Monday, June 21, 2004

More on Saudi Arabia

Here are some additional readings related to my earlier post on Saudi Arabia.

In the latest issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes about "The Saudi Trap":

This, then, is the paradox. Saudi officials claim that the militants have no support and yet constantly act as if they do. Officials cite a recent (secret) government poll that showed 49 percent support Osama bin Laden's ideas. They speak of the need to move "slowly and carefully." While still sensitive on this topic, educated Saudis will now admit that parts of their society have become dangerously extreme. At a meeting with prominent Saudi journalists and academics, most argued that several trends over the past 30 years had fueled this radicalism. During the 1950s and 1960s, other Arab governments like Egypt and Syria had expelled Islamic fundamentalists. The Saudis, as competitors to these regimes, welcomed the dissidents, who came with revolutionary ideas advocating pure Islamic states across the Middle East. The intellectuals also recalled that the revolution in Iran in 1979 rattled the royal family, who feared a rising tide of Islamism across the Middle East.

The Sunday LA Times has an article on the deals that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cut with al-Qaeda before 9/11:

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia helped set the stage for the Sept. 11 attacks by cutting deals with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden that allowed his Al Qaeda terrorist network to flourish, according to several senior members of the Sept. 11 commission and U.S. counter-terrorism officials.

The financial aid to the Taliban and other assistance by two of the most important allies of the United States in its war on terrorism date at least to 1996, and appear to have shielded them from Al Qaeda attacks within their own borders until long after the 2001 strikes, those commission members and officials said in interviews.

Finally, Wretchard at Belmont Club has a fascinating analysis of the impact of the American military response to September 11th. He argues persuasively that the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the jihadists to shift away from attacks on the United States, the "far enemy", and to focus on "apostate" regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan:

Yet from another perspective, this strategy constitutes a transformation from direct confrontation between Muslim and non-Muslim into a struggle within the fundamentalist heartland itself; it marks a tacit admission that America cannot be tipped into defeat by one or two spectacular blows. Whatever their shortcomings, the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have returned the battleground to its native soil. After all, terrorism was never going to be finally defeated in Iraq or Afghanistan for as long as its roots remained untouched in the KSA and Pakistan. It is there and Iran where the final conflict will be waged.

Read them all.


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