Why Did Saudi King Abdullah Cancel Dinner with Bush?

[Washington Post] Jim Hoagland - President Bush had scheduled a mid-April White House gala for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, signifying the president's high regard for an Arab monarch who is also a Bush family friend. Now the White House is pondering Abdullah's sudden and sparsely explained cancellation of the dinner. Administration sources report that the cancellation followed Saudi decisions to seek common ground with Iran and the radicals of Hizbullah and Hamas instead of confronting them as part of Rice's proposed "realignment" of the Middle East into moderates and extremists. Abdullah's reluctance to be seen socializing at the White House this spring reflects a scampering back by the Saudis to their traditional caution in trying to balance regional forces, and their displeasure with negative U.S. reaction to their decision to return to co-opting or placating foes. Don't count on Abdullah to put new force behind his long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative at the Arab summit this week in Riyadh. Rice had hoped the summit would provide a boost in her current proximity talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, but she appears to have struck a dry well. A few months ago, Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, was championing the confrontational "realignment" approach in Saudi family councils: Iran's power would be broken, the Syrians would have to give up hegemonic designs on Lebanon, etc. Now the Saudi prince visits Tehran and Moscow regularly.

2007-03-28 01:00:00

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