Saudis on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

( - Rich Lowry The Saudis have been desperately maneuvering to engineer a coup or an exile deal for Saddam Hussein that would avert a U.S. invasion and presumably elevate another Baathist strongman - Saddam Hussein lite - to power in Iraq. Ending the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia has been one of bin Laden's chief demands. But it still makes sense. American troops were only stationed in Saudi Arabia beginning in 1991 to serve as a tripwire if Saddam invaded again. With Saddam gone, that purpose evaporates. In any case, Qatar and other Persian Gulf state-lets can accommodate U.S. military needs. The U.S. should begin pushing Abdullah toward a much more far-reaching radical break with the kingdom's radical Wahhabi clerics. The founder of the contemporary Saudi state, Ibn Saud, faced a similar choice in the late 1920s. He had conquered the Arabian peninsula on the backs of murderous al Qaeda-like fanatics called the Ikhwan. They began to attack British interests in the region, which prompted the Brits to give Ibn Saud a choice - crack down on the Ikhwan, or lose British support. He reluctantly dumped the Ikhwan. Abdullah too could break with his fanatics. But only if he feels threatened by the new geopolitical alignment in a new post-Saddam Middle East.

2003-02-14 00:00:00

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