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Context of 'August 2001: Crown Prince Abdullah Warns Bush Against Pro-Israeli Stance in Letter'

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Crown Prince Abdullah.Crown Prince Abdullah. [Source: Corbis]King Fahd of Saudi Arabia suffers a severe stroke. Afterwards, he is able to sit in a chair and open his eyes, but little more. He slowly recovers from this condition. The resulting lack of leadership begins a behind-the-scenes struggle for power and leads to increased corruption. Crown Prince Abdullah has been urging his fellow princes to address the problem of corruption in the kingdom—so far unsuccessfully. A former White House adviser says: “The only reason Fahd’s being kept alive is so Abdullah can’t become king.” [New Yorker, 10/16/2001] This internal power struggle will continue until King Fahd dies in 2005 and Abdullah becomes the new king (see August 1, 2005).

Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Bush White House holds its first National Security Council meeting. The focus is on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 261] This meeting sets the tone for how President Bush intends to handle foreign affairs. Counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke wants to focus on the threat from al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism, especially in light of the recent attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). But Bush isn’t interested in terrorism. [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to be 'Tilted Back Towards Israel' - Instead, Bush channels his neoconservative advisers, particularly incoming Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (see February 18, 1992 and April-May 1999), in taking a new approach to Middle East affairs, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Referring to President Clinton’s efforts to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Bush declares: “Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That’s why we’re in trouble. If the two sides don’t want peace, there’s no way we can force them. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of the situation.… We’re going to correct the imbalance of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We’re going to tilt it back towards Israel.” His view is that the Israeli government, currently headed by Ariel Sharon, should be left alone to deal as it sees fit with the Palestinians. “I’m not going to go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. I’m going to take him at face value. We’ll work on a relationship based on how things go.” Justifying his position, he recalls a recent trip he took to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition. “We flew over the Palestinian camps. Looked real bad down there.… I don’t see much we can do over there at this point.” Secretary of State Colin Powell, surprised by Bush’s intended policy towards the 50-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, objects. According to Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neil, Powell “stresse[s] that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army.” When Powell warns the president that the “consequences of that [policy] could be dire, especially for the Palestinians,” Bush shrugs. “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things,” he suggests. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 265-266; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] In this and subsequent meetings, Bush’s National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, “parrot[s]… the neocon line,” in author Craig Unger’s words, by discussing Iraq. “Iraq might be the key to reshaping the entire region,” she says, clearly alluding to regime change and overthrow in that nation (see March 8, 1992, Autumn 1992, July 8, 1996, Late Summer 1996, Late Summer 1996, 1997-1998, January 26, 1998, February 19, 1998, September 2000, Late December 2000 and Early January 2001, and Shortly after January 20, 2001). [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Possible WMD Sites in Iraq Spark Bush to Order Plans for Ground Assaults - The meeting then moves on to the subject of Iraq. Rice begins noting “that Iraq might be the key to reshaping the entire region.” She turns the meeting over to CIA Director George Tenet who summarizes current intelligence on Iraq. He mentions a factory that “might” be producing “either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.” The evidence he provides is a picture of the factory with some truck activity, a water tower, and railroad tracks going into a building. He admits that there is “no confirming intelligence” on just what is going on at these sites. Bush orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Hugh Shelton to begin preparing options for the use of US ground forces in Iraq’s northern and southern no-fly zones in support of a native-based insurgency against the Hussein regime. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 267; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] Author Ron Suskind later sums up the discussion: “Meeting adjourned. Ten days in, and it was about Iraq. Rumsfeld had said little, Cheney nothing at all, though both men clearly had long entertained the idea of overthrowing Saddam.” Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang later writes: “If this was a decision meeting, it was strange. It ended in a presidential order to prepare contingency plans for war in Iraq.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Regime Change Intended from the Outset - US Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, later recalls: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.… From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed.” O’Neill will say officials never questioned the logic behind this policy. No one ever asked, “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” Instead, the issue that needed to be resolved was how this could be accomplished. “It was all about finding a way to do it,” O’Neill will explain. “That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’” [CBS News, 1/10/2004; New York Times, 1/12/2004; Guardian, 1/12/2004; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 234] Another official who attends the meeting will later say that the tone of the meeting implied a policy much more aggressive than that of the previous administration. “The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces,” the official will tell ABC News. “That went beyond the Clinton administration’s halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force.” [ABC News, 1/13/2004] Unger later writes, “These were the policies that even the Israeli right had not dared to implement.” One senior administration official says after the meeting, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 201]
Funding the Iraqi National Congress - The council does more than just discuss Iraq. It makes a decision to allow the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an Iraqi opposition group, to use $4 million to fund efforts inside Iraq to compile information relating to Baghdad’s war crimes, military operations, and other internal developments. The money had been authorized by Congress in late 2004. The US has not directly funded Iraqi opposition activities inside Iraq itself since 1996. [Guardian, 2/3/2005]
White House Downplays Significance - After Paul O’Neill first provides his account of this meeting in 2004, the White House will attempt to downplay its significance. “The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear,” Bush will tell reporters during a visit to Mexico In January 2004. “Like the previous administration, we were for regime change.… And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines.” [New York Times, 1/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Hugh Shelton, Paul O’Neill, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Craig Unger, Iraqi National Congress

