- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

‘Colonial war’ in Iraq

The Saudi ambassador to Britain and Ireland denounced the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq as a “colonial war” for oil in a newspaper interview published yesterday.

Prince Turki al-Faisal also praised Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as a “living martyr” and denounced Israel as a “ruthless” nation.

The ambassador told the Irish Independent, “No matter how exalted the aims of the U.S. in the war, in the final analysis it was a colonial war very similar to the wars conducted by the ex-colonial powers when they went out to conquer the rest of the world — either in the name of Christianity, or bringing civilization to undeveloped countries or bringing the rule of law to uncivilized populations.”

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, however, said his government views the United States as a champion of independence and “not a colonial power.”

Prince Turki, former head of the Saudi intelligence services, recalled comments by some members of Congress that Iraqi oil would pay for the invasion and occupation.

They said “in a year or two they would be producing so much oil in Iraq that, as it were, the war would pay for itself,” the ambassador added.

He said this “indicated that there were those in America who were thinking in those terms of acquiring the natural resources of Iraq for America.”

Prince Turki’s comments appear to be the strongest by a top Saudi official on U.S. motives in Iraq. The ambassador is the youngest son of King Faisal and a brother-in-law to the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who is also a close friend of President Bush’s father.

Embassy spokesman Nail al-Jubeir agreed with some of Prince Turki’s comments.

“Our view is that the U.S. is not a colonial power, and in the past has been championing independence,” he said.

“However, comments by members of Congress and political pundits about how to pay for the Iraq war and the occupation left the impression in the [Middle East] and, in fact, around the world that it is a war for oil, and it has been portrayed by some — especially the extremists in our region and others in the U.S. and the West — as a war to control the region’s oil.”

The Saudi government position is that “the sooner the U.S. can disengage from Iraq and hand real authority to the Iraqi people, the better it is for America’s long-term interests in the region,” Mr. al-Jubeir said.

On Israel, Mr. Turki called the Jewish state “an aggressor and colonial power that is ruthless and generally devoid of any human considerations toward the aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

Coats stays in Berlin

Speculation on the future of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reached Germany yesterday when a magazine said the White House offered his job to the U.S. ambassador in Berlin.

An American Embassy spokesman dismissed the article in the weekly Focus magazine and said Ambassador Daniel Coats will be staying in Berlin at least through the November presidential election.

The magazine said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice approached Mr. Coats about the position when she visited Germany two weeks ago. Focus reported that Mr. Coats said he would be available for the job.

“As far as we know, he’s planning to be here in Berlin until after the election,” a spokesman told Reuters news agency.

Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, was a leading candidate for defense secretary before President Bush picked Mr. Rumsfeld.

The ambassador, who took up his post in August 2001, will have completed more than three years on the job by the time of the election. Many ambassadors serve about three years.

In the Senate, Mr. Coats was chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel and air/land forces.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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