Monday, February 16, 2009

hegemonic hustle...,

METimes | It remains to be seen how President Obama, the idealist liberal, views King Abdullah, the traditional monarch. The king has not left events to chance. Since the Gaza crisis, he has intensified his efforts to situate himself as the ultimate problem solver in the Middle East and the faithful defender of U.S. interests in the region. He and his government have consistently sent messages concerning peace with Israel, isolating Iran, and weakening Iran's supporters in the Arab world, i.e. Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other nationalistic organizations. On Feb. 3, Abdullah's government issued an implicit call for Arabs to be aware of Iran's policies disguised as defending Arab and Muslim interests. The government, too, in cooperation with Egypt, organized a conference on Feb. 3 for foreign ministers of U.S.-allied states to back the peace initiative with Israel.

Motivated by ensuring the survival of and maintaining security in the kingdom, Abdullah is counting on Washington's traditional support. This may explain why he appears to be in a race with time to demonstrate to President Obama that his kingdom is a trusted ally which is willing to utilize its unlimited wealth and resources to steer events in the region into a direction that serves Israel's concerns for security, while optimizing what he perceives as American interests in the region.

Abdullah understands that Obama seeks to differentiate his administration's foreign policy from that of his predecessor, and that Obama might not agree or see eye to eye with him. Nevertheless, Abdullah knows that, at this moment, he holds the key to two important factors: the free flow of oil and peace with Israel. He is betting that Obama ultimately reciprocates his friendly gestures.