So much for peace in the Middle East.
On 5 December Prince bin Turki al Faisal, speaking at the âThe Gulf and the Globeâ conference in the Saudi capital RiyadhÂ urged the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to become a powerful regional bloc by establishing a unified armed force and defense structure.
While bin Turkiâs call for the GCC to pool its military resources is nothing new, his idea of supporting Gulf countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if Israel and Iran do not constrain their nuclear programs represents the edge of a precipitously slippery slope.
Bin Turki told his audience, "Why shouldn't we commence the building of a unified military force, with a clear chain of command. But, if our efforts and the efforts of the world community fail to bring about the dismantling of the Israeli arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and preventing Iran from acquiring the same, then why shouldn't we at least study seriously all available options, including acquiring WMDs, so that our future generations will not blame us for neglecting any courses of action that will keep looming dangers away from us."
Because Iranâs nuclear program, which Tehran insists is completely devoted to the generation of civilian nuclear power, is incipient, but subjected to increasing international pressure in the form of increased U.S. and Israeli-led international sanctions.
Israel, on the other hand, is a de facto nuclear power, despite Tel Avivâs self professed policy of nuclear ambiguity.
The two programs cannot be reconciled, so, taking bin Turkiâs statements to their logical conclusion, the GCC will eventually move towards a WMD capacity, which, in this case, means a nuclear capability.
Bin Turkiâs comments should not be dismissed lightly.
Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the son of the late King Faisal, is a grandson of the late King Abdul-Azizz, brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud and Prince Khalid, Governor of Mecca province and a nephew of the current King Abdullah.
Bin Turki served as the head of Saudi Arabia's main intelligence agency, al Mukhabarat al A'amah, from 1979 until 31 August 2001, two weeks before the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Turki Turki met with al Qaida head Osama bin Laden five times, the last encounter occurring in early 1990. In 2003 Bin Turki briefly served as Saudi ambassador to Britain and in 2005 he was appointed the kingdom's ambassador to the United States from July 2005 until December 11, 2006.
As Saudi ambassador bin Turki strongly advocated that Washington engage in direct talks with Iran over its differences concerning Iran's involvement in Iraq, its nuclear program and support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Unfortunately for bin Turki,Â other high-ranking Saudi officials, including bin Turki's predecessor as Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, favored a tougher stance against Iran in the belief that eventually direct Western military intervention action would probably be necessary to derail Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.
Further alienating the Bush administration, bin Turki's consistently argued that Iran was not the most important U.S. challenge in the Middle East, but rather that the Palestinian-Israeli issue was more important and that the Bush Administration should focus more on reviving the peace process.
Increasingly marginalized, bin Turki abruptly resigned his post in early December 2006. When asked why he retired so suddenly he obliquely replied, "Abruptness is in the eye of the beholder."
Bin Turki is currently a co-chair of the C100 Group, an organization set up to foster understanding between Islamic countries and the West and is head of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
Given his long term position at the very epicenter of Saudi power and his previous positions on Iran, bin Turkiâs change of attitude is significant.
Reading the Riyadh tea leaves, bin Turki has established an explicit link between Iranâs purported nuclear armaments program and Israelâs de facto one. Given that this connection has been advanced by one of Washingtonâs closet Middle East allies and the worldâs leading exporter of oil, expect the Obama administration to pay close attention, even as it sends out for gallons of Maalox.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com