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Results 1 - 10 of Headlines for Saudi ArabiaResults Page:
Saudi Arabia Headlines
Thursday, September 11th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Almost two years from September the 11th 2001
-- Almost two years from September the 11th 2001 the world embraces itself for another anniversary. Many Muslims worldwide will be celebrating the comeuppance of the USA in what they see as retribution for the atrocities that the US has committed, and indeed continues to commit, against Muslims. Afghanistan and Iraq being the most recent examples. With 1000's of innocent Muslims still in captivity under barbaric conditions in Guantanamo bay, the US inquisition against Islam and Muslims shows no signs of subsiding. In contrast the operations being carried out by the Mujahideen against the occupiers in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya and in Afghanistan have also been stepped up to meet the menace led by the US and UK regimes.
Wednesday, February 5th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
www.stratfor.com -- Following U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal said that Arab states must be given a final opportunity to prevent a U.S. war against Iraq. Powell’s statements to the council were intended to provide irrefutable evidence that Iraq has not complied with U.N. weapons inspections rules.
Officials in Riyadh are terrified that a war in Iraq would cause that country to disintegrate or lead to a U.S. occupation there -- both scenarios the kingdom would view as threats to its national security. As a consequence, the Saudi government has been actively trying to avert a war, and it now might make a last-ditch attempt. With political discussions and diplomatic maneuvering largely having failed, Riyadh could turn to other options, such as fomenting trouble in Arab states -- like Qatar -- that are vital to U.S. war plans.
Riyadh has engaged in a variety of diplomatic maneuvers to thwart Washington’s war plans -- such as launching regional initiatives, cooperating with anti-war European governments, courting Moscow in hopes of reducing Russian support for Washington and repeatedly calling on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Saudi Arabia’s political gymnastics have yielded nothing -- and more important, it now appears that European opposition to the war is crumbling. Following Powell’s presentation, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin hedged Paris’ bet by agreeing that if all else fails, France would back the use of force.
Another Arab summit is scheduled for sometime in March, but delegates likely will fail to reach any substantive agreement. The meeting originally was to be held in Manama, Bahrain, but has been moved instead to Cairo -- undercutting Saudi ability to influence the agenda. Riyadh holds sway over the minority Sunni government in Bahrain and could use that influence to structure the meeting in accordance with its own interests, but Cairo is less susceptible to Riyadh’s influence.
Finally, Saudi officials proposed Feb. 5 that the United Nations grant amnesty to "all members of the Iraqi government, provided they cooperate positively with the Security Council plans," Prince Saud told the daily Al-Riyadh. The hope is that this would give Baghdad incentives to cooperate with the United Nations. But in a counter-move, the United States reportedly has withdrawn an offer of immunity for Hussein and his aides in exchange for their voluntary exile. Iraqi officials will not trust a U.N. amnesty offer that isn’t backed by the United States.
Realizing that Washington is shutting down one diplomatic avenue after another, Riyadh -- desperate and running out of time -- now might seek alternative approaches to stave off the war.
For example, Riyadh itself could try to oust Hussein, either through launching its own military action or fostering a coup or uprising in Baghdad. Though this is highly unlikely, such a measure -- if done quickly -- would create a window of opportunity for the Saudis to position themselves in Iraq and undermine the justification for a U.S. military presence there. It is unclear, however, whether Riyadh even has that type of influence and capacity in Baghdad.
Another option could be to foment a crisis in neighboring Qatar. The tiny island state is the center of gravity for U.S. military operations in the Gulf, and the Al Udeid air base near Doha will serve as the U.S. command and operational control center for the region.
The regime in Riyadh has ties with Qatari opposition groups, including exiled former leader Emir Khalifa al Thani. Reports of a coup plot against the Qatari regime surfaced in October, and at least one Egyptian daily reported that royal family members were involved in the plot. Overthrowing the government in Doha might not be entirely necessary, however: All Riyadh would require would be for the security situation on the peninsula to deteriorate to the point that U.S. military operations would be compromised. The same would hold true for U.S. military operations in Kuwait, Turkey and Jordan as well: Widespread and sustained unrest in any of these states would hamper the U.S. war effort.
