Saudi Arabia to ask for US troops withdrawal after Iraq invasion?
WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia will ask the United States to withdraw its military forces from their country at the end of an Iraq conflict, then enact democratic political reforms, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
The paper, quoting unnamed senior Saudi royal family members and Saudi officials, said that the move was part of the post-September 11 debate designed to head off foreign and internal pressure that threatens the royal family’s hold on power.
Crown Prince Abdullah will ask President George W Bush to withdraw all US forces from Saudi Arabia as soon as the campaign to disarm Iraq has ended, according to the Times. Then he will issue decrees calling for the election of representatives to local assemblies, part of a six-year plan to institute a democratic government culminating in a national assembly, according to the Times.
Neither the royal family nor the Pentagon commented to the paper on the report.
The decisions are supported by the country’s business sector and by princes who have had the most contact with western nations, according to the Times. “The real politics of this is to win the hearts and minds of a majority of the people” in Saudi Arabia, an unnamed senior Saudi prince told the Times. “That is the way to really fight terrorism and the bad guys.”
US relations with the kingdom have been tense since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, carried out by 19 airplane hijackers — 15 of whom were Saudi-born.
Likewise many Islamic conservatives oppose the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda terror network leader Osama bin Laden, the son of one of the kingdom’s wealthiest families, has made the withdrawal of US forces from Saudi Arabia one of his key demands. Saudi Arabia’s leaders will ask US forces in the country to leave after any war with Iraq, The New York Times said on Sunday, but a Saudi official dismissed the report as “mere speculation”.
“What some media agencies are circulating is mere speculation and has no truth to it,” the official told reporters, when asked whether Riyadh would ask U.S troops to leave.
According to the paper, senior members of the royal family say the decisions, reached in the last month, result from a debate over Saudi Arabia’s future and have not yet been publicly announced.
A spokesman for the royal family said he could not comment, the newspaper said. The Saudi official praised Saudi-US ties, which he said were based on a mutual understanding, and denied that the presence of US troops was a source of tension between the two countries. —AFP/ Reuters