Saudi King Abdullah is certain that by embracing the Bushehr gambit, President Barack Obama has maneuvered himself into a Russian-Iranian trap. Both are cheating, the monarch believes, and using the start-up of the Bushehr reactor on Aug. 21 to move in on America's most vulnerable interests in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.
However, Abdullah and his military and intelligence aides are reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf sources as having concluded that Obama is so fixated on the Iranian strategy he is pursuing with Russian help that he is blind to any counter-indications to the wisdom of this course and deaf to cautionary advice.
The Saudis are profoundly concerned by the way Tehran is exploiting this fixation and America's non-response to its aggressive moves.
They point to the explosion on the supertanker M. Star as it sailed through the Straits of Hormuz through Omani territorial waters on July 28 with 200,000 barrels of oil for Japan. The United States was expected to react harshly to an attack on one of the worlds' most important oil supply routes. After all, America has assumed the role of naval and aerial protector of freedom of navigation through these waterways. However, the Saudis noted, barely a murmur was heard from Washington. Nor was it highlighted by the American media.
Saudis worried enough to launch their own inquiry
The US still had nothing to say when on August 4, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an obscure militant group suspected of links to al-Qaeda claimed on an Islamic website that "martyr-hero Ayyub al-Taisha" blew himself up aboard the Japanese M. Star.
It remained silent when two days later, on Aug. 6, the United Arab Emirates Coast Guard reported that specialized teams in the Port of Fujairahm where the damaged tanker docked after the attack had found evidence of a terrorist attack on the ship. They omitted to mention that the team of specialists was composed entirely of experts from US Fifth Fleet headquarters at Manama, Bahrain.
The Saudis were worried enough to launch their own inquiries both into the source of the attack and the reason for Washington's lack of response.
In the second week of August, shortly before Moscow announced it was about to load fuel on the Bushehr reactor and make it operational, the Director of Saudi General Intelligence, Prince Moqrin Abdul Aziz, presented his report to the king.
His findings were unequivocal: The Japanese supertanker was not attacked by Al Qaeda but by an Iran-based Sunni-Salafi Saudi Arabian, who takes his orders, funding and explosives for terrorist operations from the Al Qods Brigades, the intelligence and terrorist arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The attack was therefore the product of a three-tiered Iranian conspiracy, which aimed to incriminate a Saudi national in a plot devised to compromise the United States on two counts: The start-up of the Bushehr reactor just ahead would show the Gulf region that America had given up on halting Iran's nuclear program and, meanwhile, the United States had shown itself incapable of securing the Straits or Hormuz and safeguarding the world's most important energy supply route.
Riyadh: Iran now believes Obama is a pushover
In the view of Saudi intelligence experts, Obama and his advisers, by refusing to hear how Iran is using its Bushehr success to hurt America and by adhering to a policy of engagement, are destined to miss the objects of their Iranian strategy, namely, understandings with Tehran on Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Just the opposite, Tehran will now assume that the Americans are pushovers and will let it get away with its drive for a nuclear bomb and its plans to evict the United States from the region and take over.
Last week, in a secured phone call to the White House, King Abdullah tried to open Obama's eyes to the risks he saw in his current strategy for Iran. Without bringing up the subject of the Iranian-orchestrated attack on the Japanese tanker, the king explained that Iran was using the president's preoccupation with his Bushehr stratagem for a Syrian-aided push to eradicate US influence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
He warned that the plan he and the president had evolved for enlisting Syrian President Bashar Assad to promote US and Saudi interests – a tradeoff for restored Syrian influence in Lebanon – was proving regrettably short-lived.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 455 of July 30: New US-Saudi Strategy for the Middle East – Assad Offered High Status in Beirut and Baghdad for Dumping Tehran and Hizballah).
Obama refuses to heed the Saudi King
Tehran, riding high on its Bushehr success and Washington's recognition of Iran as a regional power (State Department spokesman Philip Crowley"…Iran certainly sees itself as a regional power") was able to pull Assad away from the Saudi-US ambit and back into the Iranian fold, Abdullah reported to Obama.
The fleet-footed Iranians made sure Assad did not slip out of their grasp again. Acting on the powerful regional impact of the Bushehr launch, they put Gen. Mohamed Ali Jafari, the supreme commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on a special plane to Damascus.
Our Gulf sources report that Ali Jafari suggested that Assad persuade the Gulf and Saudi governments to withdraw their support for a possible US or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites. Instead, they should switch their backing to Iran's bid to displace the US in the effort to instal a stable government in Baghdad and end the crisis in Lebanon.
Abdullah offered ideas for American-Saudi steps to counter the Iranian momentum. Obama turned him down. Neither side revealed how the call ended, except to say that it was cut short because the two leaders could not find a common language.