Saudi Arabia: an Unreliable friend
in the war against Terrorism
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations departments
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
Published: The News Leader
(Staunton VA: June 2, 2002): A9
Since Prince Abdullah’s April visit at Pres. Bush’s Texas ranch much press comment has portrayed that things again are rosy in the U.S.- Saudi Arabian relationship. But at its foundations that relationship has fractured.
Most Americans know one overarching fact about Saudi Arabia: 15 of the 19 murderers on Sept. 11 were Saudis. While many Americans still draw a line between the bombers and the Saudi Government, some do not. A February 2002 poll showed 44% of Americans, and higher proportions of American women, believe Saudi Arabia itself to sponsor terrorism.
For the sake of continued oil supplies, our Government maintains otherwise when speaking in public. But if Egyptian Mohammed Atta and his co-conspirator Saudis truly were renegades, as the Prince and his Government have claimed, one would expect complete cooperation from the Saudi Government in our war on terrorism. That hasn’t happened. Indeed, if the Saudis were as helpful now as we were to them in 1990-91 (i.e., when we turned back Saddam’s Iraqi Army as it moved toward their oilfields), the U.S. would not need to build the new command center in Qatar we are building: Saudi Arabia has blocked use of airfields we built there. Saudi bases were unavailable for full U.S. use as we defeated the terrorist Taliban of Afghanistan; Saudi bases remain off limits as we prepare for stage two, the coming war on Iraq. Some friend.
Old friends sometimes disagree, it will be said. But unlike the Saudis who cut off oil shipments to the U.S. in 1973-74, we steadily have lived up to our 1947 commitment to defend Saudi national territory. Do genuine friends disagree nearly all the time? Does a friend block us from questioning their detainees who have killed Americans? The Saudis did just that regarding the bombers of our barracks at the Khobar Towers, June 25, 1996. Nineteen Americans died there.
The Saudi press, government owned and guided to suit state policy, compounds matters. Last Fall, the state-run newspaper ‘Ukkaz not only flatly denied involvement of Saudis in the Sept. 11 crimes, they viciously stated “our strong suspicions about the involvement of Israel's Mossad in the ugly crime.” On April 10, 2002, the Saudi government daily The Saudi Gazette headlined "U.S. military officials behind 9/11 attacks.” Serving as a mouthpiece for defamations against the U.S. and its allies while denying the proven involvement of its own citizens: some friend.
Saudi Arabia would like a different focus. So, last Fall, it would not allow the Gallup Poll ask Saudis who they thought responsible for the attack on the USA. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, BBC reported that 61% told Gallup they were sure Arabs had NOT conducted the attack. Such is the state of truth supplied by the state run presses of the Arab world! The same Gallup poll showed a slim 16% of Saudis to even have a positive view of the U.S. Things have not improved since last Fall. A clear majority (51%) of Saudis said they viewed negatively not just the government but the people of the U.S.; and 88% don’t like our Middle East policy, as reported in an April 2002 Zogby poll.
The Saudis pretend to abhor terrorism, and here much has been made of an apparent Middle East Peace Plan uttered by Prince Abdullah in March, and embraced later by the Arab League. But the Saudis’ apparent interest in peace, like their professed friendship toward the U.S., is another example of speaking out of two sides of the mouth. On April 1, the government-run daily, Al-Jazirah, praised homicide bomber “Abd Al-Baset Oudeh, mujaheed and martyr, the quiet hero”(1) who bombed a Passover Seder in Netanya, Israel, the event that broke the back of Israeli patience with Palestinian terrorism and led to Israel’s punishing blows against the terrorist infrastructure in April-May. Saudi involvement with the Palestinian homicide bombers, men and women who deliberately target Jewish civilians, continues. The state treasury finances Saudi religious charities; they in turn funnel funds directly to Hamas and other terrorist groups. Hamas, like the Iranian surrogate gang Hezbollah, targets both America and Israel.
Saudi state television runs telethons which fund recovery efforts for Palestinians and which also pay sums directly to the families of bombers, just as Saddam’s Iraqi Government pays such sums. Nor is all this unofficial: on Saturday April 13, in the London paper Al Hayat the Saudi Ambassador to Britain, Ghazi Algosaibi, published a poem praising the “martyr” Ayat Akhrasthe, an 18-year-old female homicide bomber of a supermarket. Saudi money rewarded her family for murder. Tellingly, Saudi Arabia has remained silent in the weeks after Pres. Bush requested all states in the region to condemn such homicide bombings.
Prince Abdullah, and the Saudi Royal Family have tried to evade these subjects but savvy Americans have wised up. Remember the $10 million dollar “gift” New York Mayor Guiliani sent back to one loudmouthed prince? That is the attitude Americans need to adopt toward Saudi Arabian lecturing about what we need to do differently in the Middle East. An American war to rid the world of international terrorism steadily moves forward. The facts show it clearly: in too many ways and far too often Saudi Arabia is on the wrong side.
notes:1. This item from the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Below is a scan of the original:
For further readings on related issues by Prof. Bowen, see Background on U.S. - Saudi relations here, and here. For a 2003 view on the meaning of the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Saudi Arabia, go here.
return to Prof. Bowen's War Links page
return to PolS 128 Supplements page
return to Prof. Bowen's homepage