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah refuses an invitation to meet with President George Bush at the White House. Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia with King Fahd unable to perform his position due to illness, says: “We want [the US] to consider their own conscience. Don’t they see what is happening to the Palestinian children, women, the elderly, the humiliation, the hunger?” Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of the president’s father and former national security adviser, echoes Abdullah’s concerns, warning Bush that moderate Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia are “deeply disappointed with this administration and its failure to do something to moderate the attitude of Israel.” Scowcroft adds that the Palestinians will not stop their own violence towards Israel without the prospect of a viable Palestinian state. According to author Craig Unger, it is virtually unthinkable that Scowcroft would have publicly spoken so critically of the Bush administration without the approval of Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, so Scowcroft’s statement has, in effect, put the two Bushes at loggerheads. Unger will write, “In effect, in their own constrained fashion, the father and son had drawn swords.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 209-211]

Entity Tags: Brent Scowcroft, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

President Bush faces a foreign affairs crisis he and his neoconservative advisers (see June 2001) had not anticipated. As promised, Bush had withdrawn from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and thrown US support wholly behind Israel (see January 30, 2001). Under the leadership of its new right-wing prime minister, Likud’s Ariel Sharon, Israeli troops had attacked Palestinians almost every day since February, killing civilians (including women and children) on a regular basis. Bush responded by blaming the Palestinians in general and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in particular for the violence. But Bush is nonplussed when the US’s close ally and his family’s longtime friends, the Saudi royal family, publicly criticizes the US for its policy towards the conflict. As author Craig Unger writes, “In just five months as president… Bush had managed to jeopardize a relationship with an oil-rich ally of the United States, at a time when America was more profoundly dependent on foreign oil than ever.” Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, had even turned down an invitation to the White House the month before (see May 2001). In the months to follow, President Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, will help smooth over tensions between the Saudis and his son, to the great embarrassment of the younger Bush, who doesn’t like the perception that he needs his father to bail him out of anything. [Unger, 2007, pp. 209-211]

Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ariel Sharon

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

President George H. W. Bush, with current President George W. Bush in the room with him, calls Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and assures him that his son’s “heart is in the right place” on the Palestinian question and other issues of concern to the Saudis. Bush Jr. had apparently upset the Arabs with his pro-Israeli stance towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Briody, 2003] When this phone call is first reported by the New York Times, it sets off alarms among the neoconservatives who quickly take to the opinion pages warning the administration against siding with the Arabs. [Wall Street Journal, 8/2/2001; Boston Globe, 1/13/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah writes to President Bush saying that the administration’s increasingly pro-Israel stance with regard to the Palestinians and other issues is putting the Saudis in a very difficult position. The prince warns that Saudi Arabia may need to reassess its relations with the United States. Bush immediately responds by promising a new, more balanced initiative for peace in the Middle East, including support for a Palestinian state. But the new American initiative will be derailed by the events of September 11. [BBC, 11/9/2001; Tel Aviv Notes, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Prince Bandar and President Bush meet at Bush’s ranch in August, 2002.Prince Bandar and President Bush meet at Bush’s ranch in August, 2002. [Source: Associated Press]Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is due to arrive in Houston, Texas, to meet with President Bush at his ranch in nearby Crawford, Texas. Abdullah’s entourage is so large that it fills eight airplanes. As these planes land, US intelligence learns that one person on the flight manifests is wanted by US law enforcement, and two more are on a terrorist watch list. An informed source will later claim that the FBI is ready to “storm the plane and pull those guys off.” However, the State Department fears an international incident. An interagency conflict erupts over what to do. The Wall Street Journal will report in 2003, “Details about what happened to the three men in the end are not entirely clear, and no one at [the State Department] was willing to provide any facts about the incident. What is clear, though, is that the three didn’t get anywhere near Crawford, but were also spared the ‘embarrassment’ of arrest. And the House of Saud was spared an ‘international incident.’” [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003] The next day, Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, reports his passport stolen to Houston police. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] This confirms that Basnan is in Houston on the same day that Crown Prince Abdullah, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Saudi US Ambassador Prince Bandar meet with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Adviser Rice at Bush’s Crawford ranch. [US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, 4/25/2002] While in Texas, it is believed that Basnan “met with a high Saudi prince who has responsibilities for intelligence matters and is known to bring suitcases full of cash into the United States.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; Guardian, 11/25/2002] The still-classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry is said to discuss the possibility of Basnan meeting this figure at this time. [Associated Press, 8/2/2003] It is unknown if Basnan and/or the Saudi prince he allegedly meets have any connection to the three figures wanted by the FBI, or even if one or both of them could have been among the wanted figures. Basnan will be arrested in the US for visa fraud in August 2002, and then deported two months later (see August 22-November 2002).

