Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir is rarely seen around Washington these days. That is because King Abdullah keeps this diplomat whom he admires close beside him in Riyadh for frequent consultations. Every so often, the envoy goes back to the US capital for a day or two for some public ceremony or event, but then he flies home directly – sometimes using a specially chartered private airliner.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly heard a senior Persian Gulf source close to the Saudi royal family explain:
"You must understand that this situation is perfectly natural. After all, these days, important Middle East decisions are made in Riyadh, not Washington."
As to whether Al-Jubeir's long absences from Washington are a Saudi protest against Obama administration policy – just short of the standard "recall for consultations," the source said it was impossible to tell, because no one in Washington appears to care whether the Saudi ambassador is there or in Riyadh. But once they do, he said, they would be right to conclude that King Abdullah is deeply disgruntled with the way President Barack Obama is handling issues of burning interest to the oil kingdom.
Keeping the ambassador away would be his way of protesting America's unwillingness or inability to halt Iran's inroads on Iraq, its grab for Lebanon – where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit this week is a blatant provocation – or deal with Khartoum where Iran's Revolutionary Guards have moved in on Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
Tehran is being allowed to strengthen its foothold both to the east and the west of Saudi Arabia.
A Shiite flag on wing to Jerusalem?
Saudi Arabia's Sunni rulers, Guardians of the Holy Shrines of Islam, were aghast to see an Iranian Shiite flag fluttering over a golden replica of the Al Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem planted in South Lebanon for the Ahmadinejad visit on Thursday, Oct. 14. It was a red rag to a bull for Riyadh and all Sunni Muslims and a strong pointer to Tehran's religious colonizing goals.
To the east of the oil kingdom, Iranian influence is driving Sudan towards breakup and another civil war aside from the unsolved Darfur crisis.
In two and-a-half months, the southern region chooses between union under Khartoum or secession and independence in an area roughly the size of Texas. If the latter, war will erupt with the IRGC strongly backing and arming Al-Bashir and thereby staking out an Iranian base in Sudan with a military and naval presence on the Red Sea coast opposite the western shore of Saudi Arabia.
The royal family is still in the dark about where the Obama administration stands on the Sudan question despite all its efforts to ferret out some policy outline.
After watching the actor George Clooney pressing President Barack Obama on Oct. 12 for some "real, robust diplomacy" to head off the threat of civil war in the Sudan after the vote on whether the country splits into two parts, Saudi rulers could only ask themselves: Is that how policy is made these days in Washington?
US Mid East policy – neither seen nor heard
The sense in Middle East capitals is that the Obama administration has lost its way in Middle East policy-making. In fact, no one seems to understand what exactly President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are after.
That uncertainty generated the diplomatic chaos prevailing at the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Sirte, Libya last weekend (October 8-9).
Syrian President Bashar Assad, Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and Arab League Secretary Amr Musa actually shouted at Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he doesn't know what he is doing. He was told that he was badly mistaken in focusing all the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a construction freeze in the settlements and Jerusalem. The Obama administration would never buy this condition for resuming talks, they told him.
Saudi Foreign minister Saud bin Faisal listened quietly to the shouting. Afterward, he said drily that as usual the Arabs were getting bogged down in irrelevant trivia. With all due respect to the Palestinian problem, he said, the two really acute and important problems were Iran's expansionism, which knows no bounds because it is unchecked by the West, and the situation in Sudan.
Transcending these two problems, the prince pointed to the concern shared by all about the enigma of US Middle East policy which is neither seen nor heard in the region.