by DEBKAfile, 27 January 2002

"In its latest issue (January 25) DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal for the first time that, in early December 2001, when America was deeply preoccupied in the Afghan War, Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s de facto monarch, quietly negotiated secret mutual defense and trade agreements with the anti-American regimes of Iran and Iraq. Those pacts gave birth to a new Riyadh-Baghdad-Tehran bloc for the Gulf and Middle East regions. Abdullah believed this reorientation reflected the aspirations common to many younger members of the royal family, some of his army chiefs, a majority of tribal leaders and almost the entire religious establishment. The view they hold in common is that the time has come, after half a century of close inter-dependence, for Saudi Arabia and the United States to go their separate ways. Abdullah’s takes this further, holding that the time has come for Riyadh – not Washington – to be the number one power in the Middle East-Gulf region.

Aware that a reconciliation process was underway, the United States was yet taken aback by the speed at which the three heads of state, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, found mutual understanding.

The trio also agreed to invite Syrian president Bashar Assad to join the new alliance and incorporate the secret Iraqi-Syrian cooperation agreements signed last year in the new mutual defense documents.

The new allies, to spread the spirit of détente, are implementing their understandings in rapid steps, the three capitals synchronizing their policy-making with regard to Afghanistan, al Qaeda, the Palestinian issue, Syria and Lebanon and their oil strategies.

These developments, as outlined by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, go a long way towards explaining Saudi Arabia’s apparently aberrant policies. Most Saudi experts find it hard to credit that Riyadh is fast approaching a formal demand for the withdrawal of American forces from the oil kingdom. The Saudi authorities are laying out a welcome mat for al Qaeda fighters returning from Afghanistan, and earmarked Saudi funds to pay for the flow of smuggled weapons from Iran to the Middle East, as discovered when Israel intercepted the Karine-A arms ship on January 3. (On January 18, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed that Saudi Arabia had paid for the Karine-A arms cargo ordered from Iran by Arafat.)"