The United States is in Saudi Arabia only for self-interest, not for any broad desire to form a new international order, an ex-Palestinian newspaper editor said.
Bishara Bahbah, who edits a newspaper in Washington called "The Return" for Palestinian-Americans, said the United States sees a new national order, but one that would have the United States leading it. He compared President Bush to author Niccolo Machiavelli, who advocated expediency, craftiness and duplicity as the basis of maintaining political power.Bahbah spoke as part of a symposium last week at Brigham Young University called, "The Gulf Crisis: Origin, Impact and Prospects for Resolution."
Bahbah's remarks were countered by Matthew Tueller, the deputy director of the Gulf Crisis Management Team for the U.S. Department of State. Tueller said the United States could survive a cut-off of oil supplies from the gulf, but its presence in the gulf helps weak, fledgling economies and democracies, such as those in Latin America.
Tueller said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein miscalculated the response of the West and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a long history of appeasement and of using their vast monetary resources to pay for a solution. But not this time.
Bahbah questioned the need for the United States to be in Saudi Arabia in the first place. He said the conflict was an Arab conflict, and more time should have been given to a possible Arab solution.
Someone at the symposium asked why Arabs had been unable to find an Arab solution to the Lebanese crisis.
Bahbah responded that more time should still have been given to find an Arab solution in Kuwait.
Tueller said the United States had evidence, which he did not specify, to support the idea that Saddam Hussein intended to quickly invade Saudi Arabia.
The result of the decision to let Americans in, Bahbah said, is an Arab world that is divided and Arab leaders who are trapped - trapped between condemning an Arab invader or supporting the United States. It would be political suicide for such leaders as Palestinian Yassir Arafat to openly denounce Saddam, and, thereby, support the United States, Bahbah said.
Yet Arafat's reluctance to openly denounce the Iraqi president has created problems for Palestinians displaced throughout the Middle East. The Egyptians, the Saudis and the Kuwaitis are said to feel angry with other Arabs who don't share their denunciation of Iraq. The result has been widespread persecution of Palestinian Arabs in those countries.
One student commented that such nationalistic persecution is taking place in Egypt. Bahbah noted the sad plight of Americans and other foreigners trapped in Kuwait, but then said more than 350,000 Palestinians live in Kuwait. Those have not been harmed by the Iraqis, but their presence adds to the political complexities for world and local leaders.
He said the divisions in the Arab world are growing. Saudi and Egyptian anger works both ways, he said, meaning their actions against non-supportive Arabs (Jordan and Libya are two other examples) will have negative effects for Saudis also.