A top Saudi Arabian official says “moderate” Arab states Egypt and Saudi Arabia should not rule out war with Israel.
In a signed article in the London daily Al-Hayat and translated today by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Ghazi Al-Quseibi, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, says Arab states need to overcome their fear of a war with technologically superior Israel – a war, he says, whose result is not inevitable if the Jewish state is forced to fight on two fronts.
While many Arab states – including Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Syria – have called for war with Israel since the outbreak of the Arab uprising led by the Palestinian Authority, this article is the first hint of a shift in thinking by the wealthy oil state with close ties to the West.
In the article, titled “To Consider What We Dare Not Consider,” Al Quseibi writes: “Richard Nixon writes in his memoirs, and it is confirmed in the memoirs of Kissinger, that during the Vietnam War he
wanted to give his enemies the impression that he was a ‘madman,’ whose reactions were unpredictable and who could do just anything. He made sure, throughout the entire crisis, to maintain this impression among his enemies, and in his words and deeds enhanced it. Before him, John Foster Dulles skillfully practiced what was known as a policy of ‘brinkmanship.’”
“I don’t mean to analyze these two men or to praise their policies,” Al Quseibi writes. “What is important is to understand that an enemy who can know for sure that the behavior of his rival will not stray in any way from a certain framework, can freely act against him. The situation is different when this certainty doesn’t exist.”
He continues: “I am sure that this situation exists today between Israel and the Arab states. On the one hand, the entire world is under the impression that Israel, regardless of [which party] is in government, can at any given moment carry out an insane military action capable of igniting the entire region. On the other hand, the Arab states have become trapped in a series of agreements, summits and declarations – in the cage of peace, no matter what. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that under these circumstances, Israel can ‘carry on’ as much as it likes. They do this consistently without fearing any true Arab reaction.”
“Why are we afraid of a comprehensive war with Israel?” he asks. “Why has the mere talk of comprehensive war with Israel turned into forbidden territory? Why do we believe that the thought, the mere thought of this option, is a dangerous and irresponsible act?”
Al-Quseibi suggests it is time for Egypt to put aside its peace agreement with Israel in favor of protecting its national interests.
“It is true that there will be no war without Egypt and it is true that there is a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel,” he writes. “But since when have peace agreements deterred the outbreak of a war, when from the point of view of the leaders, the highest national interest entails the need for war?”
He also hints that such considerations by Egyptian leadership are a reality today.
“The undeniable truth is that the Egyptian leadership has once again begun to seriously consider the possibility of war,” he writes. “In this framework we can understand the declarations of the Egyptian President, Husni Mubarak, regarding Egypt’s ability to protect the Aswan Dam and his declarations that what happened in 1967 cannot happen again. Furthermore, the press has reported that he went to Moscow on a specific mission to determine what kind of support he can garner in the case of the outbreak of war with Israel. The Egyptian president is an experienced leader with sensitive nerves. However, Israel’s actions have made him think the unthinkable, namely about what the Arab leaders need to do.”
Al-Quseibi writes that Israel is not invincible when fighting on more than one front.
“Israel’s superiority is at its foundation a mental superiority,” he writes. “Israel’s strong points are known and we have memorized them. However they have mortal points of weakness [as well] that we cannot ignore. First of all, Israel is unable to fight efficiently on more than one front, as was proven in the October 1973 War. Secondly, Israel cannot absorb a large number of casualties. This we witness with our own eyes every day. Thirdly, Israel is unable to withstand a war of attrition. The present Palestinian Intifada has already tired them out more than all of the previous wars with the Arabs put together. Taking advantage of these weak points, in addition to the element of surprise, are a guarantee for bringing the Israeli ‘giant’ down to size.”
The key to victory, he writes, is Egyptian-Syrian cooperation — something that has not occurred in Middle East politics since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
“What could be better than a repetition of what happened in 1973?” he asks. “What we need is Egyptian-Syrian cooperation, with the back up of the oil states with their oil, and the rest of the Arab states, each according to its ability. Such a military confrontation, especially while the Intifada is going on, and at a time when the possibility of the Arab community within Israel to take action, will turn all the tables and all of the facts upside down.”
While falling just short of calling for war, Al-Quseibi’s article is the clearest evidence of a new thinking among the leadership of Saudi Arabia.
“I am not a supporter of war, but I warn you that entirely ruling out the option of war from the agenda, is the surest guarantee for the continuation of Israel’s superiority – and with it the arrogance, the bloodshed, and the rampage – forever!” he writes.