Less than two years ago, President Bush struck a nerve with many Americans by frolicking around in a forest with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Their open holding of hands provoked laughter and questions about the cordial relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Bush family.How things have changed.
Abdullah, now King, blasted America in an Arab summit last Wednesday for what he termed the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq. He also called for a "united Arab front" over Middle East policy.The same day, the Washington Post reported that Abdullah made a "sudden and sparsely explained cancellation" of a formal state dinner in the White House planned for mid-April. The shift signals further proof that the war in Iraq has totally backfired from what Bush and the neocons envisioned in their rosy projections. After the Iraqis greeted us as liberators, democracy was supposed to spread freely throughout the region.Instead, a monarch in a nation where flogging is a routine punishment and women cannot drive cars is using America as a common enemy to woo countries like Iran, Syria, and Russia. The New Nation speculates that Saudi Arabia's growing clout may allow it to achieve superpower status, at least in the Middle East.King Abdullah's vision for Arab unity exceeds the mere securing of Iraq. Through Muslim solidarity, he said, "the winds of hope will blow on the nation, and then, we will not allow forces from outside the region to determine the future of the region, and only the flag of Arabism will be raised on Arab soil."Bush's war may have changed the Middle East, but certainly not in the way he intended. If King Abdullah ever decides to see Bush again, he might just have to settle for a simple handshake.