PARIS – They had been waiting 20 years for this moment. Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux and the whole Lac Leman are immersed in what even by the local staid, dull standards can only be described as a wave of excitement, which obviously had to be money-related. Switzerland is for sale – and all the buyers are from the House of Saud.
Since May 20, King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud has been living in Switzerland. For the first time in 20 years, since he ascended to the throne in 1982, he is visiting his sprawling 40,000-square-meter property in Collonge-Bellerive, accompanied by a court of hundreds of people. Officially he is in Switzerland for an eye operation – besides the matter of inaugurating his magnificent property.
Hotels around the Lac Leman are having a masked ball – since most of the guests are court members or wealthy visiting Arabs. Asia Times Online learned that on any given day there are from two to 10 Saudi Arabian Airlines arrivals, carrying ultra-wealthy visitors not only from the peninsula but from all over the world. Their wallets could easily solve the current Latin American crisis. It is estimated that the court Arabs plus the visitors are spending as much as 4 million euros (US$3.9 million) a day. And the best is yet to come: the flurry of last-minute gifts on September 30, when King Fahd is supposed to leave Geneva for another of his residences in Marbella, Spain.
According to a Swiss journalist, a resident of Geneva, a department store even had to pay a fine of almost 7,000 euros because it opened its doors in the middle of the night for the royal court – an absolute anathema as far as the rigid Swiss labor laws are concerned.
King Fahd bought this property in the late 1970s. At that time he was Minister of Foreign Affairs to his half brother Khaled. He later ascended to the throne – and never found time to visit Geneva.
All through July the king was in the center of a real diplomatic Swan Lake – receiving everybody from Jordan’s King Abdullah to Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak. But suddenly the insistent rumors stressing that the king is dying picked up again: on August 3 he transferred the rights of his property to his second wife, Princess Johara Al-Ibrahim. There is wild speculation in Geneva that the king could be formally sidelined from the throne to the benefit of one of his staunch pro-American brothers.
This is a very serious matter as far as the king’s official heir – Prince Abdullah – is concerned. It is being constantly repeated in Washington that the US needs Prince Abdullah and vice versa. But the fact is that Washington hawks do not evaluate the importance of Prince Abdullah as the crucial counter-power to Osama bin Laden’s apocalyptic designs, and are suspicious of the prince’s intentions of eventually convincing the Americans to abandon their Saudi military bases. The prince’s efforts to get closer to Iran and Iraq and his landmark peace proposal for the Middle East – Israel retreats to its 1967 borders with Palestine in exchange of recognition by the Arab world – also do not fit the designs of Washington’s hawks.
While King Fahd was gazing peacefully at the Lac Leman and Prince Abdullah was frantically trying to design a more peaceful Middle East for the benefit of the Arab world, Washington’s hawks showed where their money is – through a now infamous leaked report to the Defense Policy Board, a consultative Pentagon body.
The chairman of this board is none other than ultra-hawk, former Pentagon official Richard Perle. The fact that the report is authored by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corporation analyst specializing in “international security” and former adviser to the French Ministry of Defense is beside the point. The point is that it perfectly reflects the powerful Dick Cheney view of the Middle East – widely shared by Pentagon civilians.
To follow the report to the letter, Saudi Arabia should be immediately included in the axis of evil: it is described as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” of the US. Says the Rand Corporation analyst: “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.” And if Riyadh does not stop its support for terrorism, “Saudi oil fields and overseas financial assets should be targeted.” Swiss banks will not be very enthusiastic.
The White House, the State Department and diplomatic Saudi sources may spin it as they like it (“it’s not the official view,” etc.), but this does not alter the fact that the “evil Saudis” characterization is extremely influential in the pinnacles of Washington. Hawks do not seem to realize that they are just playing bin Laden’s game. Or maybe they do – and that’s just how they want it. One would give a million Cartier gold watches to know what goes on in that royal mind gazing placidly at the Lac Leman.