If Riyadh could freeze U.S. military forces’ ability to actually conduct a war for a month or two, then the forces of nature would take over, since it would be difficult for American forces to fight a war in the middle of an Iraqi summer. Given the intense pressure Riyadh is under and the fact that the clock is ticking, some interesting events should unfold in Qatar in the next few weeks.
Monday, February 3rd, 2003
: RCN Administrator
London-based opposition group Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia said Feb. 4 that at least nine armed clashes have taken place between Saudi Arabian security forces and al Qaeda sympathizers in the last several months, Agence France-Presse reported. A spate of recent clashes suggests the tempo of operations is escalating.
The crackdown signals a shift in Saudi Arabia’s position. Riyadh has rounded up militants for its own security. With a U.S. war against Iraq looming, Riyadh might be stepping up arrests -- or at least arrest attempts -- of suspected militants to prevent retaliatory strikes against American expatriates living and working in the kingdom. By making these arrests, the government could be trying to eliminate the need for a U.S. Special Operations presence in Saudi Arabia.
The ruling House of Saud is under pressure to ensure security both for itself and for American and other Western expatriates. A recent travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department raised hackles among Americans there. Riyadh hopes that by rounding up militants it can reassure expatriates of their safety.
On Feb. 2, a Saudi policeman was shot and killed when he tried to arrest a wanted criminal in Qatif in Eastern Province, the Saudi daily Okaz reported. A day earlier, a Saudi policemen was wounded by another wanted gunman during a police chase, and on Jan. 24, a shootout erupted in an apartment complex in Riyadh when police went to arrest four gunmen. Last November, another shootout broke out when police in Riyadh tried to arrest Mohammad al Sahim, a suspected militant. A few days prior to that, a firefight between police and militants occurred when officers tried to arrest a group of "young mujahideen" in the al Shifa district south of Riyadh. The Saudi opposition claimed that several policemen were wounded in that battle.
The fact that most of the arrests have resulted in open gun battles suggests either that the Saudis are remarkably bad at security operations or that the militants know that officers are coming. The element of surprise should have worked in the officers’ favor at least some of the time. Yet in almost all of the recent arrest attempts, security forces have been killed, wounded or unable to capture the suspects.
The amount of incompetence implied by such a record of failure is hard to swallow, given the kingdom’s long tradition of strict security -- so that suggests other explanations. It’s possible, for instance, that the militants have been tipped off. Such information could come only from within the government or security forces.
It has been rumored that al Qaeda has penetrated Saudi security forces by making contacts with dissident officers. The fierce resistance also points to a well-entrenched network of militants who are prepared to battle local security forces. A so-called dissident based in Riyadh told Agence France-Presse that the clashes "are not isolated incidents but part of an armed confrontation between us and security forces … [and] such incidents will increase if there is an American attack against Iraq and particularly if Riyadh grants military facilities to the Americans."
A war between militants -- many of whom are thought to be Afghan Arabs -- and Saudi security forces is a good sign for Riyadh’s efforts to shut down al Qaeda in the kingdom. This, in turn, will strengthen the government’s efforts to ease troubled ties with Washington.
Sunday, November 17th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Since the rise of the petroleum economy in the world, the Arabian Peninsula has been an extraordinarily complex and dangerous place. Four main characteristics have contributed to the region’s current problems:
1. The peninsula has become extraordinarily wealthy, something that remains true despite current economic difficulties.
2. It has become wealthy because it contains vast amounts of oil, the distribution and price of which -- more than any other single factor -- define the tempo of the global economy.
3. The powers native to the Arabian Peninsula are collectively too militarily weak to protect their wealth on their own, should anyone wish to intrude.
4. Given the importance of the area’s oil and enormous wealth, everyone in the world has an interest in intruding. Being rich, vital and weak historically has been an invitation for disaster.
These interrelated issues define the Saudi perspective on the world. If there were no issue of Islam, no issue of modernization, no strictly geopolitical issues, then the Arabian Peninsula still inevitably would become an area of extraordinary tension and security.
The nature of the region dictates ongoing security issues. Oil, wealth and weakness have inevitable consequences.
