Friday, July 27, 2007

Lip Service

The extent of the deterioration in US-Saudi relations was exposed for the first time yesterday when Washington accused Riyadh of working to undermine the Iraqi government.

The Bush administration warned Saudi Arabia, until this year one of its closest allies, to stop undermining the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates, are scheduled to visit Jeddah next week.

Reflecting the deteriorating relationship, the US made public claims that the Saudis have been distributing fake documents lying about Mr Maliki.

New York Times:
The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall.

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

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