The Saudi King Abdullah and the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, symbols of the rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects, have made a date: Ahmadinejad is the first Islamic Republic president Riyadh has ever invited to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which begins Dec. 18. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Middle East sources reveal that the two rulers will make the pilgrimage together in a striking, once-in-a-century spectacle of Muslim reconciliation.
Clearly, the image a week ago of Abdullah and Ahmadinejad entering the annual summit of Gulf Arab leaders in Qatar holding hands, was minutely scripted. Then, too, it was the first time the head of the Islamic republic had been invited to this event.
Saudi royal court and intelligence advisers, directed by the monarch, and the Iranian secret service, which is personally ruled by Ahmadinejad, staged that entrance. Now, they are trying to build its Mecca sequel into a reverberating historic and religious crescendo.
The scenario calls for television cameras to track the two rulers, clad in the seamless, white ihram robe, and record their every step around the Kaaba for Muslim and world coverage.
Besides the powerfully evocative symbolism of the event for the divided Muslim world, its pragmatic importance for the next stage of world history cannot be overstated.
A strategic pact between the two oil-rich powers – one an Islamic theocracy, the other Guardian of Islam’s shrines and regional Arab trendsetter – will have a profound effect on the West’s war on Islamist terror and jihadist radicalism.
The United States, Europe, China, Russia and Japan will have to rethink their foreign and energy policies – especially in the Middle East and the Gulf. Once Iran is no longer a pariah, fresh economic and financial avenues will open up and new blocs and alliances take shape. The West will have to stop publicly disparaging the strident Iranian president as a fanatical little hothead and pathological liar, who is only good for spawning terror and outrageous calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. His partnership with the Saudi monarch will gain him an international kosher stamp.
The power to set energy prices and production quotas
Beside these earthquakes, DEBKA-Net-Weekly touches on some of the two partners’ down-to-earth expectations from their revolutionary vision:
1. Abdullah and Ahmadinejad will pose as heroic progenitors of an epic healing peace process for the divided Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam.
2. Together, they will assume the leadership of broad Muslim and Arab blocs.
3. As possessors of a large slice of the world’s oil cake (Saudi Arabia exports over 9 million barrels a day; Iran close to 2.7 million), the two will collaborate on pricing and production policies. Huge Saudi investments will be available for developing Iranian oil fields and modernizing its energy industry. They can work together to develop and control Iraq’s oil economy – 70 percent of which is pumped from the oil fields of Basra province in the Shiite south.
4. Saudi Arabia will recognize an autonomous Shiite republic in southern Iraq in return for Iran’s approval of and assistance in creating a Sunni Arab state in central Iraq. Together, they hold the keys to bringing sectarian strife in Iraq to an end.
5. Saudi Arabia and Iran will slap down an ultimatum for al Qaeda and other jihadist groups: Accept the rise of a rich and powerful new power at the center of the Muslim world which negates terrorism; give up violence and subscribe to the new center of power, or prepare for a crushing Saudi-Iranian war of extinction.
Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden has always excluded Shiites from Islam and fought them as apostates. If the new alliance takes off, he will no doubt denounce Ahmadinejad as a traitor to Islam who sold out to America and Israel.
Bin Laden may be driven to declare war on Iran. He has never gone that far, preferring to use the Shiite republic’s help from time to time. For him, the Saudi royal house was and will remain a confederate of American imperialism against Islam.
At the same time, an Iranian-Saudi alliance will seriously impair al Qaeda’s campaign of terror and limit its leeway for action in Muslim countries.
The two partners will also withdraw from some of their own terror sponsorships for the sake of their combined vision. The brunt will quite soon be felt by the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami, for example, which will be told to pull in their horns, although some maverick terror groups may remain out of control.
Iran will learn to make a bomb but stop on the brink
6. Riyadh and Tehran propose to take a joint hand in Muslim conflicts in North Africa, Central Asia, the Caucasian, the Balkans, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
7. They will formulate an inter-Muslim nuclear cooperation accord based on the groundwork carried out by Iran’s nuclear program.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report that this approximate wording allows Iran to continue its civilian nuclear program, but proposes to incorporate its uranium enrichment operation in a regional scheme for the entire Gulf’s benefit. Tehran will take its technology and capabilities up to the point of a nuclear bomb and halt before producing one. It is not known if Iran will share its knowledge with Saudi Arabia or other Arab nations, or whether a number of finished bombs or warheads are already in hand. This will transpire at some later stage, as in the case of North Korea.
In any event, the Arab world led by Saudi Arabia can be expected to beat former estimates and acquire nuclear weapons much earlier than expected.
8. The emergence of a Saudi-Iranian bloc is expected to prompt the corresponding rise of a second Muslim alliance between Pakistani, Indonesia and Malaysia. Both blocs will aspire to show the rest of the world a different, non-threatening, non-violent face of Islam from that of al Qaeda and other jihadist terror groups.
9. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Asian sources report the three Asian powers have embarked on the first steps of their alignment, with early signs that it will be comparable in scope and vision to the Riyadh-Tehran partnership.
Both will be nuclear powers.
10. Where does the United States stand on these seismic Islamic movements? DEBKA-Net-Weekly 328 of Dec. 7, offered some answers in its lead-article: Where Did US Reassessment on Iran Spring from?
Our Washington sources confirm that US President George W. Bush knows all about it and approves. King Abdullah has kept him fully abreast of developments. The White House for its part opened the door to the Washington-Tehran dialogue and its sequel by issuing its National Intelligence Estimate on Dec. 3, which cleared Iran of the charge of developing nuclear weapons after 2003.
Helping Bush end his term on a high note of success
As we have reported before, the Saudi king does not seek to expel American influence from the Gulf region, only to diversify the big power presence. In his briefings to the White House, Abdullah reported his impression that Ahmadinejad takes the same view, and has no problem with Riyadh seeking Washington’s approval for major steps, after their pact is finalized.
Clearly, the United States of America has progressed from the role of Big Satan to Big Father of the Saudi-Iranian alliance.
Indeed, our Washington sources disclose that Bush is counting on this major realignment to rescue the end of his presidency from its widely predicted abysmal failure. He hopes it will usher him out of the White House on a high note marked by the positive outcome of the Iraq War, al Qaeda’s retreat and a Palestinian state.
11. If the Saudi-Iranian pact goes through as planned, Ahmadinejad will emerge as the strongest man in Iran, with a good chance of succeeding the ailing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as supreme ruler.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly stresses here that the new Islamic alliance embarked on by King Abdullah with the Iranian president jumping aboard, has taken its first, tentative steps and is at the delicate point where it can take off dramatically or go awry.
The pact and its endorsement by President Bush will most probably dominate early 2008 as the most dynamic political and strategic game in progress in the Middle East and beyond.
It should be remembered that both Abdullah and Ahmadinejad are working against ticking clocks: The Saudi king is in his eighties; no one knows his exact age but it is estimated at 86. The Iranian president at 51 is 30 years younger, but stands for re-election in 2010.
To mature into a solid alliance, this radical reshuffle of Middle East powerhouses must first lift off and then survive for the next two years. It must also gain endorsement from the next occupant of the White House in January 2009, whoever that may be.One dangerous shoal is Ahmanidejad’s impatience and appetite for power. If he is tempted to use the historic understanding between the two Muslim nations as impetus to impose Iranian Shiite supremacy on the Muslim world, the pact will go under and al Qaeda triumph.