WASHINGTON – The longstanding strategic alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia is under considerable stress since the Sept. 11 attacks, and some Washington policy analysts are calling for a complete reassessment of the relationship.
In a Defense Policy Board briefing on July 10, analysts from the Rand Corporation, a highly-respected Washington think tank, told intellectuals and former administration officials who consult the Pentagon that Saudi Arabia "supports our enemies and attacks our allies."
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the analysts concluded, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."
The Defense Department disputed the report and framed the alliance as friendly, the way it has done so for the last 60-plus years.
"Of course, everyone has a right to their opinion. It did not represent the views of the government. It didn't represent the views of the Defense Policy Board," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of the report.
"Clearly, somebody decided that it was a good idea to take something that was that potentially controversial -- I almost said inflammatory -- and give it to a newspaper, even though the meeting was a classified meeting and a closed meeting of the Defense Policy Board."
Rumsfeld added that there are some concerns about activities in Saudi Arabia -- simmering Islamic fundamentalism has worried U.S. officials -- but on balance the relationship is very productive.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said that Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Saudi foreign minister Tuesday to reassure the kingdom that "the musings of individuals" don't reflect the policy of the administration.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship is mostly fueled by a mutual self-interest. The United States needs a stable supply of oil, the Saudis need a reliable consumer of oil and a military friend in a historically turbulent region.
Saudi Arabia is central to the debate on the war on terror, achieving progress in the Middle East and any future military campaigns against Iraq, and as such pressure is building to reassess the relationship or at least remind the Saudis that the United States needs all the help it can get on all fronts.
According to The Washington Post, those analysts recommend U.S. officials tell the Saudis to stop supporting terrorism or face seizure of oil fields and financial assets currently in the United States.
The White House has worked hard to maintain close ties to the Saudis during the war on terror, and President Bush even invited Crown Prince Abdullah to his Texas ranch last spring, a move that is seen as a signal of the president's respect for his peers.
The White House has said the Saudis have provided valuable intelligence information on Al Qaeda and helped eliminate illicit financing sources.
The Saudi links to the Sept. 11 attacks are profound, however. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and internal Saudi sympathy to terrorist leader Usama Bin Laden is a mounting concern of the United States and the Saudi royal family.
The United States is also concerned about the Saudi role in the bloody turmoil in the Middle East. The Saudis have leaned on the Bush White House to extract more concessions from Israel, and top members of the Saudi royal family led a telethon to raise money for families of suicide bombers who carried out terror attacks against Israel.
All of this has led Rand analysts to reassess the U.S.-Saudi role and say that Saudi Arabia is "the kernel of evil, the prime mover and most dangerous opponent of the Middle East."
Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.