Thursday, May 16, 2002
Very interesting stuff in DEBKA posted on 5/14, just read it today. Here are highlights:
Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12, Prince Abdullah, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Syrian president Bashar Assad met in the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, claiming they were ushering in direct Saudi involvement for the first time in the Palestinian problem. Oddly enough, given that agenda, the Arab ruler with the largest Palestinian population, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, was not present. Neither was Yasser Arafat.
According to our sources, the real theme of the three-way summit had little bearing on the Palestinian-Israel conflict, but focused rather the mounting tension between Riyadh and Amman. The Jordanian King’s non-invitation tied in with the eight Saudi armored brigades, beefed up by surface to air and anti-tank missile units parked on the Saudi-Jordanian border without an official explanation, in the third week of April.
That Saudi military concentration is still in place and still on the ready.
Notwithstanding the published reports of improved US-Saudi relations following the crown prince’s visit to the Bush ranch in Crawford and the two rulers’ decision to work together on the Palestinian issue, the Saudis are deeply worried by the sight of one of their deepest-seated fears coming true.
The Bush administration has returned to its plan for fostering the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as its strategic, political and military linchpin in the Middle East before and after the offensive against Iraq. Abdullah II returned home only this week after nearly two weeks in Washington.
For Riyadh, America’s Hashemite Plan touches the long and still sensitive roots of a historical feud.
In the 1920s, Ibn Saud, founder of the ruling dynasty, drove the Jordanian king’s ancestor, the Hashemite Sherif of Hijaz out of Arabia, thus gaining control of the holy places of Islam in Mecca and Medina, as well as the Red Sea town of Jeddah. The British installed one branch of the House of Hashem in Baghdad and a second in Amman, in the newly-created Kingdom of Transjordan.
Fifty years later, in November 1979, the Saudi princes sent a distress call to Abdullah’s father, the late King Hussein, for help in subduing an Islamic fundamentalist Wahabi invasion of Mecca and revolt against the Saudi throne. Hussein agreed, but his price was the restoration of some Hijazi lands to Hashem sovereignty, including the Prophet’s Tomb in Medina. The Saudi throne, which draws much of its legitimacy from its standing as guardians of the Muslim Holy Places, turned Hussein down. Ever since, the Saudis have regarded Jordanian intentions as regards Saudi territory with lively suspicion. They fear the incumbent king will be encouraged to revert to his father’s plan of extending the Hashemite kingdom to the Hijaz, exploiting the war on world terrorism and Osama bin Laden’s Saudi legions to take a bite out Saudi territory.
A situation worth watching.