The GOP have always had a hard-on for the Saudis, beyond just all the oil. IIRC, the Saudis take really good ($$$) care of the Republican sycophants....
‘US angry over Saudi role in Iraq’* Report accuses Saudi Arabia of trying to undermine the Baghdad government
WASHINGTON: The US administration is deeply frustrated with Saudi Arabia over its role in Iraq, accusing the Saudis of trying to undermine the Baghdad government and failing to stem the flow of volunteers joining the insurgency there, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The Saudis view Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as an agent of Iran and appear to have stepped up efforts to weaken his government, providing funding for Sunni groups, the Times wrote, citing senior US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One official told the paper that there was evidence Saudi Arabia was supplying money to Maliki’s opponents but declined to say if that funding was going to Sunni insurgents.
“That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not,” the official said.
Officials in President George W Bush’s administration also say that of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq every month, nearly half come from Saudi Arabia and the Saudi leadership has not done enough to counter the influx.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates planned to raise Washington’s concerns in a visit next week to Saudi Arabia, the paper said. The Bush administration has refrained from publicly criticizing its long-time ally over Iraq and has instead blamed Iran and Syria for fomenting violence and sectarian divisions.
But the officials spoke to the Times with the clear intention of sending a signal to the Saudis after previous private appeals failed to produce results, the newspaper said.
US-Saudi relations have been increasingly strained since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In March, King Abdullah slammed the “illegitimate foreign occupation” of Iraq. afp
U.S.-Saudi Tensions To Increase In 2008
07.27.07, 6:00 AM ET
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on July 31. As the United States looks to regional actors for support on Iraq, Iran and Israeli-Palestinian issues, it will find that Riyadh is not going to play its assigned role. While President George W. Bush's administration faces long odds on these issues already, the Saudi position makes the prospect for success even less likely.
On the major regional questions, the United States and Saudi Arabia are in agreement to a greater extent than at almost any time in their relationship. They each:
--worry about increasing Iranian regional influence and the Iranian nuclear program;
--see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a wound that needs to be healed;
--worry about the spill-over effect of Iraqi violence; and
--vigorously oppose al-Qaida and its regional affiliates.
However, they have very different tactical approaches, which will become more salient as Washington puts forward new initiatives to move the Arab-Israeli peace process forward, salvage something from Iraq and isolate Iran.
Bush announced on July 16 a high-profile diplomatic effort to move Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority (PNA) toward a political settlement. Saudi Arabia quickly voiced its support, but Washington and Riyadh have very different visions of how to approach the issue. The Bush administration seeks to isolate Hamas diplomatically and choke off the economy in Gaza. Meanwhile, it hopes to encourage economic growth and political progress in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, showing Palestinians that their best choice is to abandon Hamas and support PNA President Mahmoud Abbas. Riyadh is pushing for a renewal of Fatah-Hamas dialogue and a return to the Mecca Agreement on power-sharing, which the Saudis brokered earlier in the year.
In Iraq, the Bush administration needs to show tangible progress to fend off congressional pressures to begin troop withdrawals. To that end, it has opened direct (if low-level) talks with Iran and encouraged greater regional involvement to support the Iraqi government, symbolized by the May Sharm al-Sheikh summit. While Saudi Arabia attended that summit and agreed to forgive the bulk of Iraqi Saddam-era debt, it has made clear that it is not willing to take other steps to support the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which it sees as an extension of Iranian influence in Iraq.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia is supporting efforts by Maliki's opponents (including former prime minister Iyad Allawi, various Sunni political factions and Maliki's Shia opponents) to form a political front to challenge the government's parliamentary majority. Saudi King Abdallah also very publicly refused to receive Maliki on the latter's regional trip preceding the summit. With Riyadh facing the likelihood of a reduced U.S. role in Iraq, it is less likely to follow the U.S. lead there and more willing to forge its own alliances with Iraqi players and factions.
Both Washington and Riyadh want to limit Iranian regional influence and discourage Iranian nuclear plans. As long as the United States continues using diplomatic pressure, multilateral and United Nations sanctions and indirect military threats to push Iran away from the nuclear path, it will have Saudi support. However, if the Bush administration pursues a military option, this will change. The Saudi leadership is pursuing a subtle policy of both engaging and containing Iran. It does not want to return to the 1980s, when the two states were directly confronting each other and Tehran was actively encouraging domestic opposition to the Saudi regime. Moreover, it knows that it will be on the front line of any Iranian retaliation for a U.S. military strike.
