Sunday, March 7, 2010

Deja Vu Diplomacy

In reading Maureen Dowd's dispatch today from Saudi Arabia, I had the strongest sense of deja vu as the image of a NYT columnist discussing peace initiatives sent my mind reeling back to 2002 when the Mustache of Understanding was making the circuit of oil shieks.

Thomas FriedmanMaureen Dowd
An Intriguing Signal From the Saudi Crown Prince
Published: February 17, 2002
Arabia: Inshallah, Obama
Published: March 6, 2010

I took the opportunity of a dinner with Saudi Arabia's crown prince, and de facto ruler, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, to try out the idea of this Arab League proposal.

“[Obama] said all the right words in his speech,” said Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister. “But the implementation took traditional roads.”
So I asked, What if Mr. Sharon and the Palestinians agreed to a cease-fire before the Arab summit?

"Let me say to you that the speech is written, and it is still in my drawer," the crown prince said.
Actually, the president didn’t say all the right words in his speech. He created an obstacle for himself by demanding that Israel stop expanding settlements when it was not going to do so — even though it should — and when that wasn’t the most important condition to Arabs.
As for the "axis of evil" and reports of a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq, the Saudi leader said: "Any attack on Iraq or Iran should not be contemplated at all because it would not serve the interests of America, the region or the world, as there is no clear evidence of a present danger. Iraq is contemplating the return of the inspectors, and the U.S. should pursue this because inspectors can determine if Iraq is complying with the U.N. resolutions."

If anyone deserves to be paranoid, of course, it’s Israel. But Israel can’t be paranoid because paranoia is the mistaken perception that people are out to get you.

Asked about the possibility that Israel could attack Iran with its new drones, Prince Saud said dryly: “Talk about changing lifestyle. I think this would change lifestyles at once, forcibly.”

Next week: Maureen Dowd shares the wisdom obtained on her taxi ride back to the airport.