Union Tribune

January 16, 2002

U.S. urged to quit its Saudi bases
  Sen. Levin also warns against Iraq strikes


WASHINGTON -- The Senate Armed Services Committee
chairman suggested yesterday that U.S. forces should leave their bases in Saudi Arabia because of that country's support for
fundamentalist Islamic groups and the restrictions it places on
U.S. operations and personnel.

"The situation in the Saudi base, it seems to me, is very unclear
now. We may need to move that base," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.,
said, referring to the huge Prince Sultan air base, the takeoff
point for most U.S. flights over Iraq.

Levin also cautioned against shifting the war on terrorism to
Iraq, warning that it could break the U.S.-led coalition that is
showing progress in reducing the global threat of terror.

"We still have our work to do in Afghanistan," he told defense

Osama bin Laden has cited the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia,
home to Islam's two holiest sites -- Mecca and Medina -- as the
reason for his terror attacks against U.S. interests.

Levin said the Saudis "have had trouble" with the visibility of
Americans and moved the U.S. forces to Prince Sultan, a remote
desert base, from the Dhahran air base, which is in a populous

But U.S. officials supported the move to the desert for security
reasons after a truck bomb attack killed 19 service personnel at
Khobar Towers, near the Dhahran base.

"Women are not comfortable" with conditions in Saudi Arabia,
Levin said, referring to Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally, a
fighter pilot who has flown combat missions over Iraq from
Prince Sultan. McSally is suing the Defense Department to end
the requirement that U.S. servicewomen wear a head-to-toe
covering worn by Muslim women when they leave the base.