Game-changer: Saudis seek to re-balance Mideast against U.S.

By Aaron Klein

EILAT, Israel – Saudi Arabia is proposing a sweeping deal to Russia that solidifies Moscow’s position in the Middle East and Persian Gulf largely at the expense of the United States, according to informed Egyptian security officials.

The deal incorporates increased Russian involvement in Egypt, Syria and the Persian Gulf, and even involves a Saudi guarantee to aid against terror plots targeting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Egyptian officials said the deal seeks to replace the U.S. with Russia as the major weapons dealer to Egypt.

However, the weapons sales to Cairo are only the tip of the potential re-balancing iceberg that follows a major fallout with the Saudis after President Obama’s outreach efforts to Iran.

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The Saudis asked for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Riyadh would help establish a permanent central Russian role in the future of Syria, with a military presence in the country, the officials said.

The Saudis offered to help clean out Syria of Islamic extremist elements while working with other countries, including Israel, to ensure the cooperation of the Free Syrian Army and moderate Alawite tribes in a post-Assad era.

Saudi Arabia proposed future free elections and floated the concept of Former Syrian Defense Minister General Ali Habib serving as an interim president, the officials said. Habib is a prominent Alawite and senior opposition figure who defected from Assad’s regime.

According to the Egyptian intelligence officials speaking to WND, Russia immediately rejected the plan for Assad to step down. Still, the Saudis see this rejection as an initial bid by Moscow to negotiate a deal rather than as final rejection.

The Saudis pledged to cut off all back-channel support for Islamic extremists in Chechnya and even promised to ensure against terrorist attacks at the 2014 Olympic games.

Further, the Saudis offered to serve as a bridge between Russia and its former provinces now governed by Islamic parties.

Perhaps most remarkable is that the deal is being brokered by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was once one of the leading proponents of the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Bandar reportedly was in Moscow yesterday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Egyptian officials said Russia is giving serious consideration to the Saudi proposal.

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