Islam and Muslims -- Facts and Fiction

Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies
Egypt rejects US pressure over jailing of activist
Saudis airlifted hundreds of Al Qaida from Iran
Saudi are no longer considered allies Saudis bought arms for PLO

 Saudis airlifted hundreds of Al Qaida from Iran
Wednesday, June 19, 2002

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has airlifted hundreds of Al Qaida militants home from Iran this year.

Gulf and Saudi opposition sources said the airlift began in January. They said Iran granted Riyad permission to send Saudi government jets to evacuate hundreds of Al Qaida and Taliban members detained by Iran. The Saudi nationals were fleeing approaching U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Saudi nationals were said to have comprised a significant portion of the estimated 10,000 Al Qaida agents who had been based in Afghanistan, Middle East Newsline reported. Fifteen of the 19 suicide attackers on New York and Washington on Sept. 11 were Saudis.

The sources said many of the Saudis escaped Afghanistan by fleeing over the Iranian border where some of them were detained. They said those airlifted from Iran were regarded as Al Qaida members linked to the royal family.

Lower-ranking Saudi nationals were granted safe passage through Iran to the port of Bandar Abbas, where they arrived to the kingdom by sea. Other Saudis — particularly those who served as aides to Osama Bin Laden — were informed that they were no longer welcomed in the kingdom and were directed to other destinations in the Middle East, particularly North Africa. This included Saudi national Abu Zbeir Al Haili, captured by Morocco and said to have been a leading Al Qaida operative.

At one point, the sources said, Teheran had detained close to 200 Saudi nationals. But earlier this year, Teheran agreed to a Saudi offer to evacuate the imprisoned nationals. This prompted an airlift from eastern Iran to the Saudi city of Medina.

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the return of Al Qaida members to the kingdom. On Tuesday, an Interior Ministry statement announced the arrest of 11 nationals on charges of planning attacks throughout the kingdom, including U.S. military targets. An Iraqi and Sudanese national were also arrested.

Officials said the Sudanese national was extradited from Khartoum after he escaped the kingdom through Iraq. The officials said Riyad has not determined whether Iraqi authorities were linked to the Al Qaida plot. "The security agencies have arrested elements linked to Al Qaida who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks against vital installations in the kingdom using explosives and two SA-7 missiles," the Saudi Press Agency quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying.

The London-based Al Hayat daily reported on Wednesday that the SA-7 missiles and other Al Qaida weapons were smuggled into Saudi Arabia from neighboring Yemen. The 1,100-kilometer Saudi-Yemeni border has been used as an escape route for Al Qaida militants who fled Afghanistan.

Saudi officials said some of the Al Qaida detainees were regarded as sleeper agents.

Earlier, the ministry released 160 Saudi nationals deemed as not posing a threat to the country. The Saudi-owned Al Hayat daily described the men as having fought alongside Taliban in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

© 2002

The financing of the Karine-A arms-smuggling ship destined for the Gaza Strip came from Saudi Arabia – a shocking discovery made, according to intelligence sources, by all three teams investigating the affair: American, Israeli and Palestinian.

They established that Saudi sources put up the $10 million paid over to Iran for the weapons cargo, the $400,000 purchasing price for the vessel and another $1 million to cover miscellaneous expenses, such as hiring the crew, fuel, repairs and port charges.

The discovery rocked the U.S. and Israeli governments back on their heels. But, together with the Palestinians, each decided for its own reasons to treat the information as sensitive and keep it under wraps. For, more than any previous indication, this new fact is disturbing evidence of the uncertain internal situation in Saudi Arabia, demonstrating for the first time the willingness of influential figures in the royal house and Saudi intelligence to go out on a limb and back the Palestinian-Hezbollah-Iran connection.

Until now, Saudi Arabia was known to have refused financial aid to Yasser Arafat’s intifada, funding only the fundamentalist Hamas at its bases in Palestinian-controlled areas, Jordan and Syria.

Technically, the funds for the arms-smuggling operation were advanced by Muslim charitable societies in Jeddah, but investigators say no sums of any such scale could have been secreted out of the oil kingdom without the knowledge and consent of Saudi intelligence and government authorities – especially if they went through Abu Dhabi and Beirut.

