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Vice President Dick Cheney and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah did not mince words when they met in Jeddah, according to the intelligence sources of DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
Their conversation, according to the service, was neither polite nor particularly friendly – but it was of cardinal importance for the Bush administration’s next moves in its global war against terrorism.
The two leaders crossed swords, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report, over Cheney’s attempts to draw the Saudi ruler into lining up with America’s strategy for the Middle East and the Gulf. Abdullah spelled out the dangers he believes the kingdom and the monarchy would incur by toeing the political and military line the United States has drawn in the sands of the region. Cheney retorted that Saudi opposition would have dire consequences for both the House of Saud and the kingdom’s future.
Word of Cheney’s tough tone left the princes, kings, presidents and prime ministers of the region stunned. Until that moment, they had taken Bush’s declaration – that those who are not with us are against us – as a phrase that left them plenty of room for maneuver. Confronted with the vice president, sources said, they suddenly realized Bush meant his warning quite literally.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in the Gulf, Cheney issued a series of ultimatums to Abdullah and demanded straight answers.
He put the desert kingdom on notice to line up with the United States’ war against Iraq and abandon its undercover political and economic relations with Saddam Hussein and the ayatollahs, or Washington would not think twice about placing the Saudi kingdom into isolation both in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
America would also withdraw its 60-year-old guarantee to secure the reigning House of Saud.
The Saudi government moreover was told to start an immediate crackdown on all the elements in the realm aiding and succoring al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, in one way or another. Failing Saudi action, the United States was prepared to go after those elements itself, even if this meant arbitrarily interfering in Saudi internal affairs.
Piling on the pressure, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources say Cheney laid before Abdullah intelligence evidence of the undercover machinations of several princes, who were secretly pouring rivers of cash into al-Qaida coffers, financing the fugitive group and its command center’s relocation from Afghanistan to Gulf and Middle East bases, and footing the bill for establishing its operatives in new locales.
Cheney demanded an explanation of the rumors reaching Washington of Saudi tycoons and princes lobbying Arab financial bodies to close their accounts in American banks, lest the U.S. government claim that their money supported terrorists and impound it. Cheney cited a recent financial meeting in Beirut, organized by Saudi businessmen connected to Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, at which participants were quietly tipped off to move their assets out of the United States to banks in the Arab world.
The vice president also filled the Saudi de facto monarch in on America’s blueprint for the Middle East’s future. That future would start unfolding when the offensive against Baghdad was under way. He spoke chiefly of the new formulae for solving the Kurdish and Palestinian problems.
After wielding his stick, Cheney offered Abdullah a carrot – the option of continuing Saudi Arabia’s historic cooperation with the United States and being welcomed at the U.S. president’s private ranch in Crawford, Texas, in mid-April.