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THE ARMING OF SAUDI ARABIA
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The Arming of Saudi Arabia
Transcript of FRONTLINE Show #1112
Air Date: February 16, 1993
[Posted 8 November 2001]
America's ability to respond so quickly and massively to Saddam Hussein's threat impressed the world, but as Secretary Cheney and the king were well aware, the operation didn't happen overnight. It was the result of a special military and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia that is far deeper and more extensive than most Americans know.
Pres. REAGAN: [to reporters] I'm trying to smile with dignity. I don't want to look jubilant.
In the face of Saudi secrecy and Defense Department denials, Armstrong's article was soon forgotten, but much of his story has now been confirmed by senior officials of the United States government, including Lawrence Korb [sp?], who was assistant defense secretary under Weinberger.
Working with FRONTLINE, Waas has now uncovered a much larger story. Waas has learned that in 1990, the U.S. government received intelligence information that the Saudis had aided Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The text of a still-classified CIA report dated June, 1990, and made available to Waas states that analysts had reliable information that Saudi Arabia had provided $5 billion to Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
According to the CIA report, beginning in 1985 some of the money flowed through the Gulf International Bank, which at the time was owned in part by the Saudi and Iraqi governments. It could not be determined whether subsequent reports further corroborated this intelligence information, but FRONTLINE has talked to sources in the CIA and at the Pentagon's National Security Agency who say that they first heard of a Saudi-Iraqi nuclear connection as early as 1986.
NARRATOR: It may be that Cheney never saw the intelligence assessments. FRONTLINE does not know to whom they were circulated.
Throughout the '80s the Reagan-Bush administration insisted that oil prices should be determined by market forces, but most oil analysts say the U.S. and the Saudis entered into unwritten understandings about the appropriate price for oil, understandings that are still secret. The pricing of oil may be the most sensitive aspect of the U.S.-Saudi special relationship.
Pres. REAGAN: There's an Arab saying, ``The sands are blowing,'' and I submit to you, King Fahd, that if the sands of time give us any hint of the future, it is that in the days ahead the friendship between the Saudi Arabian and American people will be a strong and vital force in the world and that the future--
Edwin Rothschild is the energy policy director of the public interest group Citizen Action. Rothschild used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to some previously secret government files in an attempt to find out what happened during Fahd's visit to Washington.
Mr. ROTHSCHILD: When someone uses the words, ``market,'' ``let the market rule,'' you have to look beneath that. That's a code word. In this case, the market was two governments: the United States and Saudi Arabia. U.S. policy makers in the Reagan-Bush administration were convinced that lower oil prices were necessary for U.S. economic growth and for their own continued political success. Our government officials painted a rosy picture for the Saudis about what would happen if the price of oil fell. They persuaded the Saudis that their market would increase, that the United States and Europe would consume more. The Reagan-Bush administration colluded with the Saudi Arabian government to drive world oil prices down.
Vice President GEORGE BUSH: But there will be not-- we're not going there on a price-setting mission, when we ourselves favor market forces.
Pres. REAGAN: While we have said we believe that this whole thing with the oil prices should be settled on the basis of the free market, the market in oil is not completely free. There are some major producers of oil who are governments.
Copyright (c) 1992 WGBH. Posted For Fair Use Only.
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