The United States has sent a tough message to Saudi
Arabia that did not rule out abandoning the kingdom's oil sector.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has warned that Americans
would not stay in Saudi Arabia unless the kingdom takes significant steps to
protect them. The officials said the warning came in wake of the Al Qaida
beheading of Lockheed Martin engineer Paul Johnson on June 18.
Fewer than 30,000 Americans live in Saudi Arabia, with
many of them working in the defense and oil sectors. More than 5,000
were said to have left the kingdom over the last year and many more were
planning to leave for the summer.
"It could have an effect [on the Saudi oil industry]," State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher said. "Saudi authorities, as commendable as their
overall effort is, have not yet been able to stop the terrorists to the
point that everybody doesn't have to worry anymore."
U.S. officials said despite its assurances, the Saudi government has not
carried out a comprehensive upgrade in efforts to protect U.S. nationals in
the kingdom. They said many Saudi-owned companies have failed to take
significant steps to protect their facilities and Americans from Al Qaida
On June 20, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Richard
Lugar issued the most specific warning to Riyad. Lugar, a Republican close
to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that unless Saudi Arabia provides
better protection to Americans "they're in deep trouble with regard to the
FBI and State Department counterterrorism experts have been in Saudi
Arabia helping authorities track Al Qaida insurgents. The U.S. team
was said to have been instrumental in the operation that tracked and killed
Al Qaida chief Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin and three of his aides on June 18.