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The Saudis lack accountability on terrorism

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted May 19, 2003

The corrupt Saudi leadership has a vicious “tiger by the tail” named al-Qaeda, a beast that they assiduously cultivated without compunction.

The heart of the matter is this – there is a palpable belief among many Americans that the ruling Saudi royals are a duplicitous bunch that cannot be trusted. And, despite Saudi Arabia’s public relations endeavors, there’s a sense that Saudi royals are profoundly entrenched in extremist ideology and in league with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations as money trails have demonstrated. That said, even prior Saudi funding of al-Qaeda is indicative of complicity in heinous deeds, including the 9-11 attacks upon New York City and Washington, DC. Despite reports that al-Qaeda financing is being systematically cut-off as a consequence of the “war on terrorism”, recent al-Qaeda activities raise questions about its current funding sources. Just how much Saudi money is still making its way to the al-Qaeda group?

The Saudi royals are truly caught in a web of their own making, resulting in conflicting pressures from both America and terror groups. Clearly, the Saudis want to keep the money and oil flowing, and stay free from terror assaults as well. Although lavish Saudi monies nurtured al-Qaeda for many years, it won’t necessarily immunize Saudi Arabia from periodic attacks, especially if al-Qaeda intends to “up the ante” and extort more monies. It goes without saying that paying “protection money” to fanatics is fraught with all types of difficulties.

And, surprisingly, although the Saudi royals have been tremendous patrons of the al-Qaeda organization, the terror group actually harbors some significant resentment toward them, citing religious hypocrisy, business dealings with “infidels”, and the presence of American military personnel within Saudi Arabia (which will soon come to an end). Given this bit of bad blood, al-Qaeda has been known to occasionally bite the hand that feeds it, much to Saudi Arabia’s consternation.

Foreigners walk through the debris at al-Hamra compound, one of the three compounds that was attacked in recent coordinated terrorist strikes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 12
Foreigners walk through the debris at al-Hamra compound, one of the three compounds that was attacked in recent coordinated terrorist strikes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 12

Last week, residential housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were hit by a series of terror strikes orchestrated by al-Qaeda that killed at least 34 people and injured scores of others, including nine Americans, seven Saudis, and other nationals from the Philippines, Jordan, Australia, Ireland, Britain, Lebanon and Switzerland, as noted by a variety of media sources. American officials are particularly miffed that five requests to Saudi Arabia for increased security measures went unheeded. Unfortunately, Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan only exacerbated the issue when he asserted that the Saudis “did what was needed”, and they “came to the conclusion that they had adequate measures there” (5/15/03, New York Times). That was far from responsive to the concerns of American officials. And it only reinforced the notion that the Saudis cannot be relied upon to genuinely cooperate with this “war on terrorism”. Moreover, it’s a shame that even in the face of losing some of their own citizens, the Saudi royals are still reluctant to provide additional safeguards against radical elements.

One thing is now certain -- Al-Qaeda can’t be underestimated. Although approximately half of the al-Qaeda leadership has been methodically purged from the ranks (captured or killed) as trumpeted by American authorities, the terror group has adeptly re-organized and re-invigorated itself, thanks to a new generation of terrorists that is currently emerging. Specifically, al-Qaeda has involved itself in a string of recent overseas attacks that effectively exploited “soft targets” vulnerable to terrorism. They have reverted to suicide car and truck bombings, but with a new twist – Vehicles laden with explosives are ushered in by armed terrorists in separate carriers, ready to shoot their way past any check points or security. We should be prepared for further “low-tech, high-concept” multiple and simultaneous attacks that are the hallmark of al-Qaeda operations.

On the heels of the Riyadh attack, further terror bombings occurred in Casablanca, Morocco, killing approximately 41 people, with numerous others injured. Morocco, which is a pro-western constitutional monarchy, may very well have been singled out for al-Qaeda hits due to its collaborative efforts with US intelligence. Noteworthy, there have been recent terror strikes in both Pakistan and Chechnya that implicate al-Qaeda. Moreover, al-Qaeda is also believed to be operating within East Africa, possibly seeking to establish a foothold in Kenya.

With the billions in oil revenues that America and other western nations have given Saudi Arabia over they years, the Saudis have chosen to perpetrate evil rather than to ennoble themselves and promulgate good. The Saudis have been motivated by both practical and ideological reasons for their decisions. That said, despite all the Saudi money floating about, the ruling class has failed to sufficiently provide for its impoverished citizenry. Make no mistake, that “rage in the Arab streets” is a direct consequence of Saudi dictatorship and systematic oppression of its people. Moreover, to deflect from their inequities and to effectively scapegoat, the Saudi royals (in a unique power-sharing arrangement with the Wahabbi clerics) have diligently disseminated an ideology of hate derisively dubbed the “Wahabbi death cult”, which essentially casts America as the “Great Satan”, Israel as the “Little Satan” and other western societies as the root of all decadence in the world. Through front groups that pose as “charitable organizations”, the Saudi royals, and other wealthy Saudis, have funded al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and myriad other terrorist groups that are bent on annihilating all “infidels”, which include Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and even moderate Muslims -- essentially anyone that does not abide by the extremist and apocalyptic beliefs of the Wahabbi sect.

It’s fair to say that the Faustian bargain of “protection money” to al-Qaeda and other terror organizations will be Saudi Arabia’s undoing. It’s time that America and its allies insist that the Saudi royal family reform their ways and renounce all terror ties. Their highly dangerous and corrupt regime, which propagates hate and violence, is no longer acceptable.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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