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   NOVEMBER 2001 -  Issue #139    


Ending Saudi Blackmail

Ruth King

One of this country's guiding principles has been to avoid entangling alliances that compromise our values, our security, and our independence. On occasion -- World War II, for example--we have been forced to enter into coalitions with dictatorships. However, we cannot confuse a temporary confluence of interest with a long-range alliance, and we cannot afford to let our national interests be held hostage to the demands of these "partners."

Our relationship to Saudi Arabia is a case in point. Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's permanent envoy to the United States, is a familiar figure in Congress and the media. Since he lobbied successfully for advanced weapons sales to the Saudis in the early days of the first Reagan administration, he has oiled his way around Washington. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, he managed to get dozens of Saudi nationals out of the United States before they could be held for questioning.

This is particularly troubling since even an amateur Arabist like Thomas Friedman recognizes the footprints of Saudi Arabia in terrorism. In the New York Times of October 16, 2001, he writes: "To listen to Saudi officials, or read the Arab press, you would never know that most of the hijackers were young Saudis, or that the main funding for Osama bin Laden--a Saudi--has been coming from wealthy Saudis, or that Saudi Arabia's government was the main funder of the Taliban."

Saudi Arabia has offered minimal cooperation in investigations of other attacks against Americans, particularly the June 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in which 19 American air force personnel were killed and hundreds wounded. While the administration is trying to put a good face on Saudi behavior, the reality seems to be that the Saudis are blocking the investigation of their nationals, refusing to clamp down on funding of Bin Laden's network, and are opposed to American use of air facilities in Saudi Arabia in the war against the Taliban.

Perhaps most serious of all in the long term is that the Saudis are a major source of funding for mosques in the U.S. which preach a radical Wahhabite ideology. In the November 2001 Commentary, Daniel Pipes quotes the (rare) moderate Muslim leader Muhammad Hisham Kabbani as saying that extremists have taken over 80% of the mosques in the U.S. And not just mosques--schools, youth groups, community centers, political organizations,professional associations, all advocating replacing the present order in the U.S. with an Islamic one.

Our own leaders turn a blind eye, with the State Department exhibiting the greatest obsequiousness. We haven't seen this much genuflecting before tyrants since the period immediately after United States independence, when American merchant ships were seized by Barbary pirates and their crews enslaved. In 1799, the United States agreed to pay $18,000 a year in return for a promise that Tripoli (now Libya) would not seize American ships. Similar agreements were made at the time with the rulers of Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis. But in May 1801, despite the fear that the other Barbary powers would join against the United States, we embarked on a naval campaign to end the piracy under the slogan of "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!" By 1806 the Barbary corsairs were defeated and our shipping lines were safe. The slogan "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute" should be our watchword now. Among the tributes demanded by our erstwhile Saudi ally is the abandonment of principle and national interest to bludgeon Israel into submitting to terror.

All this is driven by blackmail over oil production. We owe it to ourselves more than ever to pursue greater energy independence. Then we can conduct our war and our subsequent policies without the continued threats from our so-called Arab allies--most especially the Kingdom of Saud.

Ruth King is a member of the executive committee of Americans For a Safe Israel. (Herbert Zweibon, whose column normally appears on this page, is on vacation.)


Incoherence, Israeli and American Style ...3

The Home Front ...5

Confronting Antisemitism ..7

November 2001               - 1 -               Outpost


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