Funny thing about the recent op-ed by Nawaf Obaid in The Washington Post outlining likely Saudi actions if the United States withdraws from Iraq: namely, that Saudis would both support Sunnis in Iraq (versus Shiites supported by Iran) and manipulate the oil market to "strangle" the Iranian economy.
I think it sounds peachy, this let-them-devour-each-other strategy -- which I'm guessing many Americans mutter to one another in frankness, if not also in confidence.
After the column appeared, not only did the Saudi government disavow it, but Obaid was fired from his job advising the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Hmmm, thought Saudi-ologists. Before anyone could say, "shifting desert sands," Turki resigned his post in Washington, hightailing it back to the so-called kingdom for reasons unknown, but possibly concerning machinations related to securing the post of foreign minister long held by Turki's ailing brother, Prince Saud al-Faisal. The post is also coveted by former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Hmmm again.
But now it seems the Obaid column "reflected the view of the Saudi government," after all. At least, that's the way The New York Times tells it.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that "private" Saudi money is already supporting Sunni forces in Iraq. According to the Times, this private funding could easily become official Saudi policy. While Saudi leaders say they have so far withheld support from Al Qaeda-led Sunni groups in Iraq, the newspaper explains, "if Iraq's sectarian violence worsened, the Saudis would line up with Sunni tribal leaders" -- Al Qaeda or no Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, we already know Iran is backing, if not guiding, Iraqi Shiites. So what should we do?
I propose two options, neither of which has occurred to Iraq Study Groupies calling for peace parleys with Hezbollah boosters and Holocaust deniers, or to hawkish proponents of "winning" Iraq (or at least Baghdad) with more troops. But maybe that's because neither group dares to reckon with the two greatest obstacles to our efforts in the region: namely, Islam (culturally unsuited to Westernity) and our own politically correct ROE, or rules of engagement (strategically unsuited to victory).