For Saudi Arabia, the universe is extremely fragile. The fragility intrinsic to the region is compounded by religious, social and geopolitical issues, of which the most pressing is the Islamic and tribal nature of the Saudi regime. This in itself is not new; what is new is the nature of the threats to the House of Saud, and the dramatic changes that it has faced since the twin events of the fall of the Soviet Union and Desert Storm.
During the Cold War, the primary threat to Saudi Arabia came from the emergence of a revolutionary movement -- first in Egypt, under Gamal Abdel Nasser, and then close to home in Syria and Iraq following coups in the late 1950s. This movement had three characteristics. First, it was secular. The focus of Nasserism was not Islam, but Arabism: the idea of creating a single, modern Arab state.
Second, it was socialist. It saw the state as the primary engine of modernization, and while not abolishing private property, it did attempt to create a mechanism for central planning and control of major industries. Finally, it was militarist. Nasser saw the military as the primary instrument of modernization because it was the most modern institution within the Egyptian state.
There was both a strategic and ideological affinity between Nasserite Egypt -- and the revolutionary Arab states it inspired -- and the Soviet Union. Strategically, Israel was an obvious challenge, but beyond this, U.S. support for Saudi Arabia was a direct challenge to Egyptian interests. Cairo was the center of gravity of the Arab world in terms of population and, at that time, intellectual dynamism.
Saudi Arabia was the financial center of gravity of the Arab world. So long as Saudi financial resources lay beyond the reach of Arab secular socialism, all of Nasser’s dreams were built on a base of sand. Therefore, for Nasser, toppling the House of Saud and exporting his revolution to the Saudi peninsula was a logical and necessary step in the evolution of the Arab world. From the Soviet point of view, the fall of the House of Saud would destabilize the economic foundations of global capitalism as well as pose profound strategic challenges to the United States.
From Riyadh’s viewpoint, Nasser was the antithesis of the nation’s values. The Saudis were religious, he was secular. They were Islamic first, he was an Arab first. They had traditional Islamic economic values, he was a modern state socialist. They built their society on traditional tribal relationships, he built his on the military and mobilization of the masses. Nasser, Syria and Iraq threatened everything the Saudi royal family believed in.
A Nasserite revolution in Saudi Arabia was unthinkable. Riyadh is ideologically a million miles from Cairo. The threat of military adventure, combined with the ability of the Egypt, Syria and Iraq to create mischief in the kingdom, was sufficient to transfix Riyadh. The rise of revolutionary movements like the Palestine Liberation Organization also represented a fundamental threat to Saudi interests, even though directed against Israel. The more powerful these movements became, the more vulnerable Saudi Arabia grew.
From the American point of view, the more powerful these movements became, the more powerful the Soviet Union became as well, since the U.S. government viewed Nasserites primarily as proxies for the Soviets. Washington and Riyadh were committed to blocking the rise of this movement. The two entities forged a powerful strategic bond, quite apart from oil. Nevertheless, it appeared that Nasserism was the ascendant force in the region, and with it the Soviet Union.
The alignment between the United States and Saudi Arabia intensified following the Islamic revolution and the rise of Khomeini in Iran. Neither government could tolerate the expansion of Iranian power, and both collaborated to contain it. Both Riyadh and Washington welcomed Iraq’s attack on Iran in 1980. It tied down two countries that were a basic threat to their interests. Washington and Riyadh collaborated closely there and in Afghanistan, where both wanted to contain the Soviet invasion.
The fall of the Soviet Union was the first transforming event. It meant that Arab radicalism, already in decline since Anwar Sadat’s strategic reversal, had lost its international patron, in turn bolstering Saudi security. For Riyadh, one of the reasons for its relationship with the United States was to protect the regime from radicalism, both socialist and Shiite. With Iran contained and socialism in decline, Saudi dependence on the United States also declined.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait created a temporary condition in which Saudi interests coincided with those of the United States. But however locally threatening Saddam Hussein might be, he did not represent the same kind of broad, persistent threat as the Soviet Union or the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was a nasty nuisance, but, in the long run, not an unmanageable danger.
Therefore, the presence of U.S. troops in the kingdom posed more problems than it solved as a long-term solution for the Saudi government. Memories of Ottoman occupation run deep in Saudi Arabia -- and the Ottomans were Muslims. The presence of non-Muslims in the land of the Muslim holy cities was intolerable for many Saudi citizens, particularly when the perceived threat was seen domestically as manageable. The Saudi government was prepared to tolerate the U.S. presence, since it did see the threat somewhat more intensely than broad swathes of the Saudi public. Al Qaeda grew partly from this soil.
