Saudi Arabia Fires Security Consultant for Iraq Remarks

Thursday, December 7, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 6 -- Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it had fired a security adviser who wrote in The Washington Post that the world's top oil exporter would intervene in Iraq once the United States withdrew troops.

Saudi Arabia's government said last weekend that there was no truth in Nawaf Obaid's Nov. 29 op-ed column, which suggested that the kingdom would back Iraq's Sunni Muslims in the event of a wider sectarian conflict.

Obaid stressed in the column that the views were his own and not those of the Saudi government.

"We felt that we could add more credibility to his claims as an independent contractor by terminating our consultancy agreement with him," Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, told the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

[Fred Hiatt, The Post's editorial page editor, declined to comment on Turki's announcement.]

The article said that the kingdom would intervene with funding and weaponry to prevent Shiite militias from attacking Iraq's Sunnis and suggested that Saudi Arabia could bring down world oil prices to squeeze Shiite power in Iran.

"There is no basis in truth to the article by the writer Nawaf Obaid in The Washington Post of November 29, 2006," the state Saudi Press Agency quoted an "official source" as saying last week.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq.

On Wednesday, the high-level U.S. bipartisan Iraq Study Group urged the United States to begin to withdraw forces from combat and launch a diplomatic push, including Iran and Syria, to prevent "a slide toward chaos" in Iraq.

Diplomats have said Saudi Arabia is worried that the United States, a key ally, has lost control of Iraq and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Arab governments say is driving Islamic extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.

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