Entity Tags: Osama Basnan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nawaf Alhazmi, Saud al-Faisal, US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Condoleezza Rice, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Bandar bin Sultan, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Khalid Almihdhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry he co-chairs later will uncover a CIA memo written on this date. The author of the memo writes about hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and concludes that there is “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi government.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 169] Apparently, this memo will be discussed in the completely censored section of the Inquiry’s final report that deals with foreign government involvement in the 9/11 plot (see August 1-3, 2003). Osama Basnan, one of the key players in a suspected transfer of funds from the Saudi government to these two hijackers, is arrested in the US a few weeks after this memo is written, but he will be deported two months after that (see August 22-November 2002).

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Central Intelligence Agency, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and his wife are arrested for visa fraud. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] One report says he is arrested for allegedly having links to Omar al-Bayoumi. [Arab News, 11/26/2002] On October 22, Basnan and his wife, Majeda Dweikat, admit they used false immigration documents to stay in the US. [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 10/22/2002] Possible financial connections between Basnan and al-Bayoumi, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, and the Saudi royal family are known to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (as well as the FBI and CIA) at this time. Remarkably, Basnan is deported to Saudi Arabia on November 17, 2002. His wife is deported to Jordan the same day. [Washington Post, 11/24/2002] Less than a week after the deportations, new media reports make Basnan a widely known suspect. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002]

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Osama Basnan, Central Intelligence Agency, Omar al-Bayoumi, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Majeda Dweikat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gunmen attack the offices of the US oil company ABB Lummus Global Inc. in the port of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. Six Westerners and a Saudi are killed. All four gunmen are killed in a subsequent shootout. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attack. [BBC, 12/6/2004] Three of the gunmen apparently worked at the company and used their entry passes to gain access for the attack. [BBC, 5/31/2004]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Following an attack on an oil company’s office in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, in which six Westerners were killed (see May 1, 2004), Saudi officials say Israel played a role in the attacks. Crown Prince Abdullah, who will become king in 2005 (see August 1, 2005), says he is 95 percent sure “that Zionism is behind everything.” Foreign Minister Prince Saud says it is “well known” that Saudi dissidents based in London “have contacts and are financed by parties that are linked to Israel.” Although such allegations have been made before, this is the first time a figure as senior as Crown Prince Abdullah has repeated them. The suspected mastermind behind the attacks, Mustafa al-Ansari, was a member of the London-based Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR) in the mid-1990s. However, prominent Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Massari, who founded the CDLR, dismisses the accusations of Israeli support. Newsweek notes that, “No evidence of such links has ever been made public,” and another prominent dissident, Saad al-Fagih, comments, “This is like saying George Bush is sponsoring bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 5/4/2004; Newsweek, 5/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohammed al-Massari, Mustafa al-Ansari, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Saud al-Faisal, Saad al-Fagih

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

King Abdullah.King Abdullah. [Source: White House]King Fahd of Saudi Arabia dies of old age. As expected, Fahd’s half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah replaces him as king. Abdullah had been de facto ruler of the country since 1995, when King Fahd suffered a stroke (see Late 1995). Fahd had ruled the country since 1982. [BBC, 8/1/2005; CNN, 8/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US since 1983, steps down and is replaced by Prince Turki al-Faisal. It is said that Prince Bandar had been suffering health problems and is not close to the new Saudi King Abdullah (see August 1, 2005). Prince Turki was Saudi intelligence minister from the late 1970s until about one week before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001). Then he served three years as Saudi ambassador to Britain. Prince Turki has had a controversial past. He was considered a mentor to bin Laden, and encouraged him to represent Saudi Arabia in the Afghanistan war against the Soviet Union. There are allegations that Prince Turki took part in a series of secret meetings between bin Laden and the Saudis over a period of many years (see Summer 1991; May 1996; Spring 1998; June 1998; July 1998; July 4-14, 2001). There are also allegations that he went falcon hunting in Afghanistan with bin Laden during much of the 1990s (see 1995-2001). In the wake of his appointment as ambassador, US officials try to downplay his past. One unnamed US official says, “Yes, he knew members of al-Qaeda. Yes, he talked to the Taliban. At times he delivered messages to us and from us regarding Osama bin Laden and others. Yes, he had links that in this day and age would be considered problematic, but at the time we used those links.” The official adds that Prince Turki seems to have “gotten out of that business” since 2001 and “he understands that times have changed.” He was sued in 2002 by a group of 9/11 victims’ relatives for allegedly supporting al-Qaeda, but his name was dropped from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see August 15, 2002). [New York Times, 7/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Bandar bin Sultan, Al-Qaeda, Turki al-Faisal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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