Wednesday, September 03, 2014

King Abdullah's unusual high profile comments

As widely publicized, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made public comments last week calling for the U.S. and Europe to help confront the extremists in the Middle East, and while he wasn't specific what he meant was Al Qaeda  and ISIS.  He suggested that by this month ISIS will be active in Europe and by next month in the U.S.  An obvious question is what is Saudi Arabia doing, other than purging their country of known extremists to the extent they can?

Saudi Arabia has an air force of 300 combat jets, many the most advanced made.  It has a standing army of 200,000 to 250,000 paramilitary forces, as well as significant reserve forces.  Yet they have made no moves in this quagmire of competing forces.  Somewhat like President Obama, they must be sorting through what if anything to do, as this region of opaque alliances and conflicting agendas makes taking action problematic.  Saudi Arabia supports the ouster of Assad in Syria and the moderate dissidents that fight and demonstrate against him.  They are opponents of the regime in Iran.  Taking aim at ISIS in particular would be beneficial to Assad and to Iran and its increasingly active support of Shiites in Iraq.  What to do?  To some extent one could suggest that the U.S. faces the same dilemma.

Despite its moderate Sunni approach to the world, one can't forget that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi as were 11 of the 15 9/11 perpetrators.  Meanwhile the extended royal family continues to lead lavish lifestyles around the world, squandering the country's immense wealth, one could say, and wearing arrogance on their sleeves every step of the way.  Case in point was the robbery of Prince Abdul Hziz in Paris last week, in which his entourage of 50 people with multiple cars was stopped heading to the airport and robbed of 335 thousand Euros in cash, plus documents of some import unknown.  He had just spent 45 days at the Hotel George V, and was headed to Ibiza.  So we should protect the royal family's lifestyle and listen to their call for protection, hop to it U.S.?  King Abdullah should have outlined what they were doing while asking for a coalition to be built to stop ISIS.  Accustomed to many years of U.S. obsequiousness, Abdullah has no concept of partnership, and no taste for the risk of publicly doing so with the U.S.

President Obama's "no strategic plan" commentary last week was awkward and not necessary.  His further comment was that he was waiting for the defense secretary to present a plan pushed the responsibility down.  In this tennis week here in New York, one could say he is back on his heels.  He seemed to be excited when he spoke in Milwaukee earlier in the week at a political rally where he talked about the improving U.S. economy and his support for a higher minimum wage among other initiatives.  He does not seem especially motivated or focused when he discusses the challenges of the Middle East, or the other major issue of Russia and Ukraine.  It is apparent that he did not expect to be drawn into such crises, and he has been dragged into these issues unwillingly.

With a recalcitrant and divided Congress soon back in the beltway, we wait for more of a show of leadership if that is possible.       

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