U.S. must reduce need for Saudi oil

Posted: Monday, December 09, 2002

Like a long marriage, the U.S.-Saudi relationship is full of compromise and accommodation -- and of persistent conflict that, by necessary agreement, isn't much mentioned till it flares into crisis.

In the American view, Riyadh could take a more enlightened view of human rights, particularly women's rights. A more vigorous role in promoting Arab-Israeli peace would be appreciated, too.

More critical is the Saudi government's willingness to shelter Islamic extremists and to ignore, if not enable, a steady flow of funds from Saudi citizens, businesses and charities to al-Qaida and other terror groups. The royal family's bargain with Wahhabi imams -- we'll endorse your theology so long as you don't challenge our right to rule -- has always been repellent, and with the Sept. 11 attacks became intolerable.

To maintain a posture of patience, Washington paints the Saudis as a ''good partner'' in the war on terrorism and as a moderate, stable ally in a region where we badly need such. But everyone knows this marriage would be far different if not for oil. ...

These are among the reasons why keeping the peace with Saudi Arabia has been such good business, if not particularly noble politics. And they're prime reasons why Americans must start seeing energy security not only as a question of diversifying our suppliers, but also as an imperative to reduce oil imports through aggressive investment in conservation, efficiency and renewable domestic energy sources.

-- Star Tribune, Minneapolis - Dec. 2

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