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Issue 63 - 18 January 1982

Contradictions and Confusions


In recent weeks the kingdom has displayed an odd mixture of decisiveness and uncertainty in the exercise of its foreign policies. Near to home, the arrests of the alleged Iranian-inspired subversive group in Bahrain produced a remarkably swift and stern response from Saudi Arabia. As well as at once castigating the regime in Tehran for fomenting trouble in the Arab Gulf, the Saudis were quick to act. Within days of the arrests Prince Naif, the Interior Minister, was hot-foot to Bahrain for the signing of a mutual security pact between the two countries. The provisions of the agreement have not been made public but its substance and meaning is clear enough.

Issue 61 - 07 December 1981



Politics, according to Bismark, is the art of the possible. Judged by that criterion, the policies of the Israelis and the PLO on Palestine are wildly impolitic. Menachem Begin, invoking the divine right of kings, asserts Israel's unassailable claim on the West Bank on the basis of some myth-historical covenant with the Lord. Surrender of the territory is not, in his eyes, merely political and economic suicide; it is, in the literal religious sense, anathema. For the PLO, there can be no recognition of Israel until a de facto Palestinian state has been established. So the dogs of war pursue their tails in a vicious circle.

Issue 60 - 23 November 1981

Official accords, unofficial strains.


There were no large surprises from the published deliberations of the recent summit meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh. The council's endorsement of the Saudi Arabian proposals for a Middle East peace settlement was an entirely expected outcome. But the council did not, as had been hoped by Saudi Arabia, agree to present the plan on a collective basis to the Arab Summit meeting in Fez. Instead the Gulf members merely "asked" Saudi Arabia to table the plan at the forthcoming Morocco meeting. This is less than the open support Saudi Arabia wanted and it appears that the Gulf States - with Kuwait in the vanguard - do not wish to be seen as attempting to impose acceptance of the plan on the rest of th Arab states.

Issue 59 - 09 November 1981

A close-run thing


By a margin of only four votes, 52 in favour and 48 against, the United States Senate has approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of the five AWACS surveillance aircraft; an agreeable confirmation of the "educated guess" made in Saudi Arabia Newsletter No.54. The close-run vote has been hailed by most of the American and European press as a victory for Mr Reagan and comment is devoted to the American domestic aspects of the Administration's successful battle with congress. The finer points of the US debate ad the niceties of individual Senatorial voting will no doubt be carefully analysed by all the interested parties. But the first importance of the vote is that the kingdom's stated defensive requirements will now be met.

Issue 58 - 26 October 1981

Fresh impetus for the Fahd Plan


More than a year ago the European Economic Community produced its "Venice Declaration" on the Middle East in which the community supported the principle of Palestinian self-determination and required its members to play a "special role" in the region. Since then what became known as the European initiative has made little progress and showed few signs of achieving positive results. Now some fresh impetus has been given to the initiative by the EEC Foreign Ministers' decision to send Lord Carrington, the British Foreign Secretary and current president of the EEC to Riyadh for discussions on Prince Fahd's eight-point proposal for a Middle East peace settlement.

Issue 57 - 13 October 1981

Is assassination an answer?


The assassination of Anwar Sadat throws into immediate confusion and doubt almost all the current and various strands of political action and endeavour throughout the whole of the Middle East. The distasteful jubilation expressed in some Arab capitals over the murder of the President of Egypt is short-sighted as well as shameful. The targets of acts of unlawful violence may be individually selected but the resultant effects are indiscriminate, widespread, and evil. If the gun and the bullet become the sole arbiter of political issues in the Middle East, all the governments of the region are at risk and those who applaud such methods invite chaos and instability to their own countries.

Issue 56 - 29 September 1981



On September 29 Dhu al Hijja, the month of the pilgrimage, begins. The Hajjis have been steadily growing in numbers in Jeddah over the last few weeks. Some locals have been predicting more than one million foreign pilgrims this year. Latest official figures indicate a 35% increase in pilgrim arrivals so ar. There were just under 813,000 last year down from the 1979/1399 four year peak of 862,500.

Issue 55 - 15 September 1981

A predictable outcome


In the last issue of our sister publication "Gulf States Newsletter" (No.170) it was suggested that the final outcome of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Taif, attended by the Foreign Ministers of the six member States, could be safely predicted in advance. And so, in the event, it has turned out. The Six agreed without difficulty on a number of issues already wholly acceptable to the Arab world in general, and avoided or skirted around most other matters of a controversial nature.

Issue 54 - 01 September 1981



PRINCE FAHD's statement on 7th August that if the United States Administration continued to stall on selling the Airbourne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia he would seek similarly sophisticated equipment from elsewhere is a clear sign of an approaching impasse in Saudi-American relations.


SAUDI ARABIA NEWSLETTER NO.52 commented that present US policies presented problems for Saudi Arabia. Since then both the Defence Minister and the First Deputy Prime Minister have criticised those policies publicly, saying that if they did not improve Saudi Arabia might have to "turn elsewhere".

Issue 52 - 04 August 1981



WITH THE OPERATlON of an uneasy and tenuous ceasefire, the recent violent and bloody fighting in the Lebanon has been halted. The shaky ceasefire, which has so far managed to survive several alleged breaches in the enclave held by Major Haddad's Israeli-backed militia, gives a temporary respite but does not dispel the dangerous crisis situation in the Middle East. All the Arab governments will now be giving intense and urgent consideration to their possible courses of action in the immediate future. This will be especially so in Riyadh, since Saudi Arabia is believed to have played a significant role in arranging the ceasefire.


THE CONTINUING uncertainty over the US supply of the five AWACS surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia is causing increasing impatience in the kingdom. Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defence, has delivered a blunt warning that Saudi Arabia would look to other countries for arms supplies if the AWACS supply is not made soon. He added that there is a limit to the amount of time Saudi Arabia is prepared to wait for the deal to be concluded, although the Minister did not specify a time scale. Crown Prince Fahd's public comments have not been quite so harsh except that, speaking to a Lebanese newspaper, the Crown Prince is reported to have said; 'We cannot say more than that our relations are good, while we wait to see that American officials understand our needs'. Prince Fahd's remarks suggest that if America does fail to come through, Saudi-US relations would be severely damaged.


AS A RESULT of the Israeli raid on Iraq, Saudi Arabia may get five more Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft. The Reagan administration has announced its intent to bring the matter of AWACS before Congress, directly after the present government recess that ends on July 4. At present many Congressional members are bitterly opposed to the deal

Issue 49 - 23 June 1981



THE STATE VISIT of King Khalid to Britain was the climax of a two-year campaign by the English government to forge stronger ties with Saudi Arabia. Over the last 24 months five British Cabinet Ministers have visited Jeddah and only recently the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, visited the kingdom. Over the same period British annual export figures to Saudi Arabia have reached an all time high of £946m. Mrs Thatcher hopes to increase that figure to over £1.2bn, and to ensure that UK companies get a bigger share of the contracts being awarded under the £107bn Five-Year Plan.

Issue 48 - 09 June 1981



THE FIRST SUMMIT meeting of the newly formed- Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) was concluded recently in the UAE. The two-day summit was attended by leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, who have announced their intention to operate within the framework of the Council to strengthen security and stability in the region. Many informed observers that the region has never recovered from a recent series of political incidents such as the fall of the Shah of Iran, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and, last but not least, the conflict between the neighbouring states of Iraq and Iran.