Intelligence sources close to the investigation say that the Karine-A funding is nothing compared to the burgeoning transactions in train between Saudi Arabians and factions of the Iranian government and military intelligence. Saudi Arabians are now believed to have underwritten some of the costs entailed in transferring al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan via Iran to safe havens in the Gulf.

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 Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies

Ultimatum Urged To Pentagon Board
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 6, 2002; Page A01

A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States.

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," stated the explosive briefing. It was presented on July 10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon on defense policy.

"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," said the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corp. analyst. A talking point attached to the last of 24 briefing slides went even further, describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East.

The briefing did not represent the views of the board or official government policy, and in fact runs counter to the present stance of the U.S. government that Saudi Arabia is a major ally in the region. Yet it also represents a point of view that has growing currency within the Bush administration -- especially on the staff of Vice President Cheney and in the Pentagon's civilian leadership -- and among neoconservative writers and thinkers closely allied with administration policymakers.

One administration official said opinion about Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly within the U.S. government. "People used to rationalize Saudi behavior," he said. "You don't hear that anymore. There's no doubt that people are recognizing reality and recognizing that Saudi Arabia is a problem."

The decision to bring the anti-Saudi analysis before the Defense Policy Board also appears tied to the growing debate over whether to launch a U.S. military attack to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. The chairman of the board is former Pentagon official Richard N. Perle, one of the most prominent advocates in Washington of just such an invasion. The briefing argued that removing Hussein would spur change in Saudi Arabia -- which, it maintained, is the larger problem because of its role in financing and supporting radical Islamic movements.

Perle did not return calls to comment. A Rand spokesman said Murawiec, a former adviser to the French Ministry of Defense who now analyzes international security affairs for Rand, would not be available to comment.

"Neither the presentations nor the Defense Policy Board members' comments reflect the official views of the Department of Defense," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said in a written statement issued last night. "Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and ally of the United States. The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism and have the Department's and the Administration's deep appreciation."

Murawiec said in his briefing that the United States should demand that Riyadh stop funding fundamentalist Islamic outlets around the world, stop all anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli statements in the country, and "prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services."

If the Saudis refused to comply, the briefing continued, Saudi oil fields and overseas financial assets should be "targeted," although exactly how was not specified.

The report concludes by linking regime change in Iraq to altering Saudi behavior. This view, popular among some neoconservative thinkers, is that once a U.S. invasion has removed Hussein from power, a friendly successor regime would become a major exporter of oil to the West. That oil would diminish U.S. dependence on Saudi energy exports, and so -- in this view -- permit the U.S. government finally to confront the House of Saud for supporting terrorism.

"The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad," said the administration official, who is hawkish on Iraq. "Once you have a democratic regime in Iraq, like the ones we helped establish in Germany and Japan after World War II, there are a lot of possibilities."

Of the two dozen people who attended the Defense Policy Board meeting, only one, former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, spoke up to object to the anti-Saudi conclusions of the briefing, according to sources who were there. Some members of the board clearly agreed with Kissinger's dismissal of the briefing and others did not.

One source summarized Kissinger's remarks as, "The Saudis are pro-American, they have to operate in a difficult region, and ultimately we can manage them."

Kissinger declined to comment on the meeting. He said his consulting business does not advise the Saudi government and has no clients that do large amounts of business in Saudi Arabia.

"I don't consider Saudi Arabia to be a strategic adversary of the United States," Kissinger said. "They are doing some things I don't approve of, but I don't consider them a strategic adversary."

Other members of the board include former vice president Dan Quayle; former defense secretaries James Schlesinger and Harold Brown; former House speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas Foley; and several retired senior military officers, including two former vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired admirals David Jeremiah and William Owens.

Asked for reaction, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, said he did not take the briefing seriously. "I think that it is a misguided effort that is shallow, and not honest about the facts," he said. "Repeating lies will never make them facts."

"I think this view defies reality," added Adel al-Jubeir, a foreign policy adviser to Saudi leader Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz. "The two countries have been friends and allies for over 60 years. Their relationship has seen the coming and breaking of many storms in the region, and if anything it goes from strength to strength."

In the 1980s, the United States and Saudi Arabia played major roles in supporting the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, pouring billions of dollars into procuring weapons and other logistical support for the mujaheddin.

