"Moderate Arab States"
Posted on Tue, Aug. 06, 2002
Saudi Arabia castigated in briefing
REPORT TO PENTAGON BOARD ACCUSES NATION OF AIDING TERRORISTS
By Thomas E. Ricks
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 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, which was presented July 10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials who advise the Pentagon on defense policy.
``Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies,'' said the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corporation 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 Mideast.
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 U.S. 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 Dick 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 Perle, one of the most prominent advocates in Washington of just such an invasion. The briefing argued that removing Saddam 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 for 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 for comment.
``Neither the presentations nor the Defense Policy Board members' comments reflect the official views of the Department of Defense,'' Pentagon official Victoria Clarke said in a written statement issued Monday night. ``Saudi Arabia is a longstanding 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 U.S. 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 Saddam 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 U.S. government to finally confront the House of Saud on the charge of supporting terrorism.