Friday, July 27, 2007

Dealing with the Saudis

WASHINGTON, July 26During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. But, said administration officials who provided an account of the exchange, the Saudis remained skeptical, adding to the deep rift between America’s most powerful Sunni Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, and its Shiite-run neighbor, Iraq.

Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, “That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not.”
[which tells you about everything you need to know right there - LC]

The Saudi problem reveals the complexity of fighting the war on terror. Wahhabi Islam is the engine driving al Qaeda. It is the force which is radicalizing hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men across the globe and it is the invention and the number two export (after oil) of Saudi Arabia.

Every Friday all across Saudi Arabia insane imams rant and rave about the evils of the United States, Israel, Christianity and the Jews. That the Saudis believe this can be seen in the fact that the majority of 9/11 hijackers were Saudis and that the bulk of the foreign fighters who are doing everything in their power to make Iraq appear to be in a state of civil war are Saudi.

Yet they are also the world's largest supplier of oil and they are the only nation which maintains the ability to reduce or increase their oil production. This makes them extremely important to the world's economic health.

Therefore they have to be coddled, at least to some extent.

It seems to me that the best answer is to do two things. One is to pour whatever resources into Iraq we have to in order to stabilize the country and get a functioning government in place. If this means sending in more troops then do it. If it means bombing Iran to discourage them from providing training and weapons to the terrorists then we should do it.

The second thing is to develop realistic alternative energy sources. During WWII the Germans came very close to perfecting the process for turning coal into motor fuel. I'm told that the South Africans continued that work and made progress on it before the fall of the apartheid government.

The United States, which possesses the largest coal reserves in the world, should finish the work and begin running its cars and trucks on coal-based motor fuel as soon as practical.

We should also move our electricity production over to nuclear power as fast as we can build power plants. By 2050 the Unites States should not generate one volt of electricity by burning oil or natural gas. In the meantime we should urge other nations to go nuclear to the greatest extent possible. The story in today's New York Times about Washington granting India an exception to rules created to prevent nations from producing nuclear fuel is a good thing. India is one of the world's fastest growing economies and they are consuming a greater and greater share of the world's oil to feed their energy demands. Moving them to nuclear energy will slow rising demands, and rising prices, for oil.