Briefing paper on Saudis
plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Aug 6 20:54:37 MDT 2002
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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