Official photo of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Bandar bin Sultan. We do not see the Saudi prince.
© Kremlin Press Service

After the removal of the Emir of Qatar by the United States and his abdication in favor of his son Tamim, the situation in North Africa and the Middle East has evolved rapidly. To Washington’s surprise, the Egyptian military has chosen this moment to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brother sponsored by Doha. As a result, the loss of Qatari support turned into a rout of the Brothers who also feel threatened in Tunisia, Libya and Gaza.

Washington has not lost heart, considering that in any case, it also controlled the Egyptian army and most other regional political forces. Although the return of the uniforms contradicts the discourse of democratization, it quickly adapted to its new partners in dialogue.

The State Department is continuing its initial plan of new regional sharing with Russia. However, the current weakness of the United States is such that it makes haste slowly. Although a just and lasting peace must evolve through joint economic development involving present forces, the U.S. plan is based on an anachronistic vision of a division into zones of influence, inspired by the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916).

In this perspective, a presupposition of the State Department since Madeleine Albright is that there cannot be peace in Palestine without peace in Syria and vice versa. Indeed, any agreement with the Palestinians is immediately undermined by dissident groups through sabotage, while Baathist Syria refuses in principle a separate peace. The only solution is comprehensive, holding Syria responsible for the strength of the implementation of the agreement.

John Kerry managed to constrain Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sit at the negotiating table for nine months, that is to say, until the Syrian presidential elections. The first contacts were icy, but the State Department thinks it will have time to warm them up and get invitees to join the process for a Syrian Geneva 2. Negotiations are conducted by the Zionist diplomat Martin Indyk, who was the Middle East adviser to Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton.

Simultaneously, Mr. Kerry has permitted Saudi Arabia to fill the void created by the disappearance of Qatar from the international scene. He allowed the Saudis six months for the solution of regional problems. In this case, Saudi Arabia is not King Abdullah, too busy testing aphrodisiacs, but Prince Bandar Ben Sultan and his brother-in-law, the eternal foreign minister for the past 38 years, Prince Saud.

However, in view of what happened to Emir Hamad of Qatar, the two men are afraid of falling into a U.S. trap, of exhausting themselves without success and in turn of being removed from the international scene, which would mark the beginning of the end of the kingdom.

Also, one must consider with the greatest attention the turnaround of their puppet, Sheikh Adnan al-Arour. In a television show, broadcast on July 31, the spiritual leader of the Free Syrian Army said he was forced (by whom?) to take up arms against Bashar al-Assad while the military way leads nowhere. He lamented that the "noble revolution" has become a "butchery" and concluded that he no longer identifies with it.

A few hours later, his boss, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was received in Moscow, not only by his counterpart, but also by President Vladimir Putin. A terse statement was issued shortly thereafter that the discussions had focused "on a wide range of bilateral issues and the situation in the Middle East and North Africa." The press service released a photograph of the reception by the President and an old photograph of the Saudi spy chief, decidedly inaccessible since the attack which targeted him in July 2012 in response to the assassination of military leaders in Syria.

Everything is unfolding as if Riyadh was being more reasonable than Doha and was accepting the principle of the Geneva 2 Conference. Their claim would be satisfied with maintaining Bashar al-Assad in exchange for a symbolic victory in Lebanon, with the return to power of their symbol, Saad al-Hariri. This would be composed of a national unity government, including the "political wing" of Hezbollah, which would explain the recent decision of the European Union to distinguish two branches within the Party of God.

Roger Lagassé