USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Roni Ben Efrat: The Mecca Charity Show

Posted by uscsjp on March 8, 2007

Hamas and Fatah delegations headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 7 February 2007. (MaanImages/POOL/PPO)

“ONLY Saudi diplomacy has succeeded in bearing the historical responsibility for all parties, gathering the warring brothers in Holy Mecca and extinguishing a fire that could have burnt everyone.”

Thus, on February 14, 2007, Turqi al-Hamad praised the Saudis for brokering an agreement between Hamas and Fatah, pulling them back from the brink of civil war. Al-Hamad writes for the pro-Saudi daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, so his tribute comes as no surprise. At first glance, indeed, the Mecca Agreement may seem a great wonder, considering what we published here two months ago. We divided – and still divide – the Middle East into two axes. One included the US, Saudia Arabia and Fatah, and the other included Iran, Syria and Hamas. Under these circumstances, how was agreement possible? The answer lies in a temporary conjunction of interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran. When we unpeel a few layers, however, the dovish feathers fall away: the Mecca Agreement is a mere time-out – not the basis for a new beginning.

What is the “temporary conjunction of interests”? Again, Iraq! Riad and Teheran, representing the Sunnis and Shiites respectively, are both interested, each for its reasons, in an American withdrawal. Iran then stands to become the main influence in Iraq, given the Shiite majority there. Both the Iranians and the Saudis worry that Iraq cannot be brought under control as long as the Americans are present. There is the growing prospect of an all-out Sunni-Shiite war that could inflame the region. An orderly American pullout, both nations hope, would keep the ethnic conflict confined and under control.

The Saudis want Iranian support for an arrangement that will take account of Sunni interests in Iraq. In exchange, they are willing to smooth down the two conflicts in which they have a say: in Lebanon and Palestine. This was likely the background of a series of recent meetings between Prince Bandar bin Sultan (the Saudi national security advisor, a personal friend of the Bush family) and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. However, if Seymour Hersh’s hunches are correct (New Yorker, March 5), beneath its guise as peacemaker – and while Washington turns a blind eye – the Saudis are breeding a fresh crew of Qaeda-like Sunni extremists to match the Shiite nuclear menace. One does not need an atom bomb, we have learned, to bring large buildings down. (continued)

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