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Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies

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  • Djehuti Sundaka
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47913-2002Aug5.html Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies Ultimatum Urged To Pentagon Board By Thomas E. Ricks
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 8, 2002
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47913-2002Aug5.html
      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
      administration policymakers.

      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
      services."

      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
      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."

      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
      Saudi Arabia.

      "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
      States.

      The anti-Saudi views expressed in the briefing appear especially popular
      among neoconservative
      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
      Saudis."

      "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
      said.

      © 2002 The Washington Post Company
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