politics, history and the war on terror
Sunday, May 30, 2004
With friends like Saudis.... 

The loyalties of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in relation to the War on Terror remains an open question after almost three years after al Qaeda's attack on America on 9/11. Saudi Arabia appears to be straddling the fence in the War on Terror: hunting al Qaeda terrorists, cooperating with America in shutting down terror finances and cooperating with intelligence and staging for the Iraq war while at the same time condoning radical Wahhabi clerics, financing and facilitating anti-American fighter's travel into Iraq and turning a blind eye to terror financing.

This Saturday, Saudi Arabia was again attacked by fist of al Qaeda in the city of Khobar:

The militants sprayed gunfire at Western oil firms. Nine Saudis and seven foreigners, including two Westerners, were killed before the militants holed up in a housing complex. The sources said the militants, armed with grenades and machineguns, had rigged a building in the luxury compound with explosives and were holding their hostages on the sixth floor. A large number of Westerners were among the hostages, including Americans, the security sources said.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, the defacto ruler of the Kingdom, has harsh words for the terrorists:

"We will continue to chase this deviant group until we eradicate them."

The Saudi's War on Terror

Attacks such as this have become commonplace in the Saudi Kingdom over the past year. Al Qaeda's offensive began in May of 2003, when it executed a coordinated attack by suicide teams against three compounds housing foreigners in Riyadh, the capital of the Saudi Kingdom, killing thirty five and wounding hundreds. Throughout the summer and fall of 2003 there were numerous clashes between Saudi security forces and al Qaeda members, including two in holy city of Mecca. In November of 2003, they struck again, this time attacking diplomatic compounds in Riyadh, killing seventeen Muslims from foreign countries. Last month, al Qaeda bombed a Riyadh police station, killing four and wounding several hundred. Earlier this month, a petroleum company's headquarters was attacked in the city of Yanbu.

The US Department of State's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 report states that Saudi Arabia has been a full partner in the war on terror, and has cracked down on al Qaeda within the Kingdom, reformed the financial system, prevented cash contributions to charities to better track monies, and begun to combat the ideology of radical Islamist terror organizations. Also, the Saudis aided the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom allowing basing, command centers, flight operations, search and rescue operations, Special Operations staging and low cost fuel. While this was not advertised due to political sensitivities within the Kingdom, the actions were vital to the success of the Iraq war.

The Saudi's Support of Terror

Saudi Arabia's state sponsored religion is Wahhabism, a radical and intolerant form of Sunni Islam which does not view other sects of Islam as believers, and is hostile to other religions. Osama bin Laden and his followers are Wahhabis. Clerics at government sponsored mosques preach Wahhabi ideology and the ideology is exported throughout the world. Saudi children are taught Jews and Christians are not human and the world must be converted to Islam. After the attack in early May, crown prince Abdullah blamed Zionists for the attack and for supporting al Qaeda. And Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef, blamed Jews for the 9/11 attacks.

The 9/11 Report - Joint Congressional Inquiry apparently claims Saudi Arabia was "less than cooperative" in the fight against terrorism. These accusations cannot be confirmed or denied at this time as the twenty eight pages of the report related to foreign activity sponsoring 9/11 hijackers was censored for security reasons. However it must be noted that Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan objected to the censorship of the report as he stated this will only cause more doubt about the Saudi's involvement with 9/11.

The most recent example of Saudi Arabia's support of terrorism is the actions taken in neighboring Iraq against American troops:

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom anxious at the prospect of Iraq's majority Shiites taking control from longtime Sunni rulers, stands accused of allowing Sunni radicals to infiltrate across a porous border to help resist both the US and Shiite advances. "Traditionally the Saudis need a release valve to take the pressure of the radical Islamists off of their internal affairs, and recently Iraq has served as that release," says Matthew Levitt, a former Mideast counterterrorism expert for the FBI now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "We need the Saudis to do more about controlling their border."
Mr. Jabar, the Iraqi, agrees, noting that a Saudi intelligence official recently told him that the Saudis view the promotion of Wahhabism in Iraq - the form of the Sunni practice that is Saudi Arabia's state religion - as the only way to head off a complete Shiite takeover. "I told them my view that this is the shortest way to disaster," Jabar says, "but the flow of money and influence continues."

Friend, Enemy or Both?

Saudi Arabia's contributions to the War on Terror are difficult to ignore, as they captured or killed hundreds (approaching thousands) of al Qaeda operatives within their country, supported America in the Iraq war and assisted with intelligence abroad. However, the continued promotion of the Wahhabi ideology, the naked hatred for Israel and the support of the Iraqi resistance clearly outweigh the Saudis cooperation in the War on Terror. The real root cause of terror, the promotion and exportation of the corrupt Wahhabi ideology must be addressed before this war can be won. Saudi Arabia is a difficult problem to tackle, as significant support for the princes exists in Washington (on both sides of the aisle). The location of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, makes military action against the Saudi government dangerous. While the 'Arab street' has been silent against American actions in the Middle East, an invasion of Saudi Arabia would at the least provoke a diplomatic backlash and withdraw of support and cooperation in the War on Terror in the Arab and Muslim world.

The solution to the Saudi problem lies in a combination of diplomatic and military pressure, domestic support of moderates within the kingdom, and the establishment of democracy in Iraq. The State Department must make is clear that the exportation of Wahhabi ideology will not be tolerated, and push hard for internal reforms in education, law and government. The US military in Iraq must increase patrols on the Saudi-Iraq border and eradicate any persons crossing the border with the intent to support the Iraqi insurgents. Moderates within the kingdom should be supported just as freedom fighters within the Eastern Europe were during the Cold War. Finally, the importance of establishing a stable democracy in Iraq, Saudi Arabia's neighbor, cannot be underestimated. The Saudi people will not wait forever while their neighbors to the north prosper. Freedom is contagious, and freedom and the Wahhabi ideology are not compatible.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:09 AM