Subject: The "linkage factor"
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 09:46:55 EST
From: Ray Close
(1) From an article in the 11/30/06 Washington Post about Condi Rice's
planned talks with Palestinian leaders today:
The renewed emphasis on Middle East peace marks a shift for the Bush
administration. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, some
neoconservatives predicted that the fall of Saddam Hussein and the
establishment of an Iraqi democracy would help foster peace in the
Middle East, arguing that in effect the road to Jerusalem traveled
through Baghdad. Now, experts say, the administration is acknowledging
that the path toward stabilizing Baghdad leads through Jerusalem.
A senior State Department official, briefing reporters Wednesday
night, said he felt uncomfortable with the nostrum that solving the
Israeli-Palestinian crisis could be achieved by toppling Hussein - and
with the idea that the plights of Iraq and the Palestinians were still
linked. “I don’t like the idea of lumping these things together,” he
said on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the State
Still, the official acknowledged that there was a “core of moderate
Arab support” for action on the Israeli-Palestinian front and that the
administration was trying to exploit that.
(2) An excerpt from an op-ed that I wrote for the International Herald
Tribune of 29 November 2002, (exactly four years ago) entitled "It's
time to keep American promises":
Immediately relevant to the debate over existential issues that is
already raging in Israel is the potentially ill-fated decision of the
Bush administration to tackle Saddam Hussein without first restoring
George W. Bush's credibility as a constructive influence on both sides
of the Palestine-Israel confrontation.
Absent positive American support for the Arab-Israeli peace process,
freshly constructive Israeli policies would be doomed. And likewise,
without energetic and demonstrably evenhanded American support for a
just settlement, negative and destructive elements on the other side,
firmly committed to terrorism and violence, would kill all hope that
correspondingly reasonable and moderate Palestinians might emerge as
effective partners. The connection between other American regional
foreign policy objectives and U.S. dedication to the Arab-Israel peace
process has traditionally been referred to as the "linkage factor." But
the concept has always been dismissed in Washington as a contemptible
effort by enemies of the United States to manipulate American policy.
It has been advocated most vigorously by the Arab side whenever the
United States has pursued objectives in the region that were perceived
by Arabs to be a distraction from the pursuit of a "just and lasting
peace" in Palestine. And, of course, it has been denounced vehemently in
Israel whenever Arab interests were perceived to be developing a degree
of independent credibility and leverage in relations with the United States.
Speaking from long experience in dealing with leaders of Saudi Arabia,
in particular, I can certify the sincerity and consistency of their
commitment to the cause of justice for the Palestinians, and hence their
persistent advocacy of linkage between that issue and other policy
objectives initiated by Washington.
Today we see this manifested in clear indications from Saudi leaders
that a more evenhanded American policy in Palestine is intimately
related to Saudi Arabia's ability and willingness to participate in, and
support without reservation, America's proposed "regime change"
operation in Iraq.
Valuable lessons in understanding the linkage phenomenon can be drawn
from a brief review of events as far back in history as the early 1970s,
before, during and after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Starting in late 1972,
about 10 months before the outbreak of the 1973 war, the late King
Faisal began warning President Richard Nixon that other Arab states, led
by Iraq and Libya, were beginning to put heavy pressure on him to join
them in utilizing what became known as the "oil weapon" against the
United States unless the Nixon administration took a more active
interest in resolving the Palestine problem. These warnings from Faisal
were earnest, and they were urgent. Washington ignored them. Faisal
never gave up. He sent his oil minister, Ahmed Zaki Yamani, and others
to Washington several times in the next few months to convey that
message to everyone who would listen, inside and outside of government.
The warning was ignored in most cases. In other instances the messenger
was publicly denounced as a crude practitioner of "blackmail."
On April 17, 1973, several months before the Yom Kippur War began, I was
informed by my official Saudi intelligence counterparts that Anwar Sadat
had reached a decision to begin preparing for a major military assault
across the Suez Canal, and that he had informed King Faisal of this
decision in a letter received that day.
Sadat acknowledged unashamedly in this letter that he did not expect to
win a war against Israel, but he explained that only by restoring Arab
honor and displaying Arab courage on the battlefield could he hope to
capture the attention of Washington and persuade Henry Kissinger to
support a peace process.
The letter was read to me with King Faisal's express permission. In
reporting this information, I included news that Prince Saud al Faisal,
the king's son and present foreign minister, was being sent to
Washington to convey again his father's deep concern, made much more
urgent by the message from Sadat, that only a vigorous American peace
initiative, urgently undertaken, could avert a regional Middle East war
that would inevitably include the imposition of an oil embargo.
King Faisal considered including this message again in written form in a
personal letter to Nixon, but he then thought better of the idea. He was
tired of writing letters to the American president, he explained,
recalling that the last time he had done so it had been three months
before he received a reply. Prince Saud was therefore instructed to
convey the message verbally.
Again, as usual, Washington paid no heed to this admonition from a wise
and dignified gentleman, a proven friend of America for many years.
It was no surprise, then, that when the dire predictions came true six
months later, Faisal stood resolutely, shoulder to shoulder, with his
Arab brothers. Washington had again failed, through arrogance and
ignorance, to appreciate the significance of linkage. Another
significant episode took place several weeks after the Yom Kippur War
had ended, but while the oil embargo was still in effect. In a personal
letter to King Faisal dated Dec. 3, 1973, President Nixon included the
following remarkable passages:
"Looking back over recent years, I recall the many times Your Majesty
has written to me of your concern and of your conviction that we should
do more to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. You have always given me
wise counsel, and in retrospect your advice was well taken and should
have been heeded."
"The latest war, and the shadow it has cast over our relations with many
of our friends in the Middle East, has demonstrated beyond any doubt
that the situation which has existed for so long can no longer be
permitted to remain unresolved. "The American people, while they feel a
strong commitment to the security and survival of Israel, also harbor
friendly feelings toward the Arab world and are well disposed to give
responsible Arab views the attention they deserve. The American people
have even understood how, in the heat of the recent war, the need to
demonstrate solidarity with your Arab compatriots led Your Majesty to
institute certain measures with respect to the production and supply of
"With Your Majesty's cooperation, I am prepared to devote the full
energies of the U.S. to bringing about a just and lasting peace in the
Middle East based on the full implementation of Security Council
Resolutions 242 and 338, in the adoption of which my government played a
major part. You have my total personal committment to work toward that
The last sentence was added by Nixon in his personal handwriting, with
the word "total" underlined twice, and the word "commitment" misspelled.
Crown Prince Abdullah has made it very clear that he will not
countenance use of the oil weapon today in the way it was employed in
1973 and 1974. However, it is nevertheless certainly true that he has
been attempting to influence U.S. policy by the most effective means at
his disposal - the withholding of full support for American policy
objectives unless and until he sees that the Bush administration
recognizes at last the importance of linkage, and demonstrates its
sincere determination to fulfill the long succession of American
promises to pursue a just and lasting peace in Palestine.