Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies
Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies
Ultimatum Urged To Pentagon Board
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 6, 2002; Page A01
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 it an
ultimatum to stop backing
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 explosive
briefing. It was presented on July
10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and
former senior officials that
advises the Pentagon on defense policy.
"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," said the
briefing prepared by Laurent
Murawiec, a Rand Corp. analyst. A talking point attached to the last of
24 briefing slides went even
further, describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime
mover, the most dangerous
opponent" in the Middle East.
The briefing did not represent the views of the board or official
government policy, and in fact runs
counter to the present stance of the U.S. government that Saudi Arabia
is a major ally in the region.
Yet it also represents 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
One administration official said opinion about Saudi Arabia is changing
rapidly within the U.S.
government. "People used to rationalize Saudi behavior," he said. "You
don't hear that anymore.
There's no doubt that people are recognizing reality and recognizing
that Saudi Arabia is a problem."
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 Saddam Hussein from
power in Iraq. The chairman of the board is former Pentagon official
Richard N. Perle, one of the
most prominent advocates in Washington of just such an invasion. The
briefing argued that removing
Hussein would spur change in Saudi Arabia -- which, it maintained, is
the larger problem because of
its role in financing and supporting radical Islamic movements.
Perle did not return calls to comment. A Rand spokesman said Murawiec, a
former adviser to the
French Ministry of Defense who now analyzes international security
affairs for Rand, would not be
available to comment.
"Neither the presentations nor the Defense Policy Board members'
comments reflect the official
views of the Department of Defense," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria
Clarke said in a written
statement issued last night. "Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and
ally of the United States. The
Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism and have the
Department's and the
Administration's deep appreciation."
Murawiec said in his briefing that the United States should demand that
Riyadh stop funding
fundamentalist Islamic outlets around the world, stop all anti-U.S. and
anti-Israeli statements in the
country, and "prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain,
including in the Saudi intelligence
If the Saudis refused to comply, the briefing continued, Saudi oil
fields and overseas financial assets
should be "targeted," although exactly how was not specified.
The report concludes by linking regime change in Iraq to altering Saudi
behavior. This view, popular
among some neoconservative thinkers, is 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 oil
would diminish U.S. dependence on Saudi energy exports, and so -- in
this view -- permit the U.S.
government finally to confront the House of Saud for supporting
"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."
Of the two dozen people who attended the Defense Policy Board meeting,
only one, former
secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, spoke up to object to the
anti-Saudi conclusions of the
briefing, according to sources who were there. Some members of the board
clearly agreed with
Kissinger's dismissal of the briefing and others did not.
One source summarized Kissinger's remarks as, "The Saudis are
pro-American, they have to
operate in a difficult region, and ultimately we can manage them."
Kissinger declined to comment on the meeting. He said his consulting
business does not advise the
Saudi government and has no clients that do large amounts of business in
"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 members of the board 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, retired admirals David Jeremiah and William Owens.
Asked for reaction, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to
the United States, said he
did not take the briefing seriously. "I think that it is a misguided
effort that is shallow, and not honest
about the facts," he said. "Repeating lies will never make them facts."
"I think this view defies reality," added Adel al-Jubeir, a foreign
policy adviser to Saudi leader
Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz. "The two countries have been
friends and allies for over 60
years. Their relationship 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 Afghan
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
The anti-Saudi views expressed in the briefing appear especially popular
foreign policy thinkers, which is 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
aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is a member of the
Defense Policy Board but
didn't attend the July 10 meeting. He said the view that Saudi Arabia is
an adversary of the United
States "is certainly a more prevalent view that it was a year ago."
In recent weeks, two neoconservative magazines have run articles similar
in tone to the Pentagon
briefing. The July 15 issue of the Weekly Standard, which is edited by
William Kristol, a former chief
of staff to Quayle, predicted "The Coming Saudi Showdown." The current
issue of Commentary,
which is published by the American Jewish Committee, contains an article
titled, "Our Enemies, the
"More and more people are making parts of this argument, and a few all
of it," said Eliot Cohen, a
Johns Hopkins University expert on military strategy. "Saudi Arabia used
to have lots of apologists in
this country. . . . Now there are very few, and most of those with
substantial economic interests or
long-standing ties there."
Cohen, a member of the Defense Policy Board, declined to discuss its
deliberations. But he did say
that he views Saudi Arabia more as a problem than an enemy. "The deal
that they cut with
fundamentalism is most definitely a threat, [so] I would say that Saudi
Arabia is a huge problem for
us," he said.
But that view is far from dominant in the U.S. government, others said.
"The drums are beginning to
beat on Saudi Arabia," said Robert Oakley, a former U.S. ambassador to
Pakistan who consults
frequently with the U.S. military.
He said the best approach isn't to confront Saudi Arabia but to support
its reform efforts. "Our best
hope is change through reform, and that can only come from within," he
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