Fahd Returns Home, Accepts Stance Against US Bases

King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz returned home from his enforced exile in Geneva last Thursday, September 27, mending the rift in the Saudi royal house by lining up with his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah’s refusal to grant Washington the use of military bases for attacking any Muslim power.
By giving in, the king may have saved the royal regime from being torn apart on the issue. But he put paid to the moderate Arab support the United States had hoped would be ranged behind its war on terror. The crisis brought US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld hurrying over to Riyadh – to no avail.
(The Bush administration responded to this major blow to its war effort by turning to Moscow and the former Soviet Central Asian republics, as debkafile revealed last week.)
So dense was the cloud of secrecy the princes imposed over the feud that the king’s departure for Geneva with all his family and a vast entourage of princes of senior rank, some of them ministers, took place unannounced on September 19 – as revealed exclusively in debkafile on September 22.
Before this crisis, the Americans took it for granted that the Prince Sultan air base near Riyadh was available as their command and control center for running their anti-terror war in the region. They had the king’s consent. His abrupt departure left Abdullah, who opposed the king on the issue, calling the shots.
Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, the king’s full brother and third in the royal hierarchy, tried to mediate the dispute. According to debkafile‘s sources, he pointed warningly to the flourishing alliance between Washington and Moscow, highlighted by Russia’s permission to grant the Americans the use of military bases in the former Soviet Muslim republics of Central Asia as staging posts for their offensive against the Taliban and bin Laden. The Saudi bases had therefore been quickly replaced and its clout in Washington diminished.
But Crown Prince Abdullah, who effectively runs the kingdom because of Fahd’s poor health, stood firm. In the end he prevailed. Now, the Saudi royal house is reunited around a five-year old religious edict, or fatwa, recycled by the Saudi Grand Mufti Abdullah Aziz Bin Abdullah, at the Crown Prince’s request.
debkafile‘s Saudi experts explain how this edict, helped by acrobatic exegesis, was turned into a prohibition against Saudi bases serving the US military operation against Afghanistan or any other Muslim power, the Taliban and Iraq implicitly included. For the first time, Saudi-US collaboration in the war against terrorism is forbidden on religious grounds.
The key fatwa specifically forbids any Muslim to accept assistance from a non-Muslim authority in the conduct of investigations into security occurrences involving Muslims. Since the Saudis on religious grounds are not allowed to share intelligence on bin Laden and the Taliban with the non-Muslim United States, neither may Riyadh accept US evidence of his complicity in the attacks on the United States. Since such evidence is unacceptable, so too is any military action stemming from it.
But the Saudi rationale is not purely religious.
Members of the government, including foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal and army chiefs, argued that once the Americans were caught up on two military fronts, they would focus on Afghanistan at the expense of the anti-Iraq front, leaving Saudi Arabia exposed to punishment at Saddam’s hands.
On the whole, the Saudis do not regard the Taliban in the same light as the Americans.
According to debkafile‘s Saudi experts, the Afghan ruling party are seen as the only Sunni military force capable of holding the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Hizbollah militants in check. As such, they deserve Saudi backing and their alliance with Bin Laden and Al Quaeda, who oppose the Saudi royal family, is deemed a deviation, not a crime. According to Saudi calculations, this deviation can be corrected by the Taliban handing the master terrorist over to Saudi Arabia or holding his operation down to directives from Riyadh.
To sacrifice their Taliban asset for the sake of eradicating bin Laden, as the Americans demand, is an unacceptable option for Riyadh.
Defense secretary Rumsfeld’s whirlwind tour also took him to Cairo in an effort to swing the largest Arab country round to support for America’s military operation.
debkafile‘s Cairo sources report he had just received the bad news of a major anti-US upheaval among the senior ranks of President Hosni Mubarak’s advisers. His most markedly pro-American aides, foreign minister Ahmed Maher and special adviser Osama al-Baz, were pushed down the totem pole, while former foreign minister and current Arab League secretary the pan-Arab Amr Moussa was elevated over their heads.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks in the United States, Moussa formulated three conditions that effectively blocked off Arab League support for the American campaign:
– No Arab nation may attack – or threaten to attack – any other Arab or Muslim state.
– Any action against terrorists must be preceded by a precise definition of the term terrorism and its practical manifestations.
– The Arab world must follow its own interests, which are not necessarily identical to those of the United States.
In Washington, the Saudi fatwa and Amr Mousa’s three conditions sounded the death knell for America’s hopes of Arab support in its war against Afghanistan and bin Laden.

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