A friend said to me, praise be to God, the world has indeed changed. What we see today is closer to surrealism. The Previously most famous Saudi official in Washington, Prince Bandar Bin-Sultan met with Russian Prime Minster Putin twice in one month, while US Secretary Rice is an official guest of Colonel Muammar al- Qaddafi in Libya, and the Syrians are negotiating with the Israelis.
I find this picture clearer as I’ve commented recently about the world standing on one foot and the not bipolar world since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Each party has started to look for its interest away from the old calculations. The truth is that Saudi King Abdullah chose to travel east toward China and Russia after becoming king, not toward Europe and the United States as was the custom.
Regarding to Libya, it never crossed anyone’s mind that the day would come when Tripoli and Washington might sit in one tent, even in the case of reconciliation.
A book by Ghassan Sharbil, The Black Box, a collection of his unique essays that were published recently, helped sharpen my recollection. The importance of the book is that you can clearly see how our world lived, before Al-Qaeda organization and Bin Laden, when “terror” meant Wadi Haddad, Carlos, George Habash, and other figures who played the most prominent role during the 1970’s and some of the1980’s. Planes were hijacked, ambassadors assassinated, bombings in the Western governments’ own ground, and operations as sensational as Al-Qaeda’s actions, such as the kidnapping of OPEC ministers, the hijacking and blowing up of three planes all at once at Amman Airport, and so on.
The international camps then, between Soviet and American, provided protection for the armed groups against each other. The authorities were trying to hunt down the organizations as individuals but did not dare to strike the countries sponsoring or hosting them in their territories, such as south Yemen and Syria. The hijackers were taken by plane, as they did in the OPEC ministers’ operation, to Algiers Airport, accorded official welcome, and put in five-star hotels where they bathed, washed off the blood, and ate the best dinners. No one could reach them. These protections have fallen today and it is now possible to kidnap the head of a state and try him and enter into the terrorists’ caves without the permission of the host country.
But we must say that despite this, the world is today broader and better where each party decides what suits it and serves its interests. If the Saudis see in Moscow and Beijing interests and necessary balances then they can do it. And the Americans cannot claim to be virtuous where they are bargaining and trading with the enemies of the past who bombed their planes and targeted their citizens. All this has become a thing of the past, which we want to forget if we can. But countries are like humans and do not change much. I do not imagine that Saudi Arabia will have a revolutionary policy because it has become close to Moscow and Beijing or that Libya will have a conservative and moderate policy because it hosts Rice and David Welch in the Al-Aziziya tent.