrutinized and faceless sources emerge at regular intervals to provide their interpretations, much of the Muslim world seems to have adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach.

After all, the Muslim world has during regular intervals been bitterly disappointed after having their hopes inflated by a variety of Arab leaders from Gamal Abdel Nasser to Muammar Gaddafi. None delivered! Most left behind as legacy an era, which Palestinians would justly describe as a period of deception, collusion and betrayal.

So while there is no surprise as to why very little excitement about King Abdullah’s ‘peace offer’ is being displayed in the Arab streets; this time around though, public opinion may be swung behind the Saudi initiative if it is seen to be willing to risk US alienation in pursuit of Palestinian interests.

This won’t be the first time that Saudi Arabia and the United States will be on a collision course if indeed King Abdullah is acting without consent from the White House.

According to the founder of Stratfor, George Friedman, Saudi relations with America has since September 11 been severely tested over the question of Al Qaeda. US intelligence had even before that event which brought the twin towers crashing down to ground zero, insisted that Saudi intelligence function as their primary window into Al Qaeda.

The American view is pretty simplistic: In the 1970s the Saudis had helped create the mujahideen movement for the Americans to help oppose the Soviets. Having energized this movement with finance and recruits, the Saudis were unable to shut it down nor were they willing to do so. It mutated into Al Qaeda, intensified and turned upon the United State’s presence in Saudi Arabia.

Hence, tensions developing between the Saudi monarchy and the Bush administration had to be managed. The only plausible diversion for the Saudis was to place the Palestinian issue on the table and secure a quid pro quo of Al Qaeda for Israel. Helping the Americans would open them to charges of collaboration. But if they, through complex bargaining, could extract a decision from Bush Jr. to impose some tangible peace agreement, they could reclaim respectable leadership in the Arab world.

The focus on Palestine then was purely driven by selfish national interests rather than any genuine concern for the oppression experienced by victims of apartheid Israel.

How certain can we be that this time around, the Saudis have suddenly been emboldened by a desire to assist the Palestinians in the interest of Palestine rather than any ulterior motives?

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