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Iran: The Sunnis Abandon Ship

Published on: June 16th 2007 13:04:10
Divisions continue among top officials about the way forward on Iran. On June 1st, Secretary of State Rice found herself in the awkward position of having to rebut charges that Vice-President Cheney was undermining her approach of diplomacy and sanctions. Administration contacts confirm that Rice’s approach currently enjoys support from President Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates. But Cheney and officials close to him, especially Elliot Abrams at the National Security Council, still believe that their military-based “solution” will ultimately prove necessary. They have, however, suffered a recent setback in what we have described as their “Sunni strategy” to build support from the US’ conservative Sunni Arab allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States) for a belligerent approach to Iran. This strategy was based on the Sunni fear of an ascendant Iran and of an Iraq falling into the Iranian sphere as another Shia major oil producer. Abrams worked closely with Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the Saudi National Security Adviser, to push this plan forward. We hear that this has now been shelved at the insistence, we are told, of Saudi King Abdullah. The latter has distanced himself from Bandar who is spending much of his time outside Saudi Arabia at his homes in London and the US. The failure of this strategy to build regional support for confronting Iran has strengthened the hand of those who favor a measured approach to Tehran.

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