April 19, 2004, The News International (Pakistan)
by Nayyar Zaidi
Washington: Saudi Ambassador to Washington for last two decades, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was informed of US decision to invade Iraq, a full 48 hours ahead of the briefing to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On January 11, 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney invited Ambassador Sultan to the White House where Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Richard B Myers were also present. Sitting on the “edge of the table”, General Myers took out a large map labeled “TOP SECRET: NOFORN”. The term meant that no foreigner (non US citizen) should see it.
These disclosures are slowly coming from the “Plan of Attack”, a book by a senior editor of The Washington Post Senior Editor, Bob Woodward, who became famous for exposing the Watergate scandal in 1972. His book is coming out later this week.
Ambassador Sultan, who was treated like “Family” by senior George Bush, assured the Americans that his country could provide a cover for US invading forces by closing the Al Jawf airport in Saudi northern desert. Sultan asked if he could take a copy of the map for Crown Prince Abdullah? General Myers said the decision could be made at a “pay level” above him i.e. by defence secretary. Rumsfeld told Sultan, “We will give you all information you want. I would rather not give you the map but you can take note”.
Sultan then asked: “Saddam, this time, will be out Period. What will happen to him?” At this time Cheney spoke saying “Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast”. Sultan, says Woodward, did not get the map but he went home took a map of the area prepared by CIA, and with his notes reconstructed the US strike plan.
On Sunday, January 12, 2003, National Security Advisor Condolessa Rice called Sultan and told him that President Bush would like to see him on Monday, January 13. During the White House meeting, Bush started with his concerns that an attack on Iraq would create a sever reaction in Muslim world putting US interests at risk.
Sultan said, “Mr President, you are assuming you are attacking Saudi Arabia and capturing King Fahad. This is Saddam Hussain; people are not going to shed tears over Saddam Hussain. But if he is attacked one more time and by Americans and survives and stays in power after you finish this, whatever it is, everybody will follow his word. If he says attack the American Embassy they would attack the American Embassy”.
Ironically, Powell, when briefed (The News April 17, 2004), did his best to dissuade the president from attacking Iraq, while the Saudi Ambassador strongly endorsed the US plans to attack.