Saudi-U.S. Tension May Affect Iraq Action

ByABC News
November 8, 2002, 10:12 AM

R I Y A D H, Saudi Arabia, Nov.10 -- Since Sept. 11, 2001, perhaps no relationship has been more profoundly affected than the 60-year friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and the new tension may complicate plans for a war against Iraq.

The Saudis supported the war in Afghanistan. They allowed the U.S. Air Force to use a high-tech command center to run the air campaign from their country. And American pilots fly out of Saudi air bases to patrol the "no-fly zone" in southern Iraq.

Nevertheless, the U.S.-Saudi alliance and possible future cooperation on Iraq has been damaged because 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis.

"This is a traumatic experience for Saudi Arabia as much as it is for the United States," said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. "Wouldn't you hate to wake up one day and see that your son is a serial killer?"

Worry Over U.S.-Iraq Tension

Prince Saud recently made comments that some interpreted as a refusal to let the United States use bases in Saudi Arabia for any attack on Iraq, even if it were sanctioned by the United Nations. Later, he told The New York Times there had been a misunderstanding and that the Saudis had not yet reached a decision on the matter.

The Saudis joined the fight against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and welcomed U.S. troops to the kingdom. This time, they say Saddam is not likely to lash out at his neighbors unless the United States attacks.

"Saddam will use whatever is at his disposal to widen the effects of that war, whether it be sending missiles wherever he might choose, against oil installations in the [Persian] Gulf or other targets," said Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief.

Those potential targets could include Saudi oil fields. The police here are on alert.

Saudis say they are alarmed by American war talk.

"We hear about the news," said Abdul Aziz al-Dukheil, who runs a financial consulting business in Riyadh, the capital. "Ships are moving, airplanes are coming."