The aftermath of Desert Storm posed a problem for Riyadh. Historically, Saudi Arabia depended on the United States for its security. The threat of Iranian, Shiite radicalism persisted but was contained by Iraq. The threat of Wahhabi Islam, even deeper than that practiced by the state, was growing.
Today, an attack on Iraq using Saudi soil would intensify the kingdom’s problems. First, the destruction of the Iraqi state, unless handled with meticulous care, would create possibilities for Iranian expansionism. It certainly would create a situation in which there no longer would be any regional counterbalance to Iran and that potentially could eliminate the buffer between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nothing in U.S. military planning reassured the Saudis that the United States had thought this problem through.
Second, if Riyadh permitted the United States to use its soil for an attack on Iraq, it would generate a powerful backlash within Saudi Arabia itself from those who object to the presence of U.S. forces and also to the use of Saudi territory for attacks on another Arab country. The Saudi government has managed the social fabric of the kingdom carefully, but financial problems are a challenge that limit the regime’s ability to maintain good relations with some domestic elements. Riyadh does not need U.S. forces on its soil at this time.
From the Saudi point of view, there has been a historical necessity for the relationship with the United States. The Saudi government wants to maintain that relationship, since the future is uncertain and the United States might prove useful again. But the American obsession with Iraq poses challenges that have forced Saudi officials to rethink their alliance. What is the value of a relationship with the United States if the net result threatens the survival of the House of Saud?
U.S. policy, from the Saudi point of view, will completely disrupt the longstanding balance of power between Iraq and Iran that has been one of the foundations of Saudi security. Indeed, this once was a foundation of U.S. interests in the region as well. Apart from internal considerations, the U.S. commitment to destroy Iraq undermines this joint principle -- a principle that guided U.S. and Saudi policy during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s and which also dictated the end of Desert Storm in 1991. All involved understood that the destruction of Iraq would mean the ascendancy of Iran, and they understood that this ascendancy was intolerable.
Therefore, Saudi leaders do not understand why Washington has changed its policy in this regard. They argue that all an attack will do is strengthen al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, rather than weaken it, and create an untenable strategic situation in the region. Moreover, since the threats -- posed by the Soviet Union and Arab radicalism -- which had forged the relationship between Washington and Riyadh are gone, the need to maintain this relationship is unclear.
Therefore, Riyadh has opted out of U.S. plans. But the Saudi problem is this: If the United States does carry out its attack on Iraq, and if it results in a dominant Iran, Riyadh in fact will need the United States badly to protect it from a situation that Washington created in the first place. Therefore, the Saudis cannot simply break with the United States. They even might have to cooperate to some extent, or be left out of the post-war redefinition of the Persian Gulf.
Saudi leaders perceive the United States as having broken the relationship -- not the other way around --and to some extent this is true. The United States, under attack by al Qaeda, in fact is redefining the rules under which the relationship operates. And the U.S. government is quite confident that the war’s outcome will leave the Saudis even more dependent on Washington than before due to a strengthened post-war Iran.
In the end, Saudi Arabia is too rich, too strategic and too weak for its own good. It also has internal stresses it cannot completely manage. The royal family is too skilled at managing its affairs to be simply overthrown. But a radical change in orientation is not out of the question, and very well might be the inevitable outcome. Oil is no longer the great weapon it was when Riyadh single-handedly could manage prices; the Saudis now need their oil revenue too badly to play that hand.
Therefore, the Saudi government is trapped in the classic position of a player whose longstanding ally now has different interests. It cannot break its relationship with the ally, nor can it cooperate with it. It fears the world that the ally is trying to create, but it will need the ally if that world is created. Saudi Arabia is trapped in an impossible dilemma, and the worst part is that, in the final analysis, the United States is profoundly indifferent. Washington has its own problems, and that is the Saudi problem in its simplest form.
