- Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia
have deteriorated so far that the Saudi Arabians are no longer considered
allies, senior diplomatic sources said yesterday.
- Saudi Arabia, once the indispensable cornerstone of US
policy in the Arab world, has refused to co-operate with the war on terrorism
or support President Bush's plans to overthrow President Saddam Hussein.
According to the sources, it has handed over no Intelligence of any value
about the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, which has roots in Saudi Arabia.
- The final "stab in the back" for Washington
was the decision to ban American bombers from attacking Iraq from Saudi
airbases. That has soured relations to such an extent that the country
from which America launched its 1991 invasion of Iraq is now being excluded
from discussions about a post-Saddam era.
- Even Syria, which in public is opposed to an attack on
Iraq and has been engaged in trade and arms deals with Baghdad, is talking
secretly to the Americans and the British about the role that Damascus
may play in the region if Saddam is overthrown. A Syrian delegation is
understood to have had discussions with British officials in London this
- British diplomatic sources said that the Saudi ruling
elite was immersed in a "dynastic battle" and was so concerned
about survival that the key figures were afraid of taking any decision
that would be interpreted by the people as being pro-Western and anti-Arab.
It had become increasingly difficult to find anyone with sufficient clout
and influence in Riyadh "to talk about anything".
- King Fahd, 79, is said by Gulf-based diplomats to be
suffering increasing ill health, giving rise to speculation about his successor.
He left Geneva for his holiday home in Spain yesterday after undergoing
- General Tommy Franks, the US Central Command chief who
is planning the campaign against Iraq, is understood to have removed from
his list of potential launch pads the huge Prince Sultan airbase, 50 miles
south of Riyadh, which the allies used as their combined air operations
centre in the Gulf War. Development work at General Franks's alternative
"war base" - the al-Udeid site in Qatar - was now so far advanced
that it would soon be a "totally self-sufficient" American facility,
the sources said.
- "There may be no political decision yet, but militarily
the US has made enough preparations to attack Iraq any time, without using
any facilities in Saudi Arabia, other than Saudi airspace. It is assumed
that the Saudis would not go as far as denying over-flight rights,"
the sources said.
- Saudi Arabia's failure to reveal any useful Intelligence
about al-Qaeda has been in marked contrast to the co- operation of countries
such as Yemen.
- Despite arresting 13 al-Qaeda suspects several months
ago, the Saudi authorities have not divulged to the Americans any material
that could help Western intelligence agencies to unravel the network, the
- Sixteen Saudi al-Qaeda suspects detained by Iran after
crossing from Afghanistan had also been handed over to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh
has promised that any Intelligence gleaned from the suspects would be passed
to the US.
- However, the sources said: "All the Saudis are interested
in is getting information from suspect al-Qaeda terrorists which relates
only to Saudi Arabia's security. They have not been at all co-operative
in seeking answers from suspects which might have some bearing on the international
threat posed by al-Qaeda."
- The hierarchy in Saudi Arabia had been "taken by
surprise" by the September 11 attacks in America, carried out by 19
hijackers of whom 15 were believed to have been Saudi citizens. Many of
the al-Qaeda suspects arrested in Afghanistan and taken to the American
interrogation camp at Guantanamo Bay were also Saudis.
- Saudi Arabia had also been "deeply involved"
with Pakistan in funding the Taleban in Afghanistan, and had financed the
"Salafi" Islamic ideological schools in Pakistan at which many
Taleban and al-Qaeda fundamentalists had developed their hatred of the
- Relations with Saudi Arabia were now so poor that there
was at present only one issue that could be seen in a positive light, and
that was oil. The Saudis supply 17 per cent of America's oil needs.
- "In all other key areas, the Saudis are not being
obliging, so in planning for Iraq the Americans have turned to Gulf states
they see as real allies, such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain,"
the sources said. Britain's relations with Saudi Arabia have been complicated
by the detention of five Britons, found guilty of mounting a bombing campaign
in a bootlegging war. The British prisoners allege that they were tortured
to make false confessions.
- Two emissaries have been sent this year to Riyadh to
raise the case with the Saudis. However, the Saudis have shown little interest
in discussing what is seen in the Foreign Office as a case of trumped-up