Such tensions are a normal feature of the Saudi-U.S. relationship and do not necessarily herald a crisis in the making. However, while core relations will not be affected, they will add to the tensions likely to emerge between the countries on Middle East issues and make for an uncomfortable few months in bilateral relations in 2008.
Link. See this too. And this too, if you're registered with the Times.
US tracks Saudi bank favoured by extremists
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: In the 1940s, two Bedouin farm boys from the desert began changing money for the trickle of traders and religious pilgrims in this then-remote and barren kingdom. It was a business built on faith and trust, Sulaiman Al Rajhi once told an interviewer, and for many years he would hand gold bars to strangers boarding flights in Jidda and ask them to give the gold to his brother on their arrival in Riyadh, according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Today, Mr Al Rajhi is a reclusive octogenarian whose fortune is estimated at $12 billion. And Al Rajhi Bank grew into the kingdom’s largest Islamic bank, with 500 branches in Saudi Arabia and more spread across the Muslim world.
Following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the bank also set off an intense debate within the US government over whether to take strong action against its alleged role in extremist finance. Confidential reports by the Central Intelligence Agency and other US agencies, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, detail for the first time how much the US learned about the use of Al Rajhi Bank by alleged extremists, and how US officials agonized over what to do about it.
After 9/11, the Saudi monarchy pledged its full support in the fight against global terrorism. And following violent attacks inside the kingdom in the next two years, the Saudis did launch major strikes against militants operating on their soil. But the Saudi government has been far been less willing to tackle the financial infrastructure essential to terrorism. US intelligence reports state that Islamic banks, while mostly doing ordinary commerce, also are institutions that extremism relies upon in its global spread.
As a result, the Bush administration repeatedly debated proposals for taking strong action itself against Al Rajhi Bank, in particular, according to former US officials and previously undisclosed government documents. Ultimately, the US always chose instead to lobby Saudi officialdom quietly about its concerns.
The US intelligence reports, heretofore secret, describe how Al Rajhi Bank has maintained accounts and accepted donations for Saudi charities that the US and other nations have formally designated as fronts for Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
Al Rajhi Bank and the Al Rajhi family deny any role in financing extremists. They have denounced terrorist acts as un-Islamic. The bank declined to address specific allegations made in American intelligence and law-enforcement records, citing client confidentiality.
Two years earlier, federal agents raided the Virginia offices of a network of charities funded by Sulaiman Al Rajhi that worked closely with the IIRO and that - according to Justice Department court filings - provided funds to Palestinian terrorists. No charges have been filed.
A year after the 9/11 attacks, US authorities began to lament the lack of Saudi action in taking down terrorists’ financial infrastructure. A November 2002 CIA report said the Saudi government “has made little independent effort to uncover terrorist financiers, investigate individual donors, and tighten the regulation of Islamic charities,” largely because of “domestic political considerations.”
The US began to rethink that approach after an Al Qaeda attack in Riyadh in May 2003 that killed 26 people, including nine Americans. Deputies from the National Security Council, CIA, Treasury and State departments debated a proposal for legal and political action against Al Rajhi Bank, including the possibility of covert operations such as interfering with the bank’s internal operations, according to Bush administration documents and former US officials.
One idea kicked around was “listing or threatening to list” Al Rajhi Bank as a supporter of terrorism. Such a listing can be done if recommended by a committee representing the Treasury, State and Defense departments and the CIA and NSC, and signed by the president. The designation bars US companies from doing business with the named entity. A US designation also normally is forwarded to the U.N., and if that body puts the name on its own terrorist-supporter list, all member states are obliged to freeze the entity’s assets.
Other ideas US officials discussed included enlisting friendly countries to step up scrutiny and regulatory action against the Al Rajhis. The CIA report said that “a successful effort against the Al Rajhis would encourage efforts against other donors, or at a minimum, would discourage private funding of Al Qaeda”.
Ultimately, the Bush administration again chose merely to continue privately exerting pressure on the Saudis to stiffen their oversight.