Saudi Prince Abdullah and Colin Powell Forge a Bond
The most dramatic development of the last two weeks in the Persian Gulf – revealed exclusively here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly – does not immediately touch on Saddam Hussein, although it will in the long run. It is about Saudi crown prince Abdullah, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, and his secret approach to the Bush administration.
According to our sources in Washington and the Gulf, Abdullah, never a real fan of the Bush team and their policies for the Middle East and Arabia, decided in early February to create a direct, personal and private link to Washington for use in emergency situations. He consulted with his close advisers and in the end sent a personal emissary to establish that link with his chosen interlocutor, secretary of state Colin Powell.
According to the fragmentary information reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly, the Saudi prince offered to let bygones be bygones and restore the once cordial relations and military cooperation between Riyadh and Washington on a regional level. He suggested going back to being military and strategic partners at once – even before the onset of the American assault on Iraq and expressed the hope that his relations with Powell would be mutually profitable to both nations after the war was over.
Powell hurried to lay the Saudi ruler’s message before President George W. Bush. The president instructed Powell to send the Saudi Prince an affirmative reply and get down at once to building the private communication link on offer, so as to begin the job of repairing US-Saudi relations.
By this unexpected stroke, Powell found he had become President Bush’s point man for Washington’s relations with Riyadh.
The private interchanges between Abdullah and Powell have already had a positive effect on the soured relationship between the two governments. Saudi Arabia this week consented to US troops using its bases to fight Iraq.
Abdullah and Powell have also created joint American-Saudi task teams to chart their post-war cooperation when a new regime rises in Baghdad.
Word of the new channel of communication quickly leaked through intelligence channels to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac. The first two discussed the development when they met in Moscow on Wednesday, February 26. Chirac spent much of the week analyzing its implications for the French position with regard to US military action against Iraq.
The unexpected warming of Saudi-American relations is likely to have sweeping effect on the Middle East and Persian Gulf, the Iraq situation and US relations with the three leading opponents of the war on Iraq – France, Germany and Russia – as well as bearing on the domestic situation inside the oil kingdom.
In the last few days, Berlin and Moscow are showing first signs of seeking to distance themselves from the hard-line resistance in Paris to the Bush administration’s policies on Iraq. Russian and German leaders quickly grasped that a rapprochement between Washington and Riyadh threatened to undercut their strongest argument against war, as well as denying them the chance of profiting politically and economically in the Middle East from their anti-war posture.
Inside the Saudi royal house, Abdullah’s fellow princes were stunned by his initiative and its immediate rewards. His foremost rival, defense minister Prince Sultan and the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Sultan’s son Bandar, were caught napping. All their intelligence resources had failed to pick up the most sensational occurrence in Saudi politics in many a year. Most senior princes of the royal house perceive Abdullah’s move as a grab to monopolize Riyadh’s relations with Washington and to isolate them at home and abroad.
Last Minute Developments:
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources report from Saudi Arabia:
1. Saudi armed forces were placed on battle preparedness late Thursday night, February 27, and deployed on two fronts: the Saudi-Iraqi and Saudi-Kuwaiti borders.
2. Saudi military and security forces as well as Americans in the kingdom were also put on supreme alert for al Qaeda terror attacks. US and Saudi intelligence believe that al Qaeda teams will attempt to hit an American and a Saudi target simultaneously.