Tuesday, November 5th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
State-controlled Saudi daily Al-Watan reported Nov. 6 that Qatar might be preparing to withdraw from the Arab League. As reasons for the potential withdrawl, the paper cited widespread criticism from other Arab states over Qatar’s cooperation with the United States and the unprecedented freedoms granted to Doha-based satellite television station Al-Jazeera. Many Arab governments, especially Riyadh, have felt stung in the past by critical Al-Jazeera reports.
Regardless of whether the Saudi report is true, it represents an attempt by Riyadh to pressure Qatar to cease support for the U.S. military’s war effort. By casting doubt on Qatar’s commitment to the Arab League, and by extension its relations with Egypt and other Arab states, Riyadh hopes to weaken Doha’s support within the Middle East. The gambit will further strain ties between the two Gulf neighbors.
A deterioration in Doha’s ties with the rest of the Arab world would dramatically impact its ability to work with and support the United States, which has 3,300 troops stationed in Qatar. The tiny peninsula’s policies already are drawing more hostility from Saudi Arabia.
Although a U.S. ally, Riyadh repeatedly has tried to block a U.S. war against Iraq. The Saudi government has said it will not allow U.S. forces based in its territory to participate in the war campaign, which led the U.S. military earlier this year to move equipment and supplies -- including communications equipment for a command and control center -- from Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan air base to Qatar’s al-Udeid air base. The transfer enraged the Saudis and soured Saudi-Qatari relations.
Since Riyadh is the main critic of Doha’s policies in the Middle East, it was significant that the Al-Watan report neglected to name which other Arab states allegedly were complaining about Qatar. The country is too small to withstand complete diplomatic and economic isolation from the entire Arab world, and it will need allies like Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait to balance the pressure from Riyadh.
By broadcasting Doha’s alleged decision to withdraw from the Arab League, Riyadh hopes to build a coalition of opposition. And targeting Al-Jazeera -- as well as cooperation with the U.S. military -- will help the gambit resonate with many other Arab governments. This might be especially true of Egypt, whose government Al- Jazeera also has criticized.
The Cairo-based Arab League is predominantly a vehicle for Egyptian leadership of the Arab world. It’s possible that the Saudi report is true and that Doha is threatening to withdraw from the league -- following a similar threat made by Libya -- to get more backing from Cairo against Riyadh’s maneuverings. Qatar’s pullout from the Arab League would embarrass Egypt and would throw the legitimacy and future of the organization into doubt.
Doha might have been driven to such a decision by more intense Saudi pressuring lately, especially as Riyadh might have encouraged, at least tacitly, a recent coup plot in Qatar. According to Al-Watan, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasem bin Jaber al-Thani hinted in a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa that Doha was considering the withdrawal, though it has made no official statement regarding such a move.
In fact, logic suggests the Al-Watan report is questionable. Withdrawing from the Arab League would require Qatar to abandon its diplomatic relationship with Cairo, and Qatar would much rather maintain friendly Egyptian support and use it to counter Saudi pressure.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Two separate incidents connected to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and possibly involving radicals may suggest that militants in the kingdom are gearing up for an offensive aimed at the Saudi government as well as Americans and other Westerners. Expatriates living in the kingdom should take all security precautions prescribed by the U.S. State Department.
Saudi Arabian Airlines said in a statement Oct. 15 that a hijack attempt aboard a flight from Sudan on its way to Jeddah was foiled after special forces disarmed and arrested a Saudi man carrying a gun. A few hours earlier, an allegedly drunk Saudi citizen rammed his car into the gates of the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Agence France-Presse reported.
Taken together -- and following a string of terrorism-related incidents in Indonesia, Kuwait, the Philippines and Yemen -- the hijacking and the "accident" in Jeddah may indicate that militants associated with the al Qaeda network have been given the green light to conduct attacks in the kingdom and elsewhere.
Until the U.S. war in Afghanistan, local militants may have held back due to Riyadh’s recognition of the Taliban government. Now however, al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri is warning of more attacks. If his claims are true, an outbreak of al Qaeda strikes in the kingdom against Westerners and the government
could destabilize the government in Riyadh and irreparably damage U.S.-Saudi ties.
