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December 20, 2004
Saudi Grip On Political Power In Middle East Slipping

In an ominous sign for the Saudis, the member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- an economic coalition of Arab states -- have rejected a call from the kingdom to negotiate with the West exclusively through the collective which the Saudis have long dominated:

Saudi Arabia called Monday for Arab Gulf states to speak with one voice, implied criticism against countries making trade agreements with the United States, but Bahrain said it had no intention of abstaining from such deals. ...

A Gulf official at the summit said the other five states Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates would make their own arrangements with Washington whether the Saudis like it or not. The official spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

The Saudis sent a lower-level minister to the GCC for the first time to register their dissatisfaction with the direction of the council, but the insult is unlikely to change minds in the Gulf. The smaller states have seen the US conduct its forward engagement strategy and, always attuned to power politics, have decided that they'd rather play directly with the big dog themselves. The competition for influence and trade with the US will create more leverage for us to insist on friendlier approaches in the madrassas and the minarets towards Americans while allowing the smaller and more moderate Gulf states to influence Arab opinion more organically.

In other words, the Saudis see their dream of leading a pan-Arab coalition slowly crumbling. When a free and democratic Iraq gets added to the mix, the Wahhabists will find themselves in full retreat.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2004 10:34 AM

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