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Nexus of evil
By Steven Martinovich
(April 29, 2002) - Perhaps the clearest sign that the world has changed since Sept. 11 is the level of criticism that the United States has had to endure even from long time ally Saudi Arabia. The latest escalation in the war of words came courtesy of a group of 113 Saudi intellectuals and writers on April 20 when they issued a statement declaring the United States and Israel are an axis of evil.
"We consider the United States and the current American administration the nurturer of international terrorism with distinction and it, along with Israel, form the axis of terrorism and evil in the world," said the statement. Going on, it also compared recent Israeli military actions against Palestinian terrorists as not differing "in shape or form from what the Nazis did."
That's strong language for a nation that only 10 years ago welcomed American soldiers after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait. Since then, however, the discontent that had long fomented in the lower classes has spread to the wealthy and even elements in King Fahd's extensive royal family. When combined with a growing drive among the middle class to boycott American products, Saudi Arabia is clearly a nation that is moving away from its long relationship with the United States.
This growing distance may also finally reveal what some people have believed for some time. Our obvious enemies are groups and nations like the Taliban, al-Qaida and Iraq but perhaps the West's greatest enemy of all may be Saudi Arabia. Unlike George W. Bush's famous "axis of evil," Saudi Arabia serves as the nexus of evil. As one of the wealthiest nations on the planet and one unafraid to use its money, it is responsible for much of the growing militancy in the Islamic world.
Clues about Saudi Arabia's role in propping up terrorist movements were evident just days after Sept. 11. Saudi Arabia only reluctantly supported America's war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and resisted completely Bush's request to use America's military bases there to launch attacks into Afghanistan.
Before then, it was long known that Saudi elites supported financially the Taliban since at least 1996. Before that Saudi money flowed into the extremist schools located in northern Pakistan which turned out students versed in the militant Islam favored by the Taliban, a twisted version of Islam which declared the United States and its secular values an enemy to Allah. Those students often went on to become the foot soldiers in the Taliban and al-Qaida armies.
Further back still is Saudi Arabia's continuing financial support for Muslim clerics who belong to the Wahhabi school of Islam. Wahhabism is a militantly puritan version of Islam founded in Saudi Arabia in the 1700s. Nearly all of Muslim suicide bombers belong to the Wahhabi strain of Islam, a strain supported financially by many in the Saudi elite.
As Stephen Schwartz wrote just 11 days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "The Saudis have played a double game for years, more or less as Stalin did with the West during the Second World War. They pretended to be allies in a common struggle against Saddam Hussein while they spread Wahhabi ideology everywhere Muslims are to be found, just as Stalin promoted an 'antifascist' coalition with the U.S. while carrying out espionage and subversion on American territory. The motive was the same: the belief that the West was or is decadent and doomed."
Although relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia remain cordial, it's become clear that a schism between the two allies is not far off. The war against terrorism, which is perhaps a more polite way of saying the war against radical Islam, is one that will eventually end in Saudi Arabia. The statement released by the intellectuals this past weekend likely wouldn't have seen the light of day without approval from the highest levels. It is, in essence, an unofficial press release by the Saudi government.
Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, put it best when he stated that "If the U.S. wants to do something about radical Islam, it has to deal with Saudi Arabia. The 'rogue states' [Iraq, Libya, etc.] are less important in the radicalization of Islam than Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the single most important cause and supporter of radicalization, ideologization, and the general fanaticization of Islam." The so-called 113 intellectuals sent us that message last weekend. Whether the West realizes that determines whether we make the same mistakes again.
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