The spread of radicalism in Saudi Arabia, and its export abroad for operations such as the Sept. 11 strikes, has become a defining feature of the country’s political situation and a key element straining U.S.-Saudi relations. The ruling House of Saud has moved cautiously to weed out dissent, desperately trying to
contain growing internal dissatisfaction fueled by rising costs of living and high unemployment, while at the same time managing domestically unpopular ties with the United States.
The result of all this is an extensive but underground network of radical militants in the kingdom, which has made itself known through a spate of attacks against Westerners since the mid-1990s. In 1995, a car bomb outside the U.S.-run Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh killed five Americans and two Indian nationals. In 1996, another car bomb destroyed the Khobar Towers, a U.S. Air Force housing complex in Dhahran, killing 19 Americans and wounding hundreds.
Since late 2000, at least 13 separate incidents involving car bombings and shooting attacks against Westerners have occurred throughout the country. The government has blamed these on turf battles between alcohol bootleg outfits. In May, the Saudi government also reported finding a spent launching tube for a SAM-7 missile near the Prince Sultan Air Base in Kharj, 50 miles
south of Riyadh. The government reportedly busted up an al Qaeda cell following the discovery of the missile tube, but the attacks against Westerners have continued unabated.
The Saudi citizen who rammed into the gates of the U.S.
Consulate in Jeddah on Oct. 14 may well have been under the influence of alcohol, which is banned in Saudi Arabia. But his "accidental" target was awfully coincidental.
There is no direct evidence to refute the Saudi government’s explanation, but the possibility that it actually wasn’t an accident -- or that the car even may have been filled with explosives -- cannot be dismissed, given the drawn-out campaign already under way in the kingdom against Westerners, the recent rash of terrorism-related attacks around the world and the
attempted hijacking of the plane headed to Jeddah.
A war in the kingdom between the government and radicals has been in the offing for more than a decade, following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the return of Osama bin Laden and his followers to Saudi Arabia. If al Qaeda now is signaling its local Saudi allies to launch an offensive, then the government’s next move will need to be both brutal and bold, taking more direct steps to quell the radical militant activity in the kingdom.
However, once the government launches such a campaign it cannot draw back, and the backlash easily could entail a wide-scale offensive against Westerners in the country. Already under strict security alerts, expatriates living and working in the kingdom now may want to start thinking about relocating.
Sunday, September 15th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Saudi Arabia has made what appears to be a major shift in its policy on Iraq, indicating that it could allow US forces access to bases on its territory from which to launch military strikes on Baghdad.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told CNN that such action would have to be endorsed by the United Nations and remained a last resort.
And he repeated calls to Iraq to agree to the return of UN weapons inspectors.
Senior US officials have been exerting intense pressure on the UN to force Iraq to comply with UN resolutions as soon as possible to avert the threat of war.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed on US television on Sunday that they expected the UN to act quickly.
The comments by key lieutenants follow Mr Bush’s keynote speech at the UN General Assembly in which he called for tough action to force Iraqi compliance on the resolutions.
Mr Powell returns to New York on Monday, to try to keep up the diplomatic pressure at the United Nations for urgent action on Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, from which US-led coalition forces unleashed Operation Desert Storm on Iraq in 1991, has said on previous occasions that it would not allow its territory to be used for a unilateral US attack.
Saddam knows what he has to do, it’s been out there for years
A senior Saudi diplomat, quoted by Reuters news agency, insisted on Monday that there had been no change in Saudi policy, but that Washington had shifted in its approach to the conflict with Iraq.
Prince Saud acknowledged that his country was obliged to abide by Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which authorises the use of force in the event of a threat to international peace and security.
"If the UN takes a decision, by the Security Council, to implement a policy of the UN, every country that has signed the charter of the UN has to fulfil it," he said.
He welcomed Mr Bush’s decision to seek international consensus via the UN and but said the world wanted a peaceful solution to the dispute.
Bush wants the UN to show "backbone"
"Whatever threat Iraq poses, it is clear that the will of the international community is to remove that threat in a way that does not require the firing of a single shot or the loss of a single soldier," he said.
The development means US forces may be able to use the Prince Sultan air base, where most of the 5,000 personnel based in Saudi Arabia are stationed.
In recent days, Iraq has been coming under increasing pressure from Arab states who are opposed to US military intervention to comply quickly with the UN.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher has expressed hope that the crisis could be solved without the need for a new resolution.
