Riyadh's War on Terror Bites Back
Date: Thursday, November 13 @ 16:44:06 UTC
Topic: Saudi Arabia

by Robert Fisk, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Osama bin Laden has an awful lot of friends in Saudi Arabia. In the mosque, among the disenchanted youth, among the security forces, even -- and this is what the West declines to discuss -- within the royal family. Saudi ambassadors routinely dismiss these facts as "unfounded" but Saturday's devastating attack in the capital, Riyadh, is part of a growing insurrection against bin Laden's enemies in the House of Saud.

Whether or not the bombers were members of the Saudi security forces -- they were certainly wearing Saudi military uniforms -- the Riyadh government's own version of the "war on terror" is now provoking bombings, gun battles and killings almost every day in the kingdom. The 11 dead were all apparently Muslims, most of them expatriate workers.

The enemies of the House of Saud want to make the kingdom ungovernable, just as the United States' enemies in Iraq want to make U.S. occupation ineffective. Iraqis are still the principal victims of the bombings in Baghdad, just as Saudis were the principal victims Saturday night.

It's clear that after years of procrastination, the Saudi authorities are passing on some of their own intelligence to the United States. For once, the latest warning from Washington -- that al-Qaida's next attack was moving from the "theoretical" to the "operational" stage -- was spot on the mark. But the Saudi royal family -- that part of it that is still desperate for U.S. assistance -- provided plenty of reasons during the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq this year for their Arab enemies to attack them.

For although they publicly maintained that the United States would not use Saudi military facilities during the war, they quietly allowed the Americans to direct 2,700 air sorties a day from the huge Prince Sultan Air Base. Far more damaging, they even gave secret permission for 200 U.S. combat aircraft at the base to fly 700 combat missions over Iraq daily.

The Jordanians suspect that the bombing of their embassy in Baghdad this summer was retaliation for a secret military operation in which 26 U.S. F/A-18 fighter bombers flew missions from a Jordanian air base to bomb Iraqi air force facilities that might be capable of firing missiles at Israel.

So, Crown Prince Abdullah, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, must be feeling some frightening winds blowing across the Saudi desert this winter. For by a weird coincidence, bin Laden's principal aim to destroy the royal family is shared by the American right wing. When Laurent Murawiec, the friend of the then U.S. defense policy board chairman Richard Perle, gave his odd but damning assessment of Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States and the "Kernel of Evil" he might have been a spokesman for bin Laden.

Murawiec, a somewhat mysterious figure who works with the Rand Corp. and has been an executive editor of Executive Intelligence Revue (owned by Lyndon La Rouche Jr.), presented a slide show to the Pentagon last year with titles that included "taking 'Saudi' out of Arabia." He claimed that since 1745, 58 percent of all Saudi rulers have met a violent demise, that Saudis are seen by other Arabs as "lazy, overbearing, dishonest, corrupt" and that they are "active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheer leader."

There persists in Washington the suspicion the Saudi royal family is still trying to compromise with the country's religious hierarchy and with its al-Qaida enemies. The Pentagon and the CIA, for example, remain angry that Saudi clerics allegedly named on one of bin Laden's videotapes as supporting the 9/11 attacks are still preaching freely in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden's messages are still laced with venom for the House of Saud. Indeed, his original -- and still most important -- aim is to do what Murawiec demanded: to take the "Saudi" out of Arabia.

Now it looks as if his erstwhile protectors have abandoned him when his side of the royal family is in far greater peril. Could this be true? Could the Americans sit back and watch al-Qaida take over the nation's oil wells?

There are those in the House of Saud who take a particularly fearful view of U.S. policy. In the past, they say, Americans could sit in Saudi Arabia and seize the Iraqi oil fields whenever they chose to cross the border. Now they are in Iraq, they can -- in the event of a revolution -- just drive in the other direction and seize the oil fields in northern Saudi Arabia, leaving Riyadh and other cities to whichever Arabian ruler takes control.

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent UK.

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