The Bush administration did not count on its consent to engage Tehran in dialogue in response to demands in Washington stirring up a hornet’s nest in the capitals of friendly Arab governments.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Middle East sources report that King Abdullah Abdelaziz of Saudi Arabia, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Abdullah, King of Jordan and Turkish prime minister Tayyep Erdogan posted separate messages of strong protest to the White House Tuesday, May 29, the day after the Baghdad encounter between US and Iranian delegations led by ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Hassan Kazemi-Qomi.
They complained that the United States had discussed Iraq with Iran without inviting them to attend or even consulting with them in advance, and that no US official had bothered to brief them on how the talks turned out.
An American official familiar with the protest notes’ contents said that each was phrased in terms characteristic of their senders. The US government was taken aback by the outpouring of resentment because none of the four governments was thought to have wished to be present. Their participation would have cornered them into taking sides pro or con the American and Iranian standpoints, he said.
However, the officials who talked to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Cairo, Ankara, Amman and Riyadh had real gripes.
They complained that their governments are deeply drawn into involvement in Iraq’s political and security troubles. Hardly a day goes by without Washington calling for help with some aspect of the crisis there, whether problems facing the American army or internal issues. Senior officials and officers in the Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian and Turkish capitals are constantly roped into solving American problems in Iraq. Yet finally, when at last a first face-to-face conference is arranged for the two lead actors in the Iraqi drama, they find themselves pushed off the stage like bit players who have become superfluous to the main action.
A senior Jordanian official said his government feels embarrassed and humiliated. Iraqis, especially the Sunni leaders and insurgents, with whom Jordan interceded on delicate mediation missions on Washington’s behalf, will now brush Amman aside as a non-player and go straight to the Americans or the Iranians. That is no way to treat a strategic ally.
Riyadh was even more affronted by being passed over by Washington, after acting as broker between the US and Iran through secret missions to Tehran by the national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
Advisers at he court of Abdullah go farther and accuse Washington of deliberately cutting the Saudis out of its exchanges with Tehran to prevent the interfering in possible deals, especially those pertaining to Sunni Muslim interests.
The general feeling among Iraq’s neighbors, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, is that the US and Iran have assumed the role of superpowers and are carving the Gulf region and Iraq up into spheres of influence, over the heads of its rulers.
Our Washington sources report that the Bush administration is only now beginning to digest the force of the resentment generated by its bilateral diplomacy with Iran.
There is some concern that the message of cooperation and support Vice President Richard Cheney brought to the Gulf regimes earlier in May will need plenty of refreshing.