Mr Powell said work on a new Security Council resolution - or resolutions - to tackle the dispute over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction should take weeks, not months.
But he also repeated President Bush’s willingness to act alone against Iraq, should the UN fail.
Ms Rice said regime change in Iraq remained US policy as there was little confidence that Saddam would ever comply with UN resolutions.
Monday, September 9th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
London’s Daily Telegraph reported Sept. 6 that U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons and British Royal Air Force Tornado F3s based in Saudi Arabia provided air cover during a bombing mission against Iraq. Although the mission itself was widely reported, the claim that the aircraft departed from Saudi Arabia has not been picked up elsewhere, and officials have neither confirmed nor denied that claim.
If true, the use of Saudi-stationed aircraft to support bombing missions against Iraq would signal a dramatic shift in Saudi policy. Riyadh has refused to allow U.S. planes based in the kingdom to conduct bombing raids against Iraq, or even, as the Washington Post reported in January, to transit Saudi airspace en route to or from Iraq. The government has staunchly opposed a U.S. war against its neighbor, yet it has been curiously silent in recent days -- even while the United States reportedly is building up troops and equipment in the region.
Washington repeatedly has declared its intention to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. Doing so would be considerably easier with political and logistical support from other Persian Gulf states and especially from political heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
Another indicator of a potential shift can be found in surging domestic patronage. The Saudi Council of Ministers announced Sept. 9 that it would sell a 30 percent stake in the state-owned Saudi Telecom Co., with two-thirds of the issue reserved for Saudi citizens. Furthermore, English-language daily Arab News reported Sept. 10 that the government also will be providing financial assistance to unemployed Saudis, unofficially estimated at more than 20 percent of the Saudi population.
Internally, the ruling House of Saud faces dissent from a large youth population, a number of wealthy elites in places like Jeddah and radical groups, which allegedly are growing in the southwest and in Qassim province. Moreover, U.S. forces that remain stationed in Saudi Arabia are a high-profile target for dissidents, who see them as an additional security guarantor for the House of Saud.
By offering a package of financial incentives, the government may be hoping to head off a surge in domestic unrest and dissent stirred by a U.S. war with Iraq. Even if Riyadh does not support the war directly, it may give a tacit nod to cooperation by Kuwait and Qatar in a U.S.-led attack.
Monday, August 26th, 2002
: RCN Administrator
Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush Aug. 27 at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. The two are officially scheduled to talk about the U.S. war on terrorism and ways to cooperate on bringing peace to the Middle East.
However, the meeting is likely in part an attempt to improve the rapidly deteriorating relations between Riyadh and Washington since Sept. 11. The United States has grown wary of its Middle Eastern ally due to support within the kingdom for al Qaeda and the government’s opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq.
Just this weekend the Sunday Times, a London daily, reported that U.S. court documents indicate senior members of the Saudi royal family paid at least $300 million in the 1990s to al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan in exchange for an agreement that Osama bin Laden’s group would not attack Saudi targets.
The meeting with Bush also may represent an attempt by Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan -- Bandar’s father -- to suss out the reasons why he has been named as a defendant in multi-trillion-dollar lawsuits filed by the families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. The suits name two other princes, as well as various other Saudi individuals and groups, who allegedly "aided and abetted" the attack.
Finally, the visit could be part of a larger effort by the Sudairi Seven -- a group of full brothers in the royal family including King Fahd, Sultan, Interior Minister Nayef and Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman -- to regain the confidence of the United States and strengthen the Seven’s position in Riyadh. This group is considered more pro-West and less radical in its religious views than the faction led by current Saudi leader Crown Prince Abdullah.
Washington may be hoping for a power shift within the ruling family, and Sultan and Nayef most likely aspire to retake leadership from Abdullah, who assumed power following Fahd’s stroke in 1995.
Although he is the official Saudi ambassador to Washington, Bandar does not necessarily represent the interests and wishes of Abdullah. In fact, Abdullah reportedly has his own envoy in Washington and does not rely on Bandar to be his conduit to the Bush administration.
Bush’s chat with the ambassador is unlikely to resolve the strategic conflict now apparent between Washington and Riyadh. However, it may help the Sudairi Seven regain U.S. confidence, which would be useful should they move to expand their hold on power in Saudi Arabia.
