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Monday, August 28, 2006

Saudi King Forms Anti-Iran Bloc

The Saudi Arabian king’s unusual visit to Turkey in early August was a first move towards forming a Sunni bloc to bar the way to Iran’s Shi’ite expansionism.

The first visit by a Saudi monarch to Turkey in 70 years on Aug. 8 resulted in the signing of highly publicized commercial and political agreements but also of secret security and intelligence pacts.

The most sensitive meeting during king Abdallah’s visit was an encounter between the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council, prince Bandar bin Sultan and the most influential members of Milli Guvenlik Kurulu (MGK), Turkey’s national security council. Badar was accompanied by the head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate (GID), prince Moqrin bin Abdulaziz, and the country’s ambassador to Washington, prince Turki al Faysal.

Talks were largely dominated by the question of how to curb the expansion of the “Shi’ite Crescent” that Iran has undertaken to forge, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon. Riyadh believes the most urgent need is to sever the umbilical cord linking Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah via Syria.

In that respect, Turkey’s cooperation is necessary in order to wield control over air and land routes, in connection with Jordan and Iraq. Jordan’s king, Abdallah 2, has already worked with Israel and the U.S. to control skies and roads and systematically check Iranian aircraft on the ground, while Iraq’s air corridors are watched directly by the American military.

But obtaining Turkey’s cooperation was by no means easy. According to our sources, prince Bandar had to travel several times in the week prior to the king’s visit to negotiate with the MGK. However, he has the ear of Turkish armed forces chief-of-staff general Hilmi Ozkok, who is to be succeeded on Aug. 30 by another anti-Iranian hawk, gen. Mehmet Yasar Buyukanit. And American pressure was also pretty strong. The upshot? On Aug. 7 and 9 the Turks forced two Iranian aircraft flying to Damascus to land at Diyarbakir.
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