Catching Saudi Arabia Red-Handed

“We believe that our country has been unfairly maligned,” said Saudi spokesman Adel
al-Jubeir at a notorious press conference last December. “We believe that we have been subjected to criticism that we do not deserve.”

He gave the Saudis’ strongest avowal yet that they are really on our side in the war against terrorism: “We will be vigilant. We will be determined. And we will be merciless when it comes to dealing with terrorism and those who perpetrate it.”

Al-Jubeir is a master of obfuscation and posturing, but if Dore Gold’s new book had been available at the time of that press conference, it’s unlikely that even he would have been able to dodge the bullet and explain away all the evidence Gold marshals of the Kingdom’s involvement in terror operations.

Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, a book that administers the coup de grace to any lingering notion that the Saudis might actually be working in harmony with American interests.

It’s really not surprising, given the riches of the House of Saud and the fanaticism of the Wahhabi Islam to which they adhere, that the Saudis would turn out to be, as Gold puts it, “up to their necks in financing terrorism.”

Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, details discoveries by Israeli intelligence indicating hundreds of thousands of dollars going to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, with some of it funneled through Saudi-funded American Muslim organizations. The Saudis have also given considerable sums to the families of suicide bombers.

But Gold also notes the Saudi reaction when these discoveries were made public: instead of apologizing for the connection and vowing to clean up their act, they hid behind the smoke screen of claiming that the charges were a smoke screen: “These allegations,” huffed Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, “are a smoke screen intended to distract attention away from the peace process. . . . Israel wants to discredit Saudi Arabia, which has been a leading voice for peace.” And they sent the slick al-Jubeir, a master of media manipulation, to cloud the issues still further.
Gold reproduces actual documents revealing Saudi complicity with terrorists; some of these are quite chilling in their bland acceptance of horrific acts as deeds of Islamic heroism.

Even more illuminating may be his exploration of Wahhabi Islam, the violent, terror-friendly subsect that controls the Kingdom. He traces the history of Wahhabism and shows how it came to dominate the Arabian peninsula despite attempts by colonial powers and other Muslims to eradicate it.

Most ominously, Gold gives evidence of how the Saudis are now aggressively exporting their fanatical brand of Islam all over the world. They’re meeting with great success, even in the United States.

As long ago as 1999, the Sufi Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani told a State Department Open Forum on religious extremism that “the problem with our communities is the extremist ideology. Because they are very active they took over the mosques; and we can say that they took over more than 80% of the mosques that have been established in the US. And there are more than 3,000 mosques in the US.” (Some small comfort may come from the fact that Kabbani added: “So it means that the methodology or ideology of extremist has been spread to 80% of the Muslim population, but not all of them agree with it.”)

The prominent American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad has explained how the Saudis gain control of American mosques. “In Saudi Arabia it’s the Wahhabi school of thought . . . and they say, ‘We’re gonna give you our money, then we want you to . . . prefer our school of thought.'”

He says that he himself took this money at one time: “Well, I don’t receive any money now, but I have received some and I lost it . . . because I suspected some strings were attached. I said I can’t accept this kind of relationship. They were choosing my friends for me, too. The enemy of the friends who were giving me money was supposed to be my enemy, too.” Unfortunately, he is in a minority among American Muslim groups in refusing Saudi money.

Oil, of course, has played a huge role in Saudi Arabia’s ability to finance terror operations and spread militant Islam worldwide, but not the one you might expect-at least initially.

According to Gold, the Kingdom’s new prominence as a worldwide oil supplier led it to moderate its Islamic extremism. Western clients wanted to do business with a respectable state. But cataclysmic events in the 1970s, including the assassination of Saudi King Faisal, the fall of the Shah of Iran and the seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979 by Saudi dissidents, caused the Wahhabis to reassert themselves.

One of the chief results has been the worldwide growth of Islamic terrorist organizations-and the steadily increasing unreliability of Saudi Arabia as a United States ally.

Has Saudi Arabia even supported al-Qaeda? Gold recounts Sudan’s 1996 offer to hand over Osama bin Laden to the Saudis. “High-level U.S. intelligence officials,” he says, “became convinced that Saudi Arabia had struck a deal with bin Laden.” He quotes Dick Ganon, the former director of operations o the State Department Office of Counterterrorism: “We’ve got information about who’s backing bin Laden, and in a lot of cases it goes back to the royal family.”

According to Gold, at least “two Saudi princes were channeling funds to bin Laden,” and “a senior source in the Clinton Administration believed that the Saudis began making regular payments to bin Laden in 1995-the year the National Guard Headquarters was struck.” By 1998, bin Laden was using Saudi Arabia as a major base of al-Qaeda operations, although he never bit the hand that fed him and attacked the Kingdom itself.

Were the Saudis actively funding al-Qaeda operations, or just buying protection for the Kingdom? Gold gives evidence that the Saudis were “paying a ransom to be left alone,” telling terrorists (with notable disregard for the Kingdom’s position as a chief American ally) that “your fight is with the United States, not with us.” In the end, it amounts to the same thing: the terrorists get their financing.

Gold concludes his book by declaring that “Saudi Arabia must be forced to make a choice.” In Hatred’s Kingdom he makes the best case ever for the fact that this choice is long overdue. The United States and its allies have already suffered grievously from the consequences of this choice not having been made.

If the Bush Administration really wants to eradicate terrorism once and for all, sooner or later it is going to have to deal realistically and forthrightly with the evidence that Gold lays out in this book-and with the implications of that evidence for our nation’s future relationship with the House of Saud.