Tuesday, December 18, 2007

US-Saudi Relations: Never More Important

Patrick Ryan, Saudi-US Relations Information Service (US: Tennessee)

Ambassador Mark Johnson (ret.): There is another segment of the society that we did not see, had no contact with and, at least for me, I am less well aware of it. It is the traditional conservative religious elements of the Kingdom. They are said to be powerful and I believe that to be true. We’ve been told that the King has to keep a kind of synchronized distance just far enough ahead of the people -- not too far ahead certainly not behind. When you ask me to talk about the rape case, I think the American response has actually been beneficial. I think the Saudis might deny that, but President Bush’s comments along the lines of “What if it was my daughter?” puts it in a value system that the Saudis respect -- the family ... Frankly, I don’t think it is unhelpful to have that kind of reaction the President gave. I think that can ultimately be beneficial even though countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt with their human rights problems would ever admit it. Nevertheless it gives the reformers some hope that we are paying attention and this is of concern. That said, there remains this group in Saudi society and outside observers who are a whole lot smarter than I, and who have called it the “Impenetrable Kingdom.” You know, I am beginning to realize why they say that.

No comments: