Since the initial outpouring of virtually worldwide sympathy and support, the U.S. is quickly finding out which of its avowed supporters will prove to be fair-weather friends. Even before most of the bodies are uncovered from the rubble still piled where the Twin Towers used to stand, support from America’s primary Middle Eastern allies in its anti-terrorist campaign has already weakened.
Barely a month after the most horrific terrorist attack in U.S. history, both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have wavered from what first appeared to be solidarity.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, feeling the heat of intense public disapproval for his support of the U.S. (a Gallup poll showed that 83 percent of Pakistanis are behind the Taliban), asked Washington to ensure that its bombing campaign would be brief.
On October 16, London’s Guardian reported Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif saying his country “wanted the U.S. to flush out the terrorists without bombing. ‘This is killing innocent people. The situation does not please us at all,’” he said.
An estimated 5,000 U.S. troops are based in Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. has for decades provided protection for the regime in return for an uninterrupted flow of oil. This is why David Wurmser, director of Middle East studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said on October 15, “The U.S.’s entire foreign-policy structure in the region has been anchored in the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. If everything we’re hearing is true, then we’re facing a total meltdown” (ibid.).
The U.S. is again being reminded that ethnic and national interests will still prevail over principle in the unstable world of political alliances.