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[casi] FW: After Saudi rebuff, U.S. may look for other partners



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  a country that exercises considerable
influence, especially over the Shia community
worldwide  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.



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