A Saudi General Lafayette?
In a French history book on the American War of Independence, I once read that Gen. Lafayette, with the support of Gen. George Washington, defeated the British. At first, this seemed of course pretty ridiculous. We all know that it was Washington -- with the support of Lafayette -- who won that war. But on further reflection -- how do we know? Every country has its natural prejudice and bias when it comes to national heroes. Could it be after all that it was Lafayette to whom we are obligated for our independence?
A similar thought came to mind when I read the brand new book, Desert Warrior by Saudi Gen. His Royal Highness Khaled ibn Sultan, who calls himself the "Joint Forces Commander" of the Gulf War. We who watched Gen. Schwarzkopf day after day on CNN, had no doubt that he was the man who led the allied attack against Saddam Hussein. I do not remember any Gen. Ibn Sultan even mentioned. But now in this book it shows that from the Saudi point of view, Schwarzkopf, as Washington before him, was more or less an intruder whom the Saudis were all set to block.
Of course, the Gulf War was never won, President Bush’s stunning declaration that "tomorrow the war stops" and the subsequent public relations salvos through the media really made us think that the war had been won. Certainly, as Bush said again and again, Saddam would not last long on his throne. Sadly, Saddam indeed still does sit on his throne; and Bush is gone.
One very strong theory for why Bush ended the war prematurely -- just before Saddam was defeated -- goes like this: The so-called Desert Storm Coalition of Arab States included Syria. The only way Bush could get Syria to join the Coalition was to promise that the United States would not destroy Iraq’s war machine, which Syria wanted preserved intact, so that Syria and Iraq could one day join forces in a war against Israel. Actually, Syria’s role in the war was so minimal that it made U.S. Marine General Kelly laugh. He told me when I met him after the war that the only time he saw Syrian soldiers on the front was when they marched up and down before the cameras. They were never seen in battle. And Syria reputedly got $2 billion baksheesh for joining the Coalition!
Our men in Washington know that nothing happens in the Arab world without money changing hands. All this is an important lesson for the negotiations now going on with Syria. First, the Syrians take for granted that they will get hefty bribes for offering even the slightest "concessions." Secondly they long ago decided to go to war against Israel. Their extended "negotiations" may just be a smoke screen helping then gain time to re-arm and redeploy their forces. Are Jerusalem and Washington watching out for this danger and double game, typical of the Arab mentality?
This brand new book gives very interesting insights into the Saudi mind when it comes to Israel. We sometimes think of Saudi Arabia as a moderate, reasonable and civilized country that places great value on its alliance with the United States and shies away from the ferocious, hate-crazed view of Israel, which is the standard fare for Arab states. Yet the Saudis, too, fulfill to the hilt the old adage: You can trust an Arab -- one day at a time. In the midst of the Gulf War, President Bush, on a visit to the war front was not allowed to celebrate a Thanksgiving service on Saudi soil but had to do so on board a U.S. warship at sea off the Saudi coast. Recently, the United States had tracked down a top terrorist and could have captured him, but the Saudis forbade the Americans to land a plane in their country, allowing the terrorist to escape.
We must not forget that the Saudis still harbor Idi Amin as an honored guest in their country. And the PLO bomber who blew up the Jewish-owned Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi in 1980, resulting in the loss of 16 lives, escaped to Saudi Arabia where he has eluded capture. The last time I observed the Saudis’ real feelings about Israel was at the Madrid Peace Conference, when Saudi Prince Bandar and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker were overheard referring to the Jews as "those f-----g Israelis." I therefore searched Desert Warrior with curiosity to find any change in attitude by the Arabs toward Israel as a result of the so-called "peace process."
As a Sandhurst-trained military man, the author, Gen. Khaled ibn Sultan, admires Israel’s victory in 1967, but accuses her of displaying "a peak of pride and conceit," which plunged the Arab world "into deep despair." As to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he accuses Egypt of cowardice in not pursuing her initial successes by advancing into Israel after crossing the Suez, which gave Israel time to defeat the Syrians, who had invaded Israel on the strategic Golan Heights. The implication is that Israel’s victory was the result of Egypt’s’ default, not Israeli superiority. He agrees with Tunisia’s President Bourguiba, who many years ago had counseled Sadat to settle with Israel for whatever Israel offered "and then, in due course, ask for more as the Zionists had done before them." In other words, he agrees with Arafat’s present-day tactic of taking over Israel "in phases" -- take now what is offered and grab for more later. He also complains about Israel’s "uproar" every time the Saudis request modern equipment despite "Israel’s own clear military superiority."
On the Six-Day War, he defends Nasser by denying that the Egyptian leader had any bellicose intentions against Israel when he closed the Straits of Aqaba in May 1967. He accepts the fable that Nasser’s intentions were "only defensive, not offensive..." and that Nasser was ready to negotiate and "was about to send his vice president to Washington to get negotiations started, when Israel struck before talks could get under way." Anyway, one who remembers the traumatic days in June 1967, when Nasser daily screamed over the media that his armies were poised to push Israel into the sea, knows that this re-writing of history is false.
Today, this supposedly reasonable top Saudi official accuses Israel of aggression and of "trying to impose its will on the Arabs by force of arms. Israel’s frequent attacks spread destruction, displace populations and illegally occupy Arab lands, thereby profoundly upsetting the politics of the Levant." This is the old story that Israel is the root of all of the ills of the Arabs -- not tyrants and undemocratic, suppressive rulers, such as Saudi Arabia’s own kings!
On the question of nuclear power, Sultan writes: "It is a remarkable achievement of Israeli diplomacy to have persuaded the United States and much of the Western world that Israel’s own nuclear bombs, chemical weapons and long-range missiles, in whose grim shadow the Arabs have had to live for decades, are legitimate weapons of self-defense, whereas any Arab attempts, however feeble, to achieve a modicum of deterrence must be considered a threat to the civilized world." He evidently loses sight of the fact that Israel is threatened by the many irresponsible dictators who run Arab states, such as Qaddafi, Assad, the Ayatollahs and Arafat, who have declared their aim to throw atom bombs at the Western world. No wonder Sultan sides with Iraq -- despite the Gulf War -- by saying that the Iraqi nuclear installation destroyed by Israel in 1981 was a "civilian project." He would not be around today if Israel had permitted Iraq to complete the French atomic installation, which, of course, was strictly meant for military purposes, as even the United States would admit today!
As to Desert Storm itself, he displays Saudi pride in not allowing Schwarzkopf the top position. He could not allow the Saudis to serve under a foreigner (read: infidel) on Saudi soil! Hence, as Gen. Lafayette, he would claim to have led the war and won it, more or less single-handedly, perhaps allowing some credit to the American, French and other forces. He implies that the United States was more concerned with the Security of Israel than of Saudi Arabia. When, in order to keep Israel from retaliating against the barbaric Iraqi Scud attacks, America promised Israel that it would destroy any Scud launchers, Sultan complains that the "Great Scud Hunt" was mainly carried out to protect Israel, and that this "hunt" unnecessarily tied up to 30 percent of all air sorties, which in his opinion, would have been used to carry out the war against the Iraqi targets. "I was not alone in suspecting that the United States was reacting to Israeli threats to use its nuclear weapons against Iraq," he writes. Yet he admits a horrifying set of figures: of a total of 88 Scuds fired by Iraq, 42 were launched at Israel, 43 at Saudi Arabia and 3 at Bahrain.
Yet he discards Saddam Hussein’s claim that he wanted to show the Arab world that only he protected the "Palestinians" and that the way to Jerusalem went through Kuwait! In fact, he quotes an incredible statement made by Saddam Hussein, which was supposedly sent to Washington in April 1990: "Tell the United States that our statement that I mean to burn half of Israel was for internal consumption only. We have no intention to harm Israel." Against his record of using about half of his Scuds against Israel, this shows again the constant use of lies and deceptions in the world of Arab tyrants. It makes us naturally think, why we should take the word of Assad and Arafat that they no longer intend to destroy Israel? Does the leopard ever change its spots.
All in all, the book Desert Warrior by the Joint Forces Commander Gen. Khaled ibn Sultan is quite an eye-opener and makes very useful reading for analysts of the Arab world today.
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