The CIA’s secret drone base in Saudi Arabia

On April 29, 2003, two days before George Bush’s famous “mission accomplished” speech declaring the end to major combat operations in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. The presence of these troops in the Islamic kingdom was one of the catalysts for 9/11.

An al Qaeda fatwa issued in 1998 had said: “for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.”

As we now learn that two years ago the Obama administration turned Saudi Arabia into a spearhead for its targeted killing operations across the region, it seems reasonable to wonder how long it might be before history repeats itself.

If two decades ago overseas military bases were the preeminent symbol of American domination, in much of the world now the most despised expression of American power is surely the drone.

The Washington Post reports: The Obama administration’s targeted-killing program has relied on a growing constellation of drone bases operated by the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command. The only strike intentionally targeting a U.S. citizen, a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.

The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the affiliate in Yemen is known. Brennan, who previously served as the CIA’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom.

The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.

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