Bruce Riedel is the Director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution. His new book, “What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979-1989â€³ was published in July 2014. Although I had a lot of first-hand knowledge I learned a lot from his book. (from a well connected friend of mine.)
By Bruce Riedel
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has assumed a very low profile so far during the third Gaza war, speaking publicly rarely and primarily backing its Egyptian ally behind the scenes. Some have confused this quiet as a tacit entente with Israel against Hamas misreading the Saudi position; the kingdom increasingly regards the Netanyahu government as a criminal state.
The Saudis have been unusually taciturn for much of the Gaza war between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Saudi finance minister announced a $53 million grant for emergency aid to Gaza on July 14 to help the victims of “brutal Israeli aggression,” but the king did not speak out personally until Aug. 1. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz then denounced Israel for committing a “war crime against humanity” and engaging in a “collective massacre.” He did not specifically mention Israel, but the official Saudi press made clear he meant Israel in general and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. The king never mentioned Hamas at all, but he did speak a great deal about “terrorists” who “distort the pure and humane image of Islam.” The Saudi press has explained those remarks as applying to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), not to Hamas. He did say the worst kind of terror is state terror, another reference to Israel in Saudi speak.
The former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki Al Faisal, wrote for Al-Monitor on July 25 that Israel’s actions in Gaza are a “barbaric assault on innocent civilians” and were destroying any chance for implementing the Saudi peace plan for a two-state solution. Prince Turki, who is today a private citizen and always candid, did strongly criticize Hamas for many “mistakes,” especially its “ill-advised alignment with Qatar and Turkey,” both of whom have backed Hamas more vigorously. The Saudi ambassador in London wrote a public letter criticizing those who suggested any collusion between Israel and Saudi Arabia in Gaza as “utter rubbish” and “baseless lies.” Prince Nawaf accused Israel of “genocide” and “a crime against humanity” in Gaza. He was responding to right-wing Israeli press reports alleging contacts between Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar and the head of the Mossad and British press reports also asserting back-door collusion.
The Saudis’ major goal in the Gaza war is to support their protege and ally Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom the Saudis helped put in power a year ago and whom they keep in power with billions in economic grants. Riyadh and Cairo now despise the Muslim Brotherhood. Since Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Brotherhood, Sisi wants to see it humiliated. This is the major difference between this Gaza war and the last Gaza war …read more