NY Times via International Herald Tribune online:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005
WASHINGTON Prince Saud al Feisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he has been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq is hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war.
"There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together," he said in a meeting with reporters on Thursday. "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart."
Feisal said he had carried this message "to everyone who will listen" within the Bush administration.
The prince's message, one of the most pessimistic public comments by a Mideast leader, was in stark contrast to the generally upbeat assessments that the White House and the Pentagon have been offering in recent weeks.
But in an appearance at the Pentagon, President George W. Bush, while expressing long-term optimism, warned that the bloodshed in Iraq was likely to increase in the coming weeks.
"Today, our commanders made it clear," he said after a meeting on Iraq with top officers at the Pentagon, "as Iraqis prepare to vote on their constitution in October and elect a permanent government in December, we must be prepared for more violence."
American commanders have repeatedly warned that insurgents would attempt to disrupt the voting.
Bush offered a new argument for staying the course, saying he feared that if the United States left Iraq now, it would become the kind of haven for terrorists that Afghanistan was prior to the toppling of the Taliban. "To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," he said.
Feisal, who was in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials, blamed several U.S. decisions for the slide toward disintegration, though he did not refer to the Bush administration directly. Primary among them was designating "every Sunni as a Baathist criminal." Saudi Arabia styles itself as the capital and protector of Sunni Islam.
And the prince's remarks, at times harsh and at other moments careful and considered, were emblematic of the conflicted Saudi-American relationship.
The prince met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York last week. He said American officials responded to his warnings by telling him that the United States successfully carried off the Iraqi elections this year, and "they say the same things about the constitution" and the situation in Iraq now.
"But what I am trying to do is say that unless something is done to bring Iraqis together, elections alone won't do it," he said. "A constitution alone won't do it."