US President George W. Bush is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia
as part of his 8-day Mideast tour, which analysts said to be part
of US Middle East strategy seeking Riyadh's greater role in
bringing peace to the region and containing growing Iranian
President Bush attaches special attention to his tour in Saudi
Arabia and is set to discuss a series of issues including the
Middle East peace process and bilateral relations with Saudi
leaders during his stay in the kingdom, said the analysts.
Bush started his Mideast regional tour on Wednesday noon when he
arrived in Israel for the first time since he took office in 2000,
aimed at advancing the peace talks between Israel and the
Palestinians in the wake of the U.S.-host Annapolis peace
conference in November last year.
At the Annapolis conference, Israel and the Palestinians had
pledged to strive for a final-status agreement before the end of
2008. But talks between the two sides have been low-key with no
As Bush was summarizing the first stage of his regional visit on
Thursday night, he told a press conference that a peace accord will
require "painful political concessions" by both sides, urging that
the occupation of the Palestinian territories must be ended.
Resolving the status of Jerusalem will be tough, but a peace
agreement is within reach early next year by the end of his
presidency, he said, adding that disputed territory must be
mutually negotiated, referring to Israeli settlements built on
disputed lands that Israel wants to keep when an independent
Palestinian state is formed.
Nonetheless, President Bush's statements did not manage to
create emotional reactions among the residents of Jerusalem who
thought that a peace agreement is not within the capacity of both
sides to be attained.
Some 200 right-wing Israeli demonstrators gathered at the center
of the city for a protest prayer.
"The struggles for the other settlements will be ten-fold what
there was in Amona. It is good to die for our country," said SOS
Israel chairman Rabbi Shlomo Dovber Wolpo, reverberating the
reputed last words of the Zionist activist Joseph Trumpeldor.
Meanwhile, supporters of different factions of Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) took to Gaza main streets on Jan. 9,
chanting slogans against Bush and asking him "to stop being
A Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip on Saturday warned Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas of making concessions for the benefit of
Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people's rights. "The
Palestinian (National) Authority (PNA) is used to make concessions
and is used to be shaky in front of the U.S. orders," Khalil
al-Haia, a Hamas lawmaker, told reporters in the Hamas-run
Political observers held that the U.S. leader may boost peace
talks by pushing Israel to fulfill commitments such as removing
"illegal" settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories and
easing restrictions on Palestinians' travel, but he still wishes to
see more involvement of neighboring countries, especially the
regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to push the peace
On the other hand, President Bush is also supposed to discuss
the role Saudi Arabia could play towards Iran, Lebanon and Iraq,the
three theatres where anti-U.S. sentiments are clearly demonstrated
and for their proximity to the oil resources which are exposed to
dangers if not wisely dealt with.
The U.S. is seriously concerned with the developments in
Lebanon, especially after the summer war of 2006 between Hezbollah
and Israeli forces and its negative impact on the Israeli side. His
eyes are on Syria, whom he blames for the political stalemate
preventing Lebanese parties from choosing a new president, saying
Damascus was "thwarting the will of the Lebanese people."
The observers held that Bush's visit to the gulf region has
special importance for a variety of reasons, saying it also aims at
containing, what he believes, the Iranian threats against the
neighboring Gulf States, particularly in light of the U.S.
long-standing standoff with Iranian nuclear program.
U.S. policy-makers vehemently believe that Iran, strategically
situated in the oil-rich region, has to have its weapons, whether
conventional or missiles, deprived to secure the smooth oil flow to
the industrialized countries.
The visit comes to herald U.S. fears on the Iranian bona fides
threats against Israel, its closet ally in the region where
President Bush earlier told reporters that he was coming to the
region to rally support of "friendly" countries and shore up a
coalition against Iran.
Strategists even see Bush visit as a rehearsal of a military
action against Iran, should it continue to show enmity to the U.S.
and its allies.
There are also other observers who see the tour as Bush's last
effort to correct the image of the "superpower" being shaken by
"failures" it sustained in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to some extent,
No matter what's the real purposes or how many purposes for Bush
to launch this Mideast tour, seeking supports from regional powers
or allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt is Washington's strategic
However, the pro-government daily Al-Riyadh on Saturday ruled
out any attempt by the United States to use Saudi Arabia, the
oil-rich kingdom as a launch pad for a possible war on Iran over
Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
"We refuse to be used to launch wars or tensions with Iran,"
said the paper, adding "this issue can be solved through diplomatic
means and through dialogue."
(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2008)