Twelve years after the U.S. built up its military presence in Saudi Arabia, American troops are finally leaving. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced yesterday in Riyadh that the U.S. is pulling out all but a handful of soldiers. With war in Iraq all but over, Rumsfeld said there is no longer any military justification for staying in Saudi Arabia. But that simple explanation cloaks a tangle of political rationales and gambles behind the move.
American and Saudi officials say shutting down Prince Sultan Air Base is not caving in to terrorists like Osama bin Laden who have demanded that American infidels leave sacred Saudi soil. Instead it is a strategic move to help the Saudi royal family appease its young, poor, and angry populace, while forcing it to make much-needed political reforms.
Richard Murphy, former Ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia
Charles Heyman, editor of Janes World Armies
Khaled El- Maeena, editor of the Arab News
and Mamoun Fandy, columnist for Asharq al Awsat, pan-
Arab newspaper based in London, and author, “Saudi
Arabia and the Politics of Dissent.”