Saudi Oil and Backing for US Are Contingent on Israeli Concessions

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is due in Washington Monday May 23 to address the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC’s annual conference. So far, debkafile‘s political sources know of no appointments set up for him with any Bush administration officials.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is tentatively scheduled to arrive three days later on May 26. After telling his confidants “Nothing will come of the visit,” Abbas is making sure that something does. The first move he pulled off was to persuade the White House to make sure Sharon was out of the capital before he arrived.
The Palestinian leader is meanwhile spinning out a complicated globe-girdling itinerary. He went to Brazil last week for the first Latin-American Arab conference (where he worked hard on anti-American and anti-Israel resolutions that denounced the American occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.) This week he touches down in China, Japan and India. If for some reason, the prime minister prolongs his stay in the United States, Abbas will draw out his Far East travels until Sharon is gone.
How was Abbas able to manipulate the Bush administration’s timetable and marginalize Sharon’s presence in the US capital? debkafile reveals that it was the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah who set the maneuver up for him when he visited US president George Bush at the presidential ranch in Texas on April 25.
debkafile‘s Washington sources report exclusively that the US and Saudi leaders ended their talks with understandings that restored the Saudis to a dominant role Washington’s Middle East policies. Bush agreed to enlarge US-Saudi arms deals – out in the open now, not under wraps as in the last three years; Saudi capital for investment and the purchase of US government bonds would flow back to the United States; and most of the post 9/11 restrictions would be lifted on the entry of Saudi businessmen and students to the United States.
Abdullah promised to pump up oil production from 10 barrels per day to 12.5 million short term and 15 million long term. But he insisted his immediate priority for the royal purse was the promotion of reforms and better education, health and social welfare systems for his subjects. Therefore investment in expanding oil production would take some time, but it would come about.
Abdullah then laid down his price for “opening a new chapter in US-Saudi strategic relations.”
One, Sharon must be pushed towards keeping step with Abbas and meeting his demands, to continue propping the Palestinian leader up and to do nothing that might hasten his downfall.
Two, Sharon must be urged into serious negotiations with Syria.
Three,The Bush administration must avoid any action that might topple Bashar Assad or bring about the demise of the Assad regime in Damascus.
The Saudi prince put it this way: We did as much as you to force Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon. It is now your turn to meet us halfway. Neither Assad nor Syria must be humiliated any further.
debkafile‘s sources have not discovered the US president’s response to these demands. More tellingly, neither has the Israeli prime minister’s office. The blackout Bush has ordered on the conversation is dense.
But, upon his return from Washington, Abdullah lost no time in visiting neighbors to brief them on his achievements at Crawford. He saw Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Assad and King Abdullah of Jordan.
For Israel, these achievements are major setbacks:
1. If the Bush administration is not briefing, let alone consulting with, Jerusalem on key elements of its Middle East policy, then the special Israel-US strategic relations are far from being all the Sharon government has cracked them up to be.
2. If Bush accedes to Abdullah’s request on Abbas, then Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz might as well abandon their efforts to achieve accords with the Palestinian Authority on the evacuations of the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. All the Palestinians will need to do is make their demands known. For example, Israel will be required to demolish abandoned homes against its will because that is what Abbas wants. He is also demanding that the Gaza Strip be turned over complete with international border crossings to Egypt and full sovereignty over Gaza’s air space and sea waters – all this without spending a minute on the road map or peace talks.
Israel will also have to turn a blind eye Abu Mazen’s refusal to disarm the Islamist radical Hamas and Palestinian terrorist units at large. Instead, Abbas will be allowed to integrate them with their weapons into the Palestinian security forces.
To get around Abbas’ pledge at Sharm el Sheikh in February to crack down on and dismantle terrorists, The Palestinian Authority from time to time reports some small group or other has handed in its weapons, describing this as “the beginning” of its decommissioning operation. In fact, the operation stops there and the majority of terrorists have been left fully armed and with their structures intact.
3. Ahead for the Sharon government is a uniquely polarizing, painful and costly withdrawal that makes a free gift to the Palestinians after five years of terrorism. It is hard to see any Israeli leader being in any state soon to plunge into a peace process with Syria that would entail a pullback – be it even in stages – from the Golan. On the other hand, the Syrians, cheered on by the Saudis, will no doubt maintain that if Israel is capable of one unilateral withdrawal, why not another?
Israeli military experts believe that the three days of Hizballah rocket fire last week at Israeli positions guarding the disputed Shaaba Farms area were aimed more at pointing up Syria’s case for talks with Israel than jockeying for position in Lebanese politics. Syria will make full use of Hizballah and its belligerence to keep the heat on Israel before and during any talks.
In the coming months, the Sharon government will therefore be faced with radical policy adjustments to the new reality generated by the Saudi ruler’s enhanced standing in the Bush White House.

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