At the end of the decade, the relationship became even closer when the U.S. military stationed a half-million troops on Saudi territory to repel Hussein's invasions of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Several thousand U.S. troops have remained on Saudi soil, mainly to run air operations in the region. Their presence has been cited by Osama bin Laden as a major reason for his attacks on the United States.

The anti-Saudi views expressed in the briefing appear especially popular among neoconservative foreign policy thinkers, which is a relatively small but influential group within the Bush administration.

"I think it is a mistake to consider Saudi Arabia a friendly country," said Kenneth Adelman, a former aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is a member of the Defense Policy Board but didn't attend the July 10 meeting. He said the view that Saudi Arabia is an adversary of the United States "is certainly a more prevalent view that it was a year ago."

In recent weeks, two neoconservative magazines have run articles similar in tone to the Pentagon briefing. The July 15 issue of the Weekly Standard, which is edited by William Kristol, a former chief of staff to Quayle, predicted "The Coming Saudi Showdown." The current issue of Commentary, which is published by the American Jewish Committee, contains an article titled, "Our Enemies, the Saudis."

"More and more people are making parts of this argument, and a few all of it," said Eliot Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University expert on military strategy. "Saudi Arabia used to have lots of apologists in this country. . . . Now there are very few, and most of those with substantial economic interests or long-standing ties there."

Cohen, a member of the Defense Policy Board, declined to discuss its deliberations. But he did say that he views Saudi Arabia more as a problem than an enemy. "The deal that they cut with fundamentalism is most definitely a threat, [so] I would say that Saudi Arabia is a huge problem for us," he said.

But that view is far from dominant in the U.S. government, others said. "The drums are beginning to beat on Saudi Arabia," said Robert Oakley, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan who consults frequently with the U.S. military.

He said the best approach isn't to confront Saudi Arabia but to support its reform efforts. "Our best hope is change through reform, and that can only come from within," he said.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

 Saudi Arabia gives US the cold shoulder
by michael evans, defence editor

RELATIONS between the United States and Saudi Arabia have deteriorated so far that the Saudi Arabians are no longer considered allies, senior diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Saudi Arabia, once the indispensable cornerstone of US policy in the Arab world, has refused to co-operate with the war on terrorism or support President Bush’s plans to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. According to the sources, it has handed over no Intelligence of any value about the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, which has roots in Saudi Arabia.

The final “stab in the back” for Washington was the decision to ban American bombers from attacking Iraq from Saudi airbases. That has soured relations to such an extent that the country from which America launched its 1991 invasion of Iraq is now being excluded from discussions about a post-Saddam era.

Even Syria, which in public is opposed to an attack on Iraq and has been engaged in trade and arms deals with Baghdad, is talking secretly to the Americans and the British about the role that Damascus may play in the region if Saddam is overthrown. A Syrian delegation is understood to have had discussions with British officials in London this week.

British diplomatic sources said that the Saudi ruling elite was immersed in a “dynastic battle” and was so concerned about survival that the key figures were afraid of taking any decision that would be interpreted by the people as being pro-Western and anti-Arab. It had become increasingly difficult to find anyone with sufficient clout and influence in Riyadh “to talk about anything”.

King Fahd, 79, is said by Gulf-based diplomats to be suffering increasing ill health, giving rise to speculation about his successor. He left Geneva for his holiday home in Spain yesterday after undergoing eye surgery.

General Tommy Franks, the US Central Command chief who is planning the campaign against Iraq, is understood to have removed from his list of potential launch pads the huge Prince Sultan airbase, 50 miles south of Riyadh, which the allies used as their combined air operations centre in the Gulf War. Development work at General Franks’s alternative “war base” — the al-Udeid site in Qatar — was now so far advanced that it would soon be a “totally self-sufficient” American facility, the sources said.

“There may be no political decision yet, but militarily the US has made enough preparations to attack Iraq any time, without using any facilities in Saudi Arabia, other than Saudi airspace. It is assumed that the Saudis would not go as far as denying over-flight rights,” the sources said.

Saudi Arabia’s failure to reveal any useful Intelligence about al-Qaeda has been in marked contrast to the co- operation of countries such as Yemen.

Despite arresting 13 al-Qaeda suspects several months ago, the Saudi authorities have not divulged to the Americans any material that could help Western intelligence agencies to unravel the network, the sources said.

