Weeks later, Saudi King Abdullah invited Mr. Ahmadinejad to Saudi Arabia – the president's third visit in a year – for the hajj, or Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. The king used the occasion to hold cordial talks.
Iran is even reaching out to Egypt. Ali Larijani, head of Iran's National Security Council, visited Cairo recently for the highest level talks in 27 years. Afterward, Arab League chief Amr Moussa bluntly stated that there was no point in Arabs treating Iran as an enemy.
Gulf Arabs have thus visibly discarded the central pillar of the past year of America's Middle East strategy. Saudis and Egyptians had been the prime movers in anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite agitation. When they are inviting Ahmadinejad and Mr. Larijani to their capitals, America's talk of isolating Iran sounds outdated.
One hears little today of the "Shiite crescent" threatening the region, against which Arab officials once gravely warned. The Bush administration's proposed "axis of moderation," joining Sunni Arab states and Israel against Iran, has quietly passed from view.
Meanwhile, the GCC seems more unified and confident than it has in years. Earlier this week the six member countries agreed to form a common market. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have mended fences. Pressures for domestic political reforms have been largely defanged, and the oil bonanza has allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue an energetic foreign policy. The Gulf states won't abandon their US protectors anytime soon, but they seem more willing than ever to act on their own initiative.