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February 09, 2003

Saudis Plan to End U.S. Presence

The New York Times in a front page report notes that the Saudis plan to oust an American presence in their Kingdom and begin a series of reforms leading toward a greater democratization. Pardon me if I think this utter nonsense. This asking American military to leave (but only after we have replaced Saddam) is for me a means to placate the intense dislike among the Saudi masses of the West and its values. After all, it is the Saudi government that had made Wahhabism, the most militant for of Islam, the state-sponsored form of Muslim belief, and it has been the Saudi government that has funded and exported Wahhabism (for which, see Ahmed Rashid, JIHAD) to the chaotic states of central Asia, and has also funded their placement among American mosques. And note, too, that a post at this site in the past few days noted that a religious court had decided to up the punishment of a man from two years in prison to decaptiation for "insulting Muslim belief." Does that sound like the sort of country that is going to move toward democratization? While, then, the many Saudi princes take advantage of what the west offers--fast horses and girls and scotch--they will by sending American forces packing try to retain power and stave a revolt that seems day by day to be brewing within the Kingdom. And it does not much matter. We will soon have a military presence in Iraq. Kuwait seems willing to house our forces, and other countries also in the region seem not adverse to having our presence. Too, we will come to rely less and less on Saudi oil exports.
Senior members of the royal family say the decisions, reached in the last month, are a result of a continuing debate over Saudi Arabia's future and have not yet been publicly announced. But these princes say Crown Prince Abdullah will ask President Bush to withdraw all American armed forces from the kingdom as soon as the campaign to disarm Iraq has concluded. A spokesman for the royal family said he could not comment.

Pentagon officials asked about the Saudi decisions said they had not heard of any plan so specific as a complete American withdrawal. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers involved were Saudis, members of both parties in Congress have urged broad reform in the conservative kingdom.

Until Abdullah actually issues the decrees, it remains to be seen whether he will be the first son of Saudi Arabia's modern unifier, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, to undertake significant political change.

The presence of foreign — especially American — forces since the Persian Gulf war of 1991 has been a contentious issue in Saudi Arabia and has spurred the terrorism of Osama bin Laden, the now disowned scion of one of the kingdom's wealthiest families, and his followers in Al Qaeda. [more]