Thursday, 9 October 2008

Saudi backed terror?

Sami Moubayed writes in Asia Times:

While Saudi Arabia's official policy remained critical of Syria, a certain branch in the Saudi royal family still harbored ambitions to topple the Syrian government altogether and replace it with pro-Saudi opposition figures like former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam.

Tension was further elevated when terror struck in the heart of Damascus on September 27. A suicide bomber loaded with 200 kilograms of explosives killed 17 Syrians and injured between 15 to 40 civilians. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the Arab world that refused to condemn the attack, although it was harshly criticized by France, Russia and even the US.

Although it became clear to everybody - France being first on the list - that the Saudis were not getting the upper hand in Beirut politics, Lebanon remained closely allied to Riyadh, due to the personal and financial bond between Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, and the House of Saud.

One of the first to realize that the Syrians are overpowering the Saudis in Lebanon was Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a strongman of the March 14 Coalition. He realized that the US-imposed isolation of Syria has crumbled, after Bashar Al Assad's visit to Paris in July 2008.

More recently, what worried both the Saudis and Jumblatt was the semi-rapprochement that started developing between Syria and the US. Last month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at her request, and discussed a variety of issues related to the Middle East.

The Syrians believe, although they have not said it bluntly, that the Saudis are furious at Syria's repeated diplomatic successes. Eager for vengeance, they are now financing Islamic fundamentalism in Lebanon to strike at both Hezbollah and Syria and have not yet digested the outcomes of May 2008.

Assad said that the sectarian violence taking place in northern Lebanon was dangerous to Syria. Many believe that the suicide bomber who detonated a bomb in Damascus was a product of a fanatical group trained and created in Lebanon. That might explain why the Syrians amassed thousands of troops on their border with Lebanon, to prevent the influx of jihadi fighters to Syria.

If Saudi Arabia was not guilty of the September 27 attack, it certainly looked and acted guilty by refusing to say anything about it.

Meanwhile, the Saudis, frantic to save their positions in Lebanon, had already started pumping money to build a Sunni armed movement to confront Hezbollah if matters escalated once again.

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