From the New Duranty Times, with thanks to EPG.
President Bush might not have turned up personally in Riyadh yesterday but he certainly sent a high-powered delegation to pay his respects to the new leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.
The American turnout, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George H. W. Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was the latest signal that relations between the two countries have thawed since the strains of 9/11. But it was also an acknowledgment of a simple fact: like it or not, the United States is more dependent than ever on Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudis are in a great position today,” said Jean-FranÃ§ois Seznec, a professor at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute. “We cannot be enemies with everybody. We need their oil desperately.”
Indeed, the alternatives to Saudi Arabia are fewer today than seemed to be the case just three years ago. Predictions of a boom in Iraqi oil have been proved wrong; Iran, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, is locked on a collision course with the West; Venezuela is following an erratic path; and Russia’s commitment to market reforms and foreign investments seems increasingly unreliable.
All this has added to Saudi Arabia’s already impressive clout. What is more, other powers – mainly from Asia – seek greater access to its resources and have been increasingly courting the Saudis. “They can play the United States against other buyers, like China,” Mr. Seznec said. “And why wouldn’t they?”
American officials, furious over Saudi Arabia’s handling of the investigations after 9/11, recognize this new reality. The warmer relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States were on display last April, when Crown Prince Abdullah – who succeeded his half brother, Fahd, on Monday as king – visited President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex. As a sign of public diplomacy, and personal bonds, they kissed on the cheek and held hands…
Yes and after viewing that picture, the entire country cringed in disgust.