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[casi] After Iraq, Saudi Arabia

Posted on Wed, Aug. 07, 2002


Saudi Arabia is an enemy, U.S. panel told
Officials spoke out against the report, though it has its backers.
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post
WASHINGTON - A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board
described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States and recommended that
U.S. officials give the country an ultimatum to stop supporting terrorism or
face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the
United States.
"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to
financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader,"
stated the briefing, presented July 10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group
of intellectuals and former senior officials who advise the Pentagon.
"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," said the
briefing, prepared by Laurent Murawiec, an analyst with the Rand Corp., a
private think tank. A talking point attached to the last of 24 briefing
slides went further, describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the
prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Mideast.
The briefing did not represent the views of the board nor official policy,
and runs counter to the U.S. stance that Saudi Arabia is a major ally in the
In fact, the Pentagon, State Department and White House hastened to distance
themselves from the report.
"Saudi Arabia is a longstanding friend and a longstanding ally," White House
spokesman Scott McClellan said. "We very much appreciate the way they are
cooperating in the global war against terrorism."
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged differences with the
"It is nonetheless a country where we have a lot of forces located and we
have had a long relationship, and yet it is correct... that a number of the
people who were involved [in the Sept. 11 attacks] happen to have been Saudi
individuals," Rumsfeld told a town-hall meeting with Pentagon employees.
The report does represent a point of view that has growing currency within
the Bush administration - especially on the staff of Vice President Cheney
and in the Pentagon's civilian leadership - and among neoconservative writers
and thinkers closely allied with policymakers.
One administration official said opinion about Saudi Arabia was changing
rapidly within the U.S. government. "People used to rationalize Saudi
behavior," he said on condition of anonymity. "You don't hear that anymore.
There's no doubt that people are recognizing reality and recognizing that
Saudi Arabia is a problem."
Spurring change
The decision to bring the anti-Saudi analysis before the Defense Policy Board
also appears tied to the growing debate over whether to launch a U.S.
military attack to remove Iraq's Saddam Hussein from power. The chairman of
the board is former Pentagon official Richard Perle, a prominent advocate of
an invasion. The briefing argued that removing Hussein would spur change in
Saudi Arabia, which it maintained was the larger problem because of its role
in financing and supporting radical Islamic movements.
Perle did not return calls for comment. A Rand spokesman said Murawiec, a
former adviser to the French Ministry of Defense who analyzes international
security affairs for Rand, would not be available.
Murawiec told the board the United States should demand that Riyadh stop
financing fundamentalist groups, stop its anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli
statements, and "prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain,
including in the Saudi intelligence services."
If the Saudis refused, the briefing continued, oil fields and overseas
financial assets should be targeted, although exactly how was not specified.
'Pure fiction'
The report concludes by linking regime change in Iraq to altering Saudi
behavior. This view holds that once a U.S. invasion has removed Hussein from
power, a friendly successor regime would become a major exporter of oil to
the West. That new flow of oil would diminish U.S. dependence on Saudi energy
exports, and so - in this view - permit the United States to finally confront
the House of Saud for supporting terrorism.
"The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad," said the
administration official, who is hawkish on Iraq. "Once you have a democratic
regime in Iraq, like the ones we helped establish in Germany and Japan after
World War II, there are a lot of possibilities."
In Jidda, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, Prince Saud al-Faisal,
denounced the briefing as "pure fiction."
"It is unfortunate that there are people in some quarters who are trying to
cast doubt and undermine the solid and historic ties between our two
countries. I am confident that they will not succeed."
Of the two dozen people who attended the Defense Policy Board meeting, only
one, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, spoke up to object to the
anti-Saudi conclusions of the briefing, sources who were there said. Some
members of the board clearly agreed with Kissinger's dismissal of the
briefing, while others did not.
"I don't consider Saudi Arabia to be a strategic adversary of the United
States," Kissinger said. "They are doing some things I don't approve of, but
I don't consider them a strategic adversary."
Other board members include former Vice President Dan Quayle; former Defense
Secretaries James Schlesinger and Harold Brown; former House Speakers Newt
Gingrich and Thomas Foley; and several retired senior military officers,
including two former vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"I think this view defies reality," said Adel al-Jubeir, a foreign-policy
adviser to Saudi leader Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud. The
relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, he said, "has seen
the coming and breaking of many storms in the region, and if anything it goes
from strength to strength."
In the 1980s, the United States and Saudi Arabia played major roles in
supporting the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, pouring
billions of dollars into procuring weapons and other logistical support for
the mujaheddin. At the end of the decade the relationship became even closer
when the U.S. military stationed a half-million troops on Saudi territory to
repel Hussein's invasions of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Several thousand U.S.
troops have remained on Saudi soil, mainly to run air operations in the
region. Their presence has been cited by Osama bin Laden as a major reason
for his attacks on the United States.
The anti-Saudi views expressed in the briefing appear especially popular
among neoconservative foreign-policy thinkers, a relatively small but
influential group within the Bush administration.
"I think it is a mistake to consider Saudi Arabia a friendly country," said
Kenneth Adelman, a former Rumsfeld aide who is on the Defense Policy Board
but who did not attend the July 10 meeting. He said the view that Saudi
Arabia was an adversary of the United States "is certainly a more prevalent
view than it was a year ago."

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