politics, history and the war on terror
Monday, August 09, 2004
Friends for now 

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan illustrate the difficult decisions the United States faces when fighting the War on Terror. It is easy to argue that these two nations, along with Iran and Syria, are the fount of Islamic terrorism throughout the world. Saudi Arabia is the home of the radical Islamist ideology of Wahhabism, the ideology espoused by al Qaeda, which it has exported throughout the world. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of the 9-11 attacks were Saudis. Saudi princes and charities have been financing al Qaeda. Pakistan's intelligence service supported Afghanistan’s government of the Taliban, the host of al Qaeda, as well as supporting Kashmiri terrorists groups intimately linked to al Qaeda. Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan tolerate and fund madrassas, some of which are used by radical Islamists to indoctrinate Muslim youth into hating the West.

After 9-11, President Bush issued the much-derided challenge to the nations of the world, "Every nation will have a choice to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have made strides to be with us, and are assisting with the hunt for al Qaeda.


Pakistan is responsible for the arrests of upwards to a thousand al Qaeda terrorists, including Abu Zubaydah, the former operations chief of the al Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramsi Binalshibh, masterminds of 9-11 and senior al Qaeda operatives. After several assassination attempts on President Musharraf’s life, Pakistan took the domestic al Qaeda threat seriously, and this spring it initiated two offensives into its Western autonomous tribal regions to rout out al Qaeda operatives and supporting tribes. This past month, Pakistan netted several senior al Qaeda leaders that lead to heightened security alerts as well as further arrests:

In late July, Pakistan arrested two high level al Qaeda operatives, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (bomb maker of the Kenya and Tanzania embassy attacks in 1998) and Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. Both have lead to a wealth of information on planned terror attacks in the United States and Britain. The high alert status in the United States, which warns of attacks against financial targets in New York City, New Jersey and Washington, DC. The intelligence used to warn of these attacks was confirmed from a recent source separate from Ghailani and Khan, making allegations that the information was old or trumped up dishonest at best. Al Qaeda has a history of planning attacks over long periods of time. Britain has broken up an al Qaeda cell of 13 members, including the a leader of al Qaeda in Britain, Abu Musa al-Hindi, based on the interrogation of Naeem Noor Khan. It is believed the cell was planning to attack London's Heathrow airport.
These arrests have lead to even more intelligence, including new information on al Qaeda plans to attack the United States.

Separately, a senior American intelligence official said that more than 1,000 computer disks had been seized by British authorities during arrests last week of 12 suspected operatives for Al Qaeda in England. The seized files are now being subjected to intensive analysis by British and American intelligence, but they appear to contain evidence of previously unknown terrorist planning activities in the United States, the official said. As a result, Bush administration officials are preparing for the possibility of expanded public and private threat alerts.
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been fighting it own local War on Terror, a string of attacks that began in May of 2003. As a result of al Qaeda’s offensive, Saudi Arabia has decided to cooperate with the United States in hunting the terror organization.

After years of giving tacit support and back-channel financing to Islamic extremists, the Saudi government has joined forces with the United States in an intensive battle against Al Qaeda in the desert kingdom. For the last year, U.S. intelligence analysts have been sitting side by side with their Saudi counterparts at a secret location here in the capital, sharing raw intelligence and plotting counterattacks, said a former U.S. ambassador to the country, Robert Jordan, and a senior Saudi government official.

Even critics who accuse the Saudis of turning a blind eye to militant Islamic terrorism in the past — and who remain skeptical about the extent of their cooperation — agreed that Saudi security forces were taking the Al Qaeda threat seriously and responding forcefully. The government's abrupt change of strategy came after a string of suicide bombings, shooting rampages and a beheading by the Al Qaeda terrorist network in Saudi Arabia in the last 15 months. The strikes have killed more than 100 people, most of them foreigners, and have threatened to cause political instability for the world's largest oil producer.

Where do they stand?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s contributions in hunting down al Qaeda are commendable, and demonstrate the wisdom of challenging nations to cooperate in fighting terrorism after 9-11. Currently these nations are more valuable as allies than as enemies, and their cooperation opens the door for further cooperation in the future. Along with hunting al Qaeda, these nations have provided other assistance in the War on Terror. Pakistan’s cooperation allowed us to defeat the Taliban and maintain a presence in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia provided assistance with defeating Iraq.

The nature of these two regimes must not be forgotten, however. Pakistan is a military dictatorship run by Pervez Musharraf (it has a democratically elected assembly which is still in existence), while Saudi Arabia is a monarchy run by the House of Saud. Both of these regimes have a history of human rights abuses and suppressing the freedoms of their peoples. We must not allow their cooperation to cloud our judgment about these nations; they are allies of convenience at the moment, just as the Soviet Union was an ally in the defeat of Nazi Germany. We must demand internal reform from these nations, as governmental support of radical ideologies is a real root cause of terrorism. Pakistan has the foundation to return to a full democratically elected government, has appointed a new prime minister and has worked to purge its military and intelligence services of al Qaeda and Islamist influence. Saudi Arabia is a tougher case, but small steps are going forward, including financial reforms for charities and local elections this upcoming September. The Middle East Partnership Initiative is designed to provide assistance and incentives for Middle Eastern nations to reform from within and can play a roll in these nation's development.

A common misunderstanding about the War on Terror is that it is limited to fighting and destroying al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is merely the most prominent enemy we currently face. The war also entails preventing the proliferation of WMD as well as opposing nations that shelter and support terrorists. Victory in the war will not be achieved until the cultures that breed the totalitarian ideologies that create the likes of al Qaeda and Hezbollah are reformed. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in hunting al Qaeda grants them immunity in this round of the war, but until they change the fundamental problems in their cultures that leads to the creation of terrorists, they cannot and should not be considered full partners in the War on Terror.

Posted by bill roggio @ 11:23 PM