14 December, 2006

Saudi warning over US withdrawal from Iraq.

The BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph pick up on a story coming out of Washington in the wake of Vice President Dick Cheney's recent visit to Saudi Arabia. There is an obvious danger that a precipitate US withdrawal from Iraq could lead to a bloodbath between minority Sunni and majority Shia Islamic factions. If that were to happen, King Abdullah is reported to have told Cheney, Saudi Arabia, which worried about Iran's expanding hegemony in the Middle East, would not stand idly by and watch the Iranian-backed Shia militias attack the Saudi's fellow Sunnis. Instead the Saudis would arm the Sunni militias.

From the US, amongst others, CNN and the International Herald Times carry the story.

The White House has issued what amounts to a non-denial denial, saying the reports do not represent official Saudi policy. True for today, but King Abdullah's warning was really that future policy might change, if the circumstances warrant it, as this report makes clear.

According to the Pakistani Daily Times, the source of the story is Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Washington; King Abdullah is said to be so incensed by Obaid's leak, in an article on 29 November, in the Washington Post, that he has sacked al-Faisal. The sacking seems to be the reason for the story featuring in today's news.

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