In the most non-public smack down ever, President Bush blew off Saudi Foreign Minister’s request that the U.S. leader help seek an immediate cease fire in the Israel Lebanon conflict. This is the same Middle Eastern leader who called it right on Iraq, predicting sectarian violence and destabilization of the region.
The Bush Team ignored Prince Saud al-Faisal’s advice then and did so a second time post Hamas win in Palestine. Mr. al-Faisal suggested U.S. leaders meet with Hamas to encourage change. Bush refused to do so and cut off all non-humanitarian funding for the Palestinian government. Israel did likewise, placing tax receipts due the Palestinian government in escrow.
The news reports are skimpy on the actual exchange between Bush, Rice and the Saudi officials. The AP reports:
The White House would not discuss the proposal after the meeting. Senior administration officials referred all requests for comment to a spokeswoman, Eryn Witcher, who read a three-sentence statement listing the participants and saying only that they have "shared goals of helping the people of Lebanon and restoring sovereignty of the government of Lebanon and building stronger Lebanese armed forces."
She did not answer questions beyond the script, including what requests Bush and Rice made of the Saudis. When asked to respond to their request for an immediate cease-fire, she said White House officials have spoken about the administration's position in the past.
My take is Bush met with the Saudi’s with his "wish list". He wants them to be his broker in the Middle East, especially when his administration won’t talk to most of the parties involved. Bush did not want the Saudi’s to take the same side as the rest of the world. How dare they!
Now that the Saudi King has officially requested the cease fire, President Bush’s ability to adjust to “the conditions on the ground” will be tested. Once again the Bush team is flummoxed. Will the U.S. President even speak directly to the Saudi request? Indications to date are not promising. Recall all those offers of international aid post Hurricane Katrina? How many actually got the honor of a reply?
The world watched President George W. Bush on this one. Will Bush publicly reject the Saudi King and Foreign Minister for the third time? Having struck out will Mr. al-Faisal walk away from the plate or the game altogether? Someday, someone will leave Bush on his own to live with his “creations”. That day may be fast approaching.