Sixteen Saudi al-Qaeda suspects detained by Iran after crossing from Afghanistan had also been handed over to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has promised that any Intelligence gleaned from the suspects would be passed to the US.

However, the sources said: “All the Saudis are interested in is getting information from suspect al-Qaeda terrorists which relates only to Saudi Arabia’s security. They have not been at all co-operative in seeking answers from suspects which might have some bearing on the international threat posed by al-Qaeda.”

The hierarchy in Saudi Arabia had been “taken by surprise” by the September 11 attacks in America, carried out by 19 hijackers of whom 15 were believed to have been Saudi citizens. Many of the al-Qaeda suspects arrested in Afghanistan and taken to the American interrogation camp at Guantanamo Bay were also Saudis.

Saudi Arabia had also been “deeply involved” with Pakistan in funding the Taleban in Afghanistan, and had financed the “Salafi” Islamic ideological schools in Pakistan at which many Taleban and al-Qaeda fundamentalists had developed their hatred of the West.

Relations with Saudi Arabia were now so poor that there was at present only one issue that could be seen in a positive light, and that was oil. The Saudis supply 17 per cent of America’s oil needs.

“In all other key areas, the Saudis are not being obliging, so in planning for Iraq the Americans have turned to Gulf states they see as real allies, such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain,” the sources said. Britain’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been complicated by the detention of five Britons, found guilty of mounting a bombing campaign in a bootlegging war. The British prisoners allege that they were tortured to make false confessions.

Two emissaries have been sent this year to Riyadh to raise the case with the Saudis. However, the Saudis have shown little interest in discussing what is seen in the Foreign Office as a case of trumped-up charges.

 Egypt rejects US pressure over jailing of activist

Cairo Bureau

CAIRO/WASHINGTON, 16 August — Egypt yesterday shrugged off US pressure over its jailing of an Egyptian-American activist as Washington said it would halt new aid to Cairo.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the United States would oppose giving any new aid to Egypt in protest at the imprisonment of Saadeddin Ibrahim, convicted in July after a retrial on charges including defaming Egypt.

US officials, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Bush had decided against seeking new money for Egypt because Cairo had not responded to Washington’s concerns about Ibrahim’s trial and sentencing.

“We are not in a position to (look at new aid) at this point because of the lack of a response from Egypt in the Ibrahim case,” one senior official said.

“It’s impossible to look at new and additional funds with the Ibrahim case in the state that it is in now,” a second official said.

Both confirmed reports in yesterday’s Washington Post and Chicago Tribune that said Bush would soon notify Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of his decision in writing.

The decision will not affect existing aid programs to Egypt — amounting to nearly $2 billion a year, the officials said.

The Bush administration has also ordered a review of US democracy-building projects in Egypt, according to the Post.

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters: “Egypt does not accept pressure and will not bow to pressure and everyone knows that.”

Maher said any attempt to apply pressure to the Egyptian government would have no effect. He said all other states should respect the Egyptian judicial system and its rulings “as we respect their justice systems”.

Ibrahim, an academic who ran a now-closed Cairo center for promoting democracy and civil rights, was convicted by a state security court on charges which also included illegally accepting funds from the European Commission to monitor elections.

Ibrahim, who suffers from a neurological disorder, was sentenced to seven years in jail. Ibrahim’s wife has said he intends to appeal against the court’s decision when it releases the details of the ruling, expected around the end of August.

Ibrahim, as well as 27 co-defendants, faced the same charges as in the previous trial. They had been charged with tarnishing Egypt’s image by spreading false information abroad about supposed electoral frauds as well as receiving, without official approval, funding from the European Union to finance the activities of the Ibn Khaldun Center, which Ibrahim directed.

The official Middle Eastern News Agency said yesterday the US administration should pay attention to the rampant human rights violations in Palestine, Afghanistan, Congo and elsewhere.

Blatant human rights violations are being perpetrated by Israel in the occupied territories which go unnoticed by the US.

Egypt does not need lessons about how to protect human rights, particularly from those who keep quiet over the massacres of innocent Palestinians and similar violations elsewhere. It also does not need advice from those who plan to launch military action against an unarmed people such as Iraqis on the pretext of relieving them from an oppressive regime, the agency said.

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