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The United States has delayed its offensive against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden because of a dramatic turnaround in Arab support, reports DEBKAfile, the private, subscription-only intelligence service.
With the fleeing of King Fahd to Switzerland last week, as reported in WorldNetDaily, there are signs of a split in the Saudi royal family on the use of Saudi soil by U.S. military forces. By this afternoon, it became clear Secretary of State Colin Powell’s efforts to create an Arab front to bolster the Bush administration’s world war on terror was faltering.
A palace revolution may be in the works in Riyadh, explaining King Fahd’s secret exit from Saudi Arabia, followed by a large royal party. The reason? Differences in the royal family over support for the U.S. offensive against Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden’s terror network and other rogue targets following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. King Fahd and his Sudeiri faction, including defense minister Sultan, were in favor of letting the U.S. place assault forces in forward bases on Saudi soil; the conservative, religious Crown Prince Abdullah, who runs the kingdom since King Fahd became ill, overruled him, backed by the religious establishment.
As a result, Saudi Arabia refused to let the U.S. use the kingdom’s new combined air operations command center at Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, after Air Force Lt. Gen Charles Wald had been dispatched to the base earlier this week, to take command of U.S. air forces assigned to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
His mission was to run the air war from the new, sophisticated air base opened this summer, a base linked to Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates and Seeb in the Sultanate of Oman. The Saudi base was also to have been the central command post not only for the 175 aircraft already based in the region for patrolling south Iraq’s no-flight zone, but also for directing attacks from other bases in the region in the new war offensive.
When Gen. Wald landed in Saudi Arabia with his top aides Tuesday, Sept. 18, he was told he had no command base. That was when the feuding inside the royal house over its role in the American war against terrorism reached its climax. The monarch’s defeat in the argument inside the palace was apparently the main reason for his abrupt departure the next day, Wednesday, Sept. 19.
The Pentagon has since then been casting about for replacement bases of operation and holding up the onset of the scheduled U.S. campaign.
One of Gen. Wald’s options for his command post is in Bahrain. Some of the fighter craft due to have been based in Saudi Arabia have been moved to Incerlik, the big air base in South Turkey, after Ankara made all its bases available for the American war effort, and the Uzbek military airport of Tuzel. Large-scale air and commando forces also landed today in Tadjikistan, on the border of Afghanistan.
The American forces are now laboring to catch up with their schedule for the operation. The feud in Riydah also sent the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat racing to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Abdullah and update his own strategy with the turn of events in the royal house. Palestinian experts expect Arafat to turn tail and back out of the accommodations he broached under U.S. and European pressure – including his commitment to a ceasefire.
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