Bush administration takes issue with report condemning Saudis
By Thomas E. Ricks Aug 7, 2002 The Washington Post

     The Bush administration distanced itself yesterday from a Pentagon briefing that described Saudi Arabia as an adversary of the United States and a backer of terrorism, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying it doesn't represent the views of the U.S. government and Secretary of State Colin Powell repeating that message in a call to the Saudi foreign minister.
     The briefing to the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory panel made up of former senior officials and retired top military officers, recommended U.S. officials demand that Saudi Arabia stop supporting terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States.
     "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain," asserted the briefing, which was delivered July 10 by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand international security analyst. It also said that "Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies."
    Rumsfeld, speaking at a meeting with Pentagon employees, called the publication yesterday of an article about the briefing "unfortunate." He went on to attack the unidentified person who leaked the briefing.
He said the briefing doesn't represent "dominant opinion" within the U.S. government.
     But he went on to say that Saudi Arabia is grappling with the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers who crashed four airliners into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 were Saudi citizens. (none from Iraq) sight operators note
    "It is correct, as apparently someone said in the briefing, that a number of the people who were involved on September 11th happen to have been Saudi individuals and that there are those issues that Saudi Arabia is wrestling with, just as other countries of the world are wrestling with them," he said.
    State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Powell in his conversation with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal reassured the Saudi government that the Rand analyst's briefing does not "reflect the views of the president of the United States or of the U.S. government."
    U.S. Saudi relations are "excellent," Reeker continued.
     "We share a broad array of interests, including a common vision of peace, stability and prosperity in the region," he said.
    That assertion contrasts somewhat with comments made privately by administration officials that the Saudi response to terrorism since Sept. 11 has been mixed at best and notably less enthusiastic than that of some other countries.
    Prince Saud said, "It is unfortunate that there are people in some quarters who are trying to cast doubt and undermine the solid and historic ties between our two countries. I am confident they will not succeed."
    Rand, a public policy think tank that frequently consults with the Pentagon and other parts of the government, also issued a statement, in which it said the briefing represented only the views of Murawiec, not those of Rand or the agencies that sponsor its research.