When European Union’s foreign affairs executive, Javier Solana, turned up in Riyadh Wednesday, May 13, his purpose was not to condemn the al-Qaeda suicide killers’ horrendous triple attacks two days earlier on Riyadh compounds housing many European expatriates - or even to comfort the many European victims in hospital. Neither was he there to strengthen the hands of Saudi rulers in their stand against the future terrorist horrors threatening the kingdom. Brushing all other business aside, Solana, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive Middle East sources, presented Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal with his latest brainchild, a plan to force the Middle East Road Map down unwilling throats by ramming it through the UN Security Council as a mandatory resolution. This was not a new Road Map for stamping out the blight of terrorism, although the dead victims of the latest assault were still being counted. It was the old Israeli-Palestinian blueprint, which he presented as the panacea for all the region’s ills, a view that would have met with Saudi approval.
Thursday, May 15, after the European bureaucrat had flown out to Damascus, the count was still incomplete of American, European, Australian, Asian and local dead and Riyadh’s hospitals were choked with the injured. The FBI team sent to examine the scenes of the attacks was held up in Germany almost a day waiting for Saudi landing permission. The agents fretted over the loss of valuable data on the ground and leads to the perpetrators that needed to be collected when they were fresh to be of any use.
None of this concerned Solana when he unveiled his scenario to Saud al-Faisal.
Now that the Iraqi war over, he said, a fresh effort must be embarked on to curtail American domination over Middle East political processes. The situation had changed from what it was before the Iraq conflict; now, the UN, the EU, Russia and the other Security Council members are in a position to stand up to American hegemony.
The Road Map is the perfect vehicle. It was formulated with American participation by the UN, EU and Russia. Washington tried to shelve the plan when U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell was on his way to the Middle East last week, but the Europeans and Arabs can easily recover it. First, the Security Council must be called into urgent session to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as a result of Israeli military counter-terror operations. At the end of the debate, the Road Map will be put to the vote. The U.S. as a signatory can hardly demur or exercise its veto. Neither will Britain oppose the draft for fear of jeopardizing its fence-mending efforts with Europe. Anyway, Tony Blair would rather see the UN assuming a role in the Palestinian conflict than in Iraq.
After adopting the Road Map resolution, the Security Council, Solana explained, will have to create an inspection or monitoring team to supervise its execution. This will meet Yasser Arafat’s long-held ambition for an international body to move into the borderlands between Israel and Palestinian areas. Israel will be compelled to pull out of Palestinian locations and to give up its fight against terrorists.
Solana assured the Saudi foreign minister that he had already obtained French, Russian and German assent to his plan. In Damascus, he saw no difficulty in persuading the Syrian president to jump in as a way of pushing back the heat applied to him from Washington to get rid of his terrorist bases and connections.
The European official’s Road Map initiative was one of the causes of Powell’s failure on Wednesday May 14 to win Russian president Putin round to Washington’s proposal to lift UN sanctions on Iraq. The U.S. badly needs revenues from Iraqi oil sales to fund reconstruction and the imposition of law and order. Russia and the other governments who opposed the American war on Iraq now see their way to punishing the Bush administration for going ahead anyway as well as holding a lever for sinking U.S. postwar plans by withholding funding and forcing Washington to report back to the Europeans and Security Council to gain their approval for further progress. The powers vested in the security council format of endorsement coupled with an international inspections mechanism will thus be reinstated to bend Washington as well as Jerusalem to their will.