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Experts on Saudi Arabia among U.S. intelligence analysts are counseling for a quiet disengagement with the kingdom.
The Bush administration has been quietly brainstorming over future U.S. policy and faces stark choices, the analysts say: Does Washington follow the increasingly aggressive dictates of Crown Prince Abdullah, or does the White House tell him to jump in the lake?
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The message to the administration has been for the United States to develop military alternatives to Saudi Arabia without alarming the royal family. Some pointers the analysts have been offering:
- Don't offend the Saudis. There is absolutely no point in getting into a public or even private argument with Riyadh.
- Don't wait until the Saudis formally ask for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the kingdom. But don't be seen as leaving under pressure. In other words, wait until the dust settles and then start a low-key pullout.
- Groom a new ally to replace the Saudis. The best bet is a democratic Iraq. A democratic and pro-U.S. Iraq will have the oil clout of the Saudis combined with a work ethic that will make Baghdad into a powerful ally of the United States.
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