In an official Saudi statement that has received all-too little attention, Riyadh has unequivocally and unapologetically condemned Hamas and Hizbullah for their adventurism versus Israel. The remarkable document deserves quoting in full:
Jeddah, July 13, SPA—An official source said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has believed and still believes in the right of people under occupation to fight this occupation in all its forms and to reject its illegal measures aiming at erasing identity and changing realties on the ground.
On this basis, the Kingdom has always been standing with all its capabilities with the legitimate Palestinian resistance which aims at resisting military occupation and avoiding harming the innocent. On the same basis, the Kingdom stood firmly with the resistance in Lebanon until Israeli occupation of Lebanon ended.
Viewing with deep concern the bloody, painful events currently taking place in Palestine and Lebanon, the Kingdom would like to clearly announce that a difference should be drawn between legitimate resistance and rash adventures carried out by elements inside the state and those behind them without consultation with the legitimate authority in their state and without consultation or coordination with Arab countries, thus creating a gravely dangerous situation exposing all Arab countries and its achievements to destruction with those countries having no say.
The Kingdom views that it is time that these elements alone bear the full responsibility of these irresponsible acts and should alone shoulder the burden of ending the crisis they have created.
Comment: That the Saudis should take so forward a position suggests they are feeling the heat from Iran. (July 13, 2006)
July 14, 2006 update: A day later, the KSA issued the same exact text, but this time with an added paragraph at the conclusion:
The Kingdom will continually seek for security and stability in the region, exerting everything that it can do to protect the Arab nation from an Israeli oppression and transgression.
Also, George W. Bush noticed the statement, according to his spokesman, Tony Snow: "the President ...was pleased by a statement -- I don't know if you've seen it -- that came out yesterday by the Saudis that, among other things, pointed out that Hezbollah, acting independent of a government, had behaved in a manner that I will paraphrase as irresponsible" ("Press Gaggle," Strelna, Russia).
July 15, 2006 update: In an astonishing opinion piece, "No to Syria, Iran agents," Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of Kuwait's Arab Times newspaper, writes:
Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of Kuwait's "Arab Times" newspaper.
People of Arab countries, especially the Lebanese and Palestinians, have been held hostage for a long time in the name of "resisting Israel." Arab governments have been caught between political obligations and public opinion leading to more corruption in politics and economics. Forgetting the interests of their own countries the Hamas Movement and Hezbollah have gone to the extent of representing the interests of Iran and Syrian in their countries. These organizations have become the representatives of Syria and Iran without worrying about the consequences of their action.
Al-Jarallah then notes the Saudi statements and goes on:
This attitude of Saudi Arabia, which has been doing all it can to protect the Arab world from Israeli aggression, is enough to unmask the adventurers, who have violated the rights of their own countries and tried put their people under the guardianship of foreign countries like Iran and Syria. A battle between supporters and opponents of these adventurers has begun, starting from Palestine to Tehran passing through Syria and Lebanon.
He concludes his astonishing article with an even more astonishing conclusion:
Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of "these irregular phenomena" is what Israel is doing. The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community.
July 17, 2006 update: At an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on July 15, reports Hassan M. Fattah in the New York Times, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a closed-door meeting of Hizbullah's attacks on Israel: "These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them." The Saudis joined with several other Arab states publicly to condemn Hizbullah for its "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.
Also, in a statement today, the Saudi cabinet stated that "some elements and groups have got loose and slipped into taking decisions on their own" but that Israel has exploited the situation "to wage a ferocious war against Lebanon and to imprison the entire Palestinian people. Saudi Arabia stands together with the legitimate and reasonable-minded national forces in Lebanon and occupied Palestine to combat these dangers to the Arab and Muslim nation."
A Reuters report quotes two political analysts to explain the Saudis' action. Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi, suggested that "They look at Hizbollah as an extension of Iran. They cannot believe Hizbollah took the strategic decision [to kidnap Israeli soldiers] without at least the knowledge, if not green light, of the Iranians." Dawoud Shiryan, a Saudi, found it "a surprise that Saudi Arabia took the initiative without waiting for the others. But it fits with their desire to have a role in stopping the military operations."
