The New York Times: By Michael R. Gordon: Criticism of United States'Mideast Policy
Increasingly Comes From Allies. ROME, As the United States grapples with some of the most intractable problems in the Middle East, it has run into a buzz saw of criticism, not from traditional enemies but from two of its strongest allies. During stops in Paris and London this week, Secretary of State John Kerry found himself insisting that the United States was not facing a growing rift with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, whose emissaries have described strains over American policy on Egypt, Iran and Syria. And during a stop in Rome, Mr. Kerry sought to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that the Obama administration would not drop its guard in the newly invigorated nuclear talks with Iran. Mr. Kerry's comments appeared to do little to persuade Mr. Netanyahu, whose demands that Iran dismantle its nuclear program are tougher than any compromise that the United States and other world powers seem prepared to explore as they seek a deal with Iran's new president. But the criticism by Saudi officials has been the most vehement, as they have waged a campaign against the United States' policy in the Middle East in private comments to diplomats and reporters, as well as in public remarks by a former intelligence official. Saudi officials have made it clearthey are frustrated with the Obama administration, not just for its reluctance to do more to aid the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and not just for its willingness to engage Iran in negotiations, but also for its refusal to endorse the Egyptian military's ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the crackdown on Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party. Beyond criticism, the Saudis have been working against American policy in Egypt by providing billions of dollars in assistance to the authorities in Cairo, which has more than made up for aid the United States has withheld after the Egyptian military deposed Mr. Morsi. Mr. Kerry and other American officials have insisted that the United States was right to work with Mr. Morsi after he took office as the duly elected president. In a speech on Tuesday at the annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference held by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Saudi Arabia's former spy chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, also complained about the White House's decision to embrace an agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons instead of carrying out a cruise missile strike against Mr. Assad's forces. "The current charade of international control over Bashar's chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down but also to help Assad to butcher his people, said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and a former director of Saudi intelligence. Those comments followed Saudi Arabia's decision to protest the West's policy on Syria by rejecting a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Some Middle East experts said that the unease over American policy went beyond the details of the United States' position on Syria or a potential nuclear deal with Iran. It also fueled, they say, by the perception that the Obama administration's policy is grounded in the desire to avoid diplomatic and especially military confrontations in the Middle East.