It was all public hugs and hand-holding this weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as the tough-talking president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made his first-ever presidential visit to the Saudi kingdom.
No big agreements but a tension-easing show of neighborliness between the big oil power and the big rising power in a region screaming with tension.
With Iraq on fire, Iran talking nuclear, and its old ally the U.S. in trouble, Saudi Arabia — the Islamic holy land and the world's oil basin — is in high gear pushing Washington, calling in chits, praying it does not face a region-wide unraveling in the Middle East.
This hour On Point: princes, zealots, oil billions, and Saudi Arabia's agenda now.
Quotes from the Show:
"Like most international political initiatives, this one is motivated by fear. The Saudis at the end of 2006 were very worried, I think, that the United States might be pulling out of Iraq and were facing on their border a chaotic Iraq, Iran resurging in the region, and very worried about the balance of power consequences of that. So you see Saudi diplomacy really pick up." Gregory Gause
"The Saudis want to be seen as negotiating with Iranians as well as trying to calm things down. There's been a sense here in the region over the past several months of an escalating confrontation seeming to spiral toward something much worse. ... I think ultimately the Saudis fear open conflict which would hurt everybody in the region." Hassan Fattah
From their perspective, [the Saudis] they are seeing some of their worst nightmares come true. ... The Saudis are well aware of the polls in the US that show an overwhelming majority of Americans want to get out of this war. What the Saudis are afraid about is that the US will leave the mess they've created — that's their view — and then not help to try to fix that mess." Bruce Riedel"The only player in this game who has a lot of cards to play in Iraq is Iran. ... In the long run, I doubt Iran can play the hegemon in the region." Gregory Gause
Gregory Gause, Professor and director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Vermont.;
Hassan Fattah, reporter for The New York Times.;
Bruce Riedel, senior fellow Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Khaled Al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News.
This program aired on March 5, 2007.