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Thanks again to Rick Rozoff - Stop NATO. http://www.hinduonnet.com/stories/2002080901631400.htm The Hindu August 9, 2002 After Saudi rebuff, U.S. may look for other partners By Atul Aneja MANAMA (BAHRAIN) AUG. 8. In refusing the use of its territory for attacks against Iraq, Saudi Arabia has put at risk its role as the key strategic partner of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, Saud al Faisal, said on Wednesday that Riyadh had already told the U.S. that it did not want the latter to make use of "Saudi grounds'' for an attack against Iraq. The Saudi move, according to analysts, is of far-reaching significance as Riyadh has been the pillar that has guaranteed U.S. access to oil fields in the Persian Gulf. With proven deposits estimated at 679 billion barrels, the Persian Gulf will continue to remain the top energy supplier to the world. Saudi Arabia has been the key player in protecting oil fields in the Gulf. The Prince Sultan air base in the kingdom has been the region's main surveillance and command post for the U.S. This base has played a major role in co-ordinating military strikes in the war against Iraq in 1990, and more recently in the fight against the Taliban and the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Without an assured access to this monitoring hub, the U.S. may be put at some difficulty in undertaking operations against Iraq. Apart form Saudi Arabia, the U.S. protects the world's energy heartland in the Persian Gulf through a string of military bases. Bahrain, which is now connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway and is hugely dependent on it, especially for its essential supplies including oil, is host to the headquarters of the U.S. fifth fleet. The fifth fleet safeguards the vital sea lanes taken by oil tankers on their way to energy-hungry centres in South and South-East Asia, and towards Europe and beyond. Nearly two fifths of the world's oil is traded through the Strait of Hormuz, the channel sandwiched between the mainland of Iran and Oman. Tanker traffic west of the Persian Gulf transits through the Bab al-Mandab before it passes through the Suez Canal or terminates as the Sumed pipeline complex in Egypt. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is reportedly increasing its profile in Oman. Apart from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, a key ally of Riyadh, has already declared that U.S. military strikes against Iraq will be a disaster. Oman's Foreign Minister, on his part, in fact, travelled to Iran last week to declare jointly with Teheran that a U.S. attack on Iraq would be counterproductive. As if to demonstrate Islamic solidarity in opposing an attack on Baghdad, Saudi Arabia sent its Foreign Minister to one-time rival Iran ó a country that exercises considerable influence, especially over the Shia community worldwide ó to oppose possible U.S. military plans against Iraq. Jordan, another neighbour of Iraq, has also opposed U.S. military action against Baghdad. With the Saudis, at least for now, backing off from an attack on Iraq, the U.S. could be looking at the Persian Gulf state of Qatar with greater interest. The U.S. has quietly developed the al Udeid in Qatar as a sprawling military base that could take on regional responsibilities. Al Udeid has a 15,000-foot runway that can accommodate operations by some of the largest and heaviest U.S. transport planes and bombers. U.S. Central Command has acknowledged that they are duplicating in Qatar some of the facilities that are currently available only at the Prince Sultan air base. With Qatar emerging as a reliable U.S. partner, political attacks against it by key countries in the region have intensified. For instance, Saudi Arabia has voiced its unhappiness over the negative portrayal of its royalty by the Qatar based al-Jazeera satellite channel. Jordan closed the office of al-Jazeera in Amman. Iran has also taken exception to the decision of the Qatari Foreign Minister to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, in Paris recently. __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? HotJobs - Search Thousands of New Jobs http://www.hotjobs.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk