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Ending the Saudi Double Game By: Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 23, 2005

When American soldiers raided jihadist hideouts in northeastern Iraq this week, they found a number of foreign passports, including two from Saudi Arabia. Several weeks ago the Syrians arrested 300 Saudis before they could cross into Iraq and join the jihad against America. These are just two more bits of evidence that loyalties continue to be divided in Saudi Arabia — underscoring the urgency of the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2005, which was introduced in the Senate recently by Senator Arlen Specter. The Saudis have been playing a double game since 9/11, maintaining their alliance with the U.S. while aiding the jihad worldwide; now Specter and the bill’s other sponsors are trying to put a stop to the duplicity.

This Act is intended to “halt Saudi support for institutions that fund, train, incite, encourage, or in any other way aid and abet terrorism, and to secure full Saudi cooperation in the investigation of terrorist incidents, and for other purposes.” It calls on the Saudis to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001, which directs all nations to “refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts,” as well as to take “the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts” and “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts.” It cites a 2002 report by the Council on Foreign Relations that notes that “for years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al-Qaeda, and for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.” A June 2004 CFR report lamented that “since September 11, 2001, we know of not a single Saudi donor of funds to terrorist groups who has been publicly punished.”

The bill — S. 1171 — notes not only that the Saudis are financing terrorist groups, but that they are also aggressively spreading the jihad ideology that fuels terrorism. And they’re doing so right in the United States. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), through its subsidiary the North American Islamic Trust, owns over 300 mosques in the United States. The Accountability Act cites the January 28, 2005 report from Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom, which revealed that what is being taught in those mosques: “material promoting hatred, intolerance, and violence within United States mosques and Islamic centers.” What’s more, “these publications are often official publications of a Saudi ministry or distributed by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C.” One tract featured in the report tells Muslims: “Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.” A high school textbook makes it absolutely clear where such teaching leads: “To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah’s way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government. The military education is glued to faith and its meaning, and the duty to follow it.”


It is not surprising that such sentiments should be found in material coming from the Saudis. As late as November 2003, the Islamic Affairs Department (IAD) of the Saudi embassy in Washington featured this statement on its website: “The Muslims are required to raise the banner of Jihad in order to make the Word of Allah supreme in this world, to remove all forms of injustice and oppression, and to defend the Muslims. If Muslims do not take up the sword, the evil tyrants of this earth will be able to continue oppressing the weak and [the] helpless…”


Such a violent and expansionist program is not solely the province of Saudi Wahhabis. The Pakistani Islamic leader Syed Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), who was not a Wahhabi, declared that non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, he said, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.” Likewise the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), also a non-Wahhabi, declared: “Islam cannot accept any mixing with Jahiliyyah [the society of unbelievers]. Either Islam will remain, or Jahiliyyah; no half-half situation is possible…. The foremost duty of Islam is to depose Jahiliyyah from the leadership of man, with the intention of raising human beings to that high position which Allah has chosen for him.”


Nevertheless, the Saudis are the foremost and most moneyed exponents of such ideas around the globe today. In a 2002 interview with Al-Jazeera, Saudi Sheikh Mohsin Al-‘Awaji, praised Osama bin Laden as “a man of honor, a man who abstains [from the pleasures] of this world, a brave man, and a man who believes in his principles and makes sacrifices [for them].” Indeed, “the Saudi people love every Jihad warrior, every fighter, and every man of honor, whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, or southern Sudan.” Another Saudi Sheikh, Dr. Muhammad Al-Khasif, added: “There are dozens, even millions, who lift up their eyes to Osama bin Laden as a savior.” A June 2004 poll found that almost half of the Saudis polled viewed Osama bin Laden positively.


And these people have money: the Accountability Act cites a September 2003 New York Times report noting that “at least 50 percent of the current operating budget of Hamas comes from ‘people in Saudi Arabia,’” as well as a July 2003 Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) report stating that “Saudi-sponsored organizations have funneled over $4,000,000,000 to finance the Palestinian intifada that began in September 2000.” MEMRI has done outstanding work rendering this material and much more into English — much of the information in this article comes from MEMRI reports. But few seem to have taken heed in official Washington.


And that is true despite the fact that the Saudis have not been particularly reliable allies in the war on terror. The Accountability Act refers to a July 2003 report from a joint committee of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, quoting “various United States Government personnel who complained that the Saudis refused to cooperate in the investigation of Osama bin Laden and his network both before and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” Nor was that the first time: the Saudis also refused to cooperate with U.S. investigators after the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, where nineteen American Air Force personnel were killed. Also, the Accountability Act notes that “Saudi Arabia denied United States officials access to several suspects in the custody of the Government of Saudi Arabia, including a Saudi Arabian citizen in detention for months who had knowledge of extensive plans to inject poison gas in the New York City subway system.”


Not only have they declined to cooperate: they have maligned Americans efforts at the official level. A December 2004 report in the Saudi government organ Al-Watan issued the outrageous and libelous charge that “secret European military intelligence reports indicate the transformation of the American humanitarian mission in Iraq into a profitable trade in the American markets through the practice of American physicians extracting human organs from the dead and wounded, before they are put to death, for sale to medical centers in America.”


Meanwhile, jihadist sentiment, fueled by the most outlandish conspiracy-theory paranoia, permeates Saudi society. An Egyptian historian, Dr. Zaynab Abd Al-Aziz, asserted on Saudi TV in May that the United States brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11 at the behest of the World Council of Churches, which was enacting the Vatican’s plan to eradicate Islam and Christianize the world. The show’s host swallowed this farrago whole and lobbed the professor softballs such as: “Why is America hostile to Islam, although we never had and never will have the same conflict with them we had with Europe?”


Just before the Saudis’ February 2005 international counter-terrorism conference, to which they claimed to invite representatives of all the countries that had suffered terrorist attacks but conspicuously omitted Israel, the Saudi poet Mash’al Al-Harithi, read on Saudi television a poem claiming that Osama bin Laden was “sent by the Jews.” Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, as well as Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to Great Britain, both ascribed the June 2004 al-Qaeda attacks within the Kingdom to that all-purpose bogeyman, the “Zionists.” In August 2004 the Religious Affairs Department of the Saudi armed forces published an article stating that “the majority of revolutions, coups d’etat, and wars which have occurred in the world [in the past], those that are occurring, and those that will occur, are almost entirely the handiwork of the Jews. They [the Jews] turned to [these methods] in order to implement the injunctions of the fabricated Torah, the Talmud, and the ‘Protocols [of the Elders of Zion’], all of which command the destruction of all non-Jews in order to achieve their goal — namely, world domination.”


With this rhetoric goes religious persecution. Jews aren’t even allowed into Saudi Arabia, but Christians are — as long as they do not bring with them any physical evidence of their faith (Bibles, crosses) and do not observe it while in the Kingdom. Early this month the Saudi religious police, the Muttawa, arrested eight Christians from India, confiscating their Bibles and religious objects. They beat one of these men, Chittirical John Thomas, in front of his five-year-old son. Forty Pakistani Christians were arrested in April 2005. A Muttawa spokesman explained: “These people tried to spread the poison and their beliefs to others, by means of distributing pamphlets and [missionary] publications.” A month before that, an Indian Christian, Samkutty Varghese, was arrested and held incommunicado in Riyadh. He had a Bible in his bag. Emad Alaabadi, a Saudi citizen who converted from Islam to Christianity, was arrested in December 2004 and has likely been tortured.


In September 2004, the State Department added Saudi Arabia to its list of the most religiously intolerant nations in the world. But this didn’t stop the Spring 2005 crackdown on Christians in the Kingdom; nor did it lead to more calls for accountability from Washington. In April 2005, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz described U.S.-Saudi relations as “excellent.” He praised “the good relations and the will of cooperation between the two countries to serve Saudi interest first of all.”


Indeed, both countries seem intent on serving Saudi interests first of all. That’s the problem. But the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2005 could change all that. It calls upon the Saudis to take genuine anti-terror steps, including to cooperate openly and fully with American anti-terror efforts; to close all “charities, schools, or other organizations or institutions” both inside and outside the Kingdom that aid in terrorism anywhere around the world, “including by means of providing support for the families of individuals who have committed acts of terrorism.” And it calls for sanctions to punish noncompliance. Such measures are the only way that Saudi Arabia could today become a genuine ally of the United States. Senator Specter and the other senators who sponsored this bill are to be commended — and every American should hope that their efforts bear fruit.


Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch; author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: Islamic Law and Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is working on a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (coming August 8 from Regnery).

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

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