Jewish World Review March 4, 2002 / 20 Adar, 5762



Why the Saudis Are Warming Up to Idea of Mideast Peace: A political insight by Ronald Reagan



By Ranan R. Lurie


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE Saudis know that they need peace more than the Israelis and the Palestinians, if they want to survive. Allow me to explain.

During an off-the-record meeting with President Reagan in 1983, he gave me this simple assessment of the Soviet economy: "It's like a giant hole in the ground, and the Communists have nothing to fill it with."

Several years later I met with President Gorbachev in Moscow, when I was collaborating with him on an internationally syndicated column (he wrote, I drew) and quoted President Reagan. Gorbachev stared at me with some anguish, and confirmed Reagan's assessment, albeit with more gentle words. "I simply knew that there is no way that we can compete with you. We hardly had money to buy diesel for our tanks, let alone confront the U.S. with a very expensive 'Star Wars' of our own.

"What amazed me," continued the Soviet leader, "is that no one in the Soviet Union besides me would readily admit this, and that you in the West were generally ignorant of identifying our terrible economic situation as well."

A similar situation is starting to unfold now in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.

The only revenue it has is from oil.

This rich country, which exports fanatic Islam propaganda and some of the finest terrorists available on the suicide market, has nothing but unemployment, poor education, population explosion and a religion that forces half of its work force--women--to stay idle.

The only item that separates Saudi Arabia from total economic disaster is oil.

It is not a nation that manufactures or produces. Because of its oil riches, no one even thought about an economic infrastructure other than oil production, and no one bothered to teach the younger generations how to make a living outside of the oil wells.

And here comes the bombshell: Unlike the West, the Saudis did identify the forthcoming economic disaster that will hit their country like a meteor the size of Pasadena. Global warming is already devastating the sea levels all over the world, and low elevation islands north of New Zealand had to be evacuated because of the ocean's flooding and covering homes.

Beautiful pictures of a new sea, born at the North Pole after the glaciers melted, sent shivers down the spines of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Boy, did they see the writing on the ice!

Muhammad al Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to global warming conventions and the senior economic advisor to the Saudi oil ministry, declared openly that the world is shifting away from fossil fuels.

"We are assuming that only for another 15 years, maximum, will we have oil as a big share of the energy mix," he said. "We are very concerned about this."

Then the Saudi oil chief made a devastating statement: "For all its prosperity," he said, "Saudi Arabia will still need help in developing new industries and job sources for its growing population."

The Saudis know that every emission cut not only diminishes the oil market but also encourages the countries that were sitting on huge oil reserves (like Mexico, Russia and China) to pour into that market every barrel they have before their Cinderella-like wells turn into greasy pumpkins.

That is why we don't hear drumbeats of "oil embargoes," "oil retaliation" and "oil blackmail" anymore.

This is why oil prices are dropping very gently and will continue to do so forever, especially after President Bush touted new American cars that run on hybrid energy sources.

Saudi Arabia knows it will need a solid, quiet and peaceful environment if it wants to structure a new economy from scratch.

It knows it will have to beg for a Marshall Plan, which only the West will be able to assist it with.

It already knows that, like it or not, it will need Israeli know-how in the form of instructors, engineers and water specialists to turn its country green.

The last thing Saudis need right now is an exploding Middle East that will multiply their forthcoming problems to a degree that everyone in the world will be licking their own wounds and simply not have the time, money or energy to help Saudi Arabia, which will be sinking in its own useless oil.

That's why the Saudis have initiated the peace move between the Israelis and Palestinians.

JWR contributor Ranan R. Lurie, a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., is a syndicated columnist and political cartoonist. Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, Ranan R. Lurie. This article originally appeared in the LA Times.