Syria was not the only Arab recipient of a strong new American warning.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence experts and Gulf sources reveal that, a week before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a very senior Saudi official met an equally senior US government official in one of the Gulf States.
Their identities are a closely held secret. Not so the contents of their conversation, which our sources have discovered.
Asked by the Saudi official for a US government assessment of the perils facing the royal family, the American reply was as follows:
You misread your internal situation and our relations (between Washington and Riyadh). Our advice is this: In addition to the war against Al Qaeda – which you are not conducting in the proper professional manner – you must take a good hard look at events at home. You admitted to pro-reform riots and demonstrations in only two places, Riyadh and Jeddah. But our intelligence revealed protests in eight other locations – Buraidah, Katif, al-Qassim, Dahariyah, Abha, Najran, Taif and Jizan. If you choose to look the other way, go ahead. But don’t expect us to help you out when the demonstrations spread and turn into an anti-royalist tide too strong for you to contain unaided.
The reforms you have publicized are too slow and ineffective. You have already gone past the point where the major cities might have been placated with municipal elections – the dates of which, by the way, have still not been set. Now, you (the royal family) had better start thinking fast about elections for the Shura (the Saudi legislature). Some members will have to be elected directly by the voting public. They can no longer all be Crown appointees.
We are convinced that free elections are vital for the survival of the Saudi throne. Although our forces have been withdrawn from your country, you persist in seeing us as a potential savior. We might step in – depending on what is going on at the time in the kingdom and the region. But make no mistake, we no longer see you and your oil fields as the United States’ gas pump. You must stop thinking in terms of our dependence on you. That relationship is gone. It’s what you wanted. You demanded that we stop using your bases and air space – and we complied. Now we don’t need them anymore.”
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources in the Gulf, Saudi crown prince Abdullah said not a word when he saw a report of this conversation several hours later. What he did was to urge Syria to call a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors for the purpose of setting up a joint intelligence agency to pool Iraqi data.
Our sources believe the proposal was prompted by the Saudi sensation of being exposed and unprotected left by the candid message conveyed by the US official. Turkey, however, scuttled the plan (as reported in a separate article in this issue).