Special Report: Victimizing the Saudis?
Vol: 22 Issue: 31 Thursday, July 31, 2003
Until recently, according to the US government, Saudi Arabia has quietly provided some assistance to the US war on terror. But at the same time, in an effort to quell its anti-American Wahhabi Islamist population, the House of Saud heavily criticizes American foreign policy. And the regime has been reluctant to allow Americans to participate in any investigations inside Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers.
There is an effort to portray the attacks on Riyadh on May 12 as Saudi Arabia’s September 11.
“May 12 to Saudi Arabia was what 9/11 was to the US,” says Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on terrorism and author of “Inside Al Qaeda.” “No government will target a terrorist group unless and until it perceives that the group is posing a direct and immediate threat to it.”
More spin. Equating the 35 deaths in Riyadh (8 of whom were Americans) to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, together with the passengers of Flight 93, plus loss of four passenger planes filled with terrified passengers is like comparing the sinking of the Titanic with the loss of a rowboat on Lake Erie.
In any case, by portraying the Riyadh attacks to September 11 gives Saudi spin doctor Nail al-Jubeir a chance to say, “we are victims, too.” The fact is that the Saudis are taking a more proactive role in the war on terror, but not because they are new converts to a kinder, gentler Islam. They are taking a more proactive role because America isn’t buying the ‘victim’ story. And the House of Saud is getting worried.
The administration, for reasons not yet clear, is refusing to release 28 pages that allegedly implicate the Saudi government to 9/11. And it DOES makes it look like the administration is protecting the Islamic kingdom.
For that reason, the Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with President Bush to ask him to declassify the redacted portions. Bush refused, citing concerns that releasing the information would expose US intelligence gathering methods.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld went further, saying that releasing the information would be the equivalent of signing the ‘death warrants’ of ‘certain persons’ that declassifying the documents would expose.
It would appear that Saudi Arabia is emerging as the administration’s top political liability.
A Senate hearing today exploring Saudi financing of terrorism will focus on several Muslim charities that are closely linked to members of the Saudi royal family, groups that are also cited in classified sections of a Congressional report on the September 2001 hijacking.
The New York Times says one of those named is Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s powerful interior minister and a brother of King Fahd.
The Times cited ‘sources’ that say the redacted portion of the report concludes that senior Saudi government officials helped finance terrorist groups through charitable organizations and individuals.
Prince Nayef’s responsibilities involve regulating Saudi charities.
For at least the last month, the Treasury Department and other federal agencies have been pressing Saudi officials to monitor closely bank accounts designated for relief aid to Palestinians, according to the Times.
The accounts in question are known in Saudi Arabia as “‘Account 98” funds the designation Saudi regulators use for money destined for Palestinian charitable works. Similar accounts exist for Saudi money allegedly intended for needy Muslims in other parts of the world, like Bosnia and Chechnya.
Prince Nayef oversees the Saudi Committee for the Support of Al Quds Intifada, which provides aid to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers through specially designated bank accounts. According to Arab News, a Saudi daily, a single telethon early last year raised about $112 million for Al Quds.
While I have some serious questions about the Bush administration and its relationship with the Saudis, al-Qaeda’s war against the United States and Saudi support of terror didn’t begin with September 11.
The World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993. Saudi incitement of terror was well documented throughout the 1990’s.
The Khobar Towers were bombed INSIDE Saudi Arabia in 1996 and US investigators were stonewalled consistently by the Saudi government.
In 1998, al-Qaeda bombed the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Did anybody notice that all took place in the PREVIOUS administration? And absolutely no action was taken by that administration against the Saudis.
Most of what the Senate is investigating took place on the previous watch, but it is ALL being piled on the current administration.
As I said, I have some serious questions about the way the current adminstration is dealing with the Saudis. But while terrorists declared war on America one year into the Clinton administration, we did nothing for eight more years.
The bulk of the Senate investigation focuses on the events leading up to September 11, 2001. The war was eight years old, the Bush administration had been in office for a year and a half. That’s reality, not a defense of the administration.
I don’t know what is in those redacted documents, or how they will impact the administration’s plans. I DO know the Saudis wanted the information made public and Bush refused. And that it made the Saudis mad.
The spin doctors and the agenda-weavers are still reworking the facts, but it is clear that there is more here than meets the eye.
It isn’t ALL oil politics.