Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi royal who seems to own most everything there is to own — a chunk of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, a piece of Twitter, all of Paris’s George V Hotel, the Savoy in London, and a Boeing 747 for his personal use — was sitting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago the other evening (he and Bill Gates own most of Four Seasons Holdings), offering up the view — the view of an experienced negotiator from the Middle East — that U.S. President Barack Obama is outmatched by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran,” he told me, with a directness that would make Benjamin Netanyahu blush. “We’re really concerned — Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East countries — about this.”
It is quite something for a Saudi royal to state baldly that his country is part of a tacit alliance with Israel, but Saudi leaders, like Israel’s leaders, are frantic with worry that an overeager Obama will accede to Iran’s desire to become a threshold state, one whose nuclear program is so advanced that it would only need several weeks to assemble a deliverable weapon.
Alwaleed, like Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, believes that Iran, in its ongoing negotiations with the world’s major powers, will pocket whatever sanctions relief it gets without committing to ending its nuclear program. “Why are they offering relief?” he asked. “Keep the pressure on. Sanctions are what brought about the negotiations to begin with! Why not keep the pressure up?”
Obama, Alwaleed says, is a man who is in desperate political straits and needs a victory — any victory — to right his presidency. “Obama is in so much of a rush to have a deal with Iran,” he said. “He wants anything. He’s so wounded. It’s very scary. Look, the 2014 elections are going to begin. Within two months they’re going to start campaigning. Thirty-nine members of his own party in the House have already moved away from him on Obamacare. That’s scary for him.”
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