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A Showdown for War or Peace

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The Saudis and Israeli also have other common interests. They sided with the Egyptian military in removing the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a populist Sunni movement that the Saudi royals also see as a threat to their privileged status and the Israelis view as an ally of Hamas in Gaza.

When the worldly Bandar, who served as Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, expanded his influence in the Saudi court especially after his appointment as chief of Saudi intelligence in July 2012, an alliance of convenience became possible between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The alliance combined the two nations' complementary skills: Israel's unparalleled propaganda and lobbying and Saudi Arabia's oil wealth and financial investments.

However, Bandar's confidence with this new power tandem appears to have crossed over into arrogance. According to a leaked diplomatic account of a meeting in Moscow on July 31, he offered both carrots and sticks to Putin to get the Russian president to abandon the Assad regime in Syria. But Bandar's less-than-subtle reference to Saudi influence over Chechen jihadists -- and their potential threat to the Winter Olympics in Sochi -- reportedly infuriated Putin.

Obama also was chafing under the rough-riding style of Netanyahu, who has frequently brought his whip down on Obama, scolding him in the Oval Office, going over Obama's head to Congress and the U.S. news media, and essentially endorsing Republican Mitt Romney for president in 2012. Netanyahu also has sought to corner Obama into military conflicts with Iran and Syria, challenging the President's goal of rebalancing U.S. geopolitical interests away from the Middle East.

Now the stakes have been raised. Either Obama's regional strategy of diplomacy will prevail with the support of Russian President Putin -- or Netanyahu and Bandar will manage to rally their supporters, especially in U.S. political and media circles, to push the region deeper into conflict.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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