Thursday, August 22nd, 2002
: RCN Administrator
The Financial Times reported Aug. 21 that as much as $200 billion in Saudi investments is being withdrawn from the United States, possibly due to fears of seizure by the U.S. government. The potential flight of Saudi capital comes in the wake of a briefing to Pentagon officials earlier this month by analysts from the Rand Corp., who reportedly portrayed Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States due to alleged financial and moral support of Islamic terrorists.
The report was quickly followed by the announcement of multi-trillion-dollar lawsuits by families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks against Saudi groups and individuals -- including three princes -- who allegedly "aided and abetted" the attack. Both incidents have exacerbated concerns among the kingdom’s elite that they have become a target of the United States and that their money is no longer safe there.
It remains to be seen just how much of the estimated $400 billion to $600 billion in U.S. holdings currently held by Saudi investors will leave the country. But the money that does leave no doubt will go to banks in Europe or closer to home in other Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, whose proximity and stable banking system are attractive to Riyadh.
Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Aug. 21 that Arab investors are interested in transferring funds to Lebanon because of strained U.S. relations following Sept. 11, but he refused to comment on specific amounts of Saudi funds reaching the Lebanese shore.
A deluge of Saudi capital directly into Lebanon’s banks, and ultimately trickling into its debt-ridden economy ($16.6 billion annual GDP), will be greatly welcomed. Some of the funds may be used to help Lebanon unburden itself from some of its enormous public debt, which the IMF calculated at 160 percent of GDP in 2001, or some may be earmarked for construction projects to rebuild the war-torn country.
But an influx of Saudi cash also could have a short-term impact on Lebanon’s factionalized political system and could shake up the current power dynamic, giving more power to the Sunni Islamic community over its rival Shiite or Maronite Christian populations. Political muscle in Beirut is divided carefully among the country’s three dominant religious groups. For instance, the current government is composed of a Sunni prime minister, a Maronite president and a Shiite speaker of Parliament, with other smaller religious ethnic groups holding seats in the National Parliament.
The current Sunni prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, is a Lebanese business tycoon who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia and enjoys close relations with the House of Saud. With the potential for billions of Saudi dollars to begin flowing through Lebanese banks, Riyadh would find itself in a strong position to push its interests in Lebanon via Hariri and his Sunni constituency. The government is keen on exporting the Wahabi branch of Sunni Islam -- a particular brand of Islamic fundamentalism that is followed and supported by the House of Saud -- and building Lebanon as ally in the Arab world against secular Syria and Shia Iran.
The expansion of Sunni influence in Lebanon will come at the expense of the Maronites, who traditionally have dominated the Lebanese business community, and Syria, Lebanon’s strong-armed patron.
Maronite Christians control more than 60 percent of import activity in Lebanon and already have seen their business interests jeopardized earlier this year when the country’s Cabinet approved a law in February to impose a value-added tax on luxury items and abolish import monopolies. Hariri promoted both economic reform initiatives. The Maronites are not likely to take a further challenge to their power lightly.
Syria’s ire will be raised as well due to an increased Saudi presence in its jealously guarded sphere of influence. Damascus is staunchly secular and is willing to go to great lengths to quell movements that threaten its power, as it proved in the 1982 Hamah insurrection when the Syrian army killed between 10,000 and 25,000 alleged Muslim militants.
Since it controls an economy one-third the size of Saudi Arabia’s, Syria will not be able to compete dollar for dollar to preserve its hegemony over its Levant neighbor. However, since it still maintains 35,000 soldiers in Lebanon, Damascus controls substantial portions of Lebanese territory and has considerable recourse to check Saudi influence there if it feels threatened.
Shiite factions within Lebanon also will scramble to counter a growth of Sunni influence. Iran, the self-appointed patron of Shiite Muslims, will be loathe to see Beirut drifting toward Riyadh and could express its dissatisfaction through the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon.
In the short term, if Saudi capital begins seeking new havens and large amounts inevitably land in Beirut banks, the balance of power in Lebanon will shift in favor of the Sunnis. The Maronites, the Syrians and the Shiites will all move to counter the competing influence and protect their interests, and a surge in factional fighting will occur.