Sunday, April 29, 2007

Opinion (Thomas W. Lippman): At the displeasure of the King

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia caused a lot of heartburn in official Washington with his speech at last month's Arab summit in Riyadh, where he referred to the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq.

The Americans had good reason to be distressed after reading the speech, but not because of what Abdullah said about Iraq. After all, he was addressing Arab conference delegates; he could hardly have endorsed the US adventure there, which everyone in his audience knew he had opposed.

No, what should have bothered the Americans was that the ruler of an important, longstanding regional ally was so unhappy over US policy and performance in the Middle East that he took the unusual step of distancing himself publicly from Washington. Saudi Arabia always prefers to express its displeasure with the United States in private conversations and diplomatic exchanges. Only rarely in the 60 years of their alliance with America have Saudi leaders felt compelled to issue a public challenge, the last notable example occurring during the oil embargo of 1973 to 1974.

Read the rest at the Mid-East Times