July 19, 2006 update: Bronwen Maddox, foreign editor of the Times (London), offers her take on the Saudi step:
Bronwen Maddox, foreign editor of the London Times.
the Saudi remarks, which might sound mild at face value, mark a dramatic shift by that cautious regime. For once, Saudi Arabia has rejected the tactic of complimenting Israel's opponents. That does not reflect the regime's sense of security, but the opposite. It is aware of the restiveness of its own Shia minority population and the potential militancy of its underemployed young men. It does not want to see the Shia crescent grow. So it has chosen to berate the new Shia threat rather than pander to its audience at home. That is not a recipe for unity in the Arab League, but it may be one for progress.
July 20, 2006 update: Abdullah bin Jabreen, called one of the most respected and more mainstream Wahhabi clerics by counterterrorism analyst Rita Katz, has issued a statement, "The Sharia position on what is going on." In it, he declares it unlawful to support, join, or pray for Hizbullah. The Kuwait-based cleric who retired two years ago from the Saudi government's fatwa committee, refers to Hizbullah as rafidhis, or "rejecters" and writes: "Our advice to the Sunnis is to denounce them and shun those who join them to show their hostility to Islam and to the Muslims." Katz finds the statement significant, because it further exacerbates the division between Sunnis and Shia.
July 28, 2006 update: Saudi distaste for Hizbullah can only have increased after reading the vicious editorial attack in Jomhouri-ye Eslami, an Iranian newspaper known for its close links to the political leadership and the ayatollahs, on July 25.
The Zionist regime received full cooperation from the following individuals and centers, and attacked Lebanon with the aim of destroying Hizbullah, or at least disarming it: The reactionary Arab leaders; the Arab forums; the U.N.; the international forums that claim to defend human rights; the religious centers and the fatwas issued by the Arab reaction; the groups that claim to struggle against America in the Arab world, including Al-Qaeda and the takfir groups.
This was precisely the reason why, after the beginning of the military attack by the Zionist regime on Hizbullah in Lebanon, not only did the silence of death fall upon the heads of the Arab reaction, but in addition, the secret agreement that some of them had made - with the prime minister of the plundering and criminal Zionist regime for the sake of carrying out this crime - was exposed. …
The groups that claim [to be carrying out] the struggle against America earned reputation and fame in the Arab and Islamic world under an Islamic guise. But they also chose the [path of] indifference in the face of the most heroic struggle against America and the Zionist regime. They refrain even from making a statement on the subject. The muftis of the courts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt have carried out the most shameful act of all. Sheikh Abdallah ibn Jabarin, the greatest Wahhabi mufti in the Saudi court, issued a fatwa forbidding providing help to Hizbullah, and called them rafidin. [A derogatory Sunni term for Shi'ites.] He even prohibited praying for those who take their souls in their hands and defend Islam and the Muslims. …
How miserable are these black-faces, who have polluted the holy seat of the clerics and of the muftis with the mark of disgrace of blind obedience to the heads of the Arab reaction. They have bought themselves a bad name in this world, and torment in the world to come. Eternal disgrace on the Arab reactionaries who, with their silence during the most sensitive historical period of the Muslim wars against the infidels and the arrogant, have stamped on their foreheads the stamp of the most filthy dependence. An eternal curse on the muftis of the Saudi court and of the pharaoh of Egypt, who, with their made-to-order fatwas, have been promoted from the most disgraceful title of preachers of the kings to the most filthy title of preachers of the arrogant... [i.e. the U.S.].
Aug. 5, 2006 update: Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, one of Arabia's most radical figures, has issued an edict attacking Hizbullah. Hizbullah (which means "Party of God") he says is actually "the party of the devil," He admonishes followers: "Don't pray for Hizbullah."
Oct. 17, 2006 update: The Saudi authorities detained four Shi'is in the city of Qatif on the grounds they support Hizbullah. Two of them were arrested "after they took part in a traditional Ramadan celebration during which they brandished a Hizbullah banner and chanted slogans glorifying [Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah," said one resident, who asked not to be named. Also, a Sunni named Muhammad Abu 'Abdullah was arrested for hanging a picture of Nasrallah on a wall, according to a Shi'i source. These detentions were the first since August, when seven Saudi Shi'ites for taking part in demonstrations backing Hizbullah.
Nov. 24, 2006 update: The Saudis government has severed ties with Hamas, reports Avi Issacharoff in Ha'aretz, drawing on Palestinian sources. "Saudi Arabia has severed relations with Hamas in recent weeks, and the Saudi government is consequently refusing to meet with senior Hamas officials. Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud a-Zahar, who visited the kingdom recently, did not meet with a single senior Saudi official during his stay."