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Posted on Wed, Aug. 07, 2002 http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/2002/08/07/news/front/3815081.htm?template= contentModules/printstory.jsp 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 region. 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 Saudis. "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." _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk