Loose Canons

Midnight at the Oasis

Saudi insecurity should serve our interests, not the monarchy's subsidized terrorists.

By 6.1.04

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The terrorist attack on westerners at the Oasis resort in the Saudi city of Khobar last week had two goals. First was increasing the instability of the Saudi monarchy. Second -- and by virtue of the first -- was preventing any relief for the American economy from the astronomical price of crude oil. If the terrorists can maintain the pressure on our economy, they hope to help defeat Bush in the fall. They have achieved at least a temporary success on both points. We have to increase our pressure on the Saudi monarchy to make sure that success doesn't continue.

Crown Prince Abdullah -- the de facto Saudi ruler since King Fahd's stroke in 1996 -- is no friend of America. At about 78 years of age, he's unlikely to remain in power very much longer, and the question becomes one of succession. If you look past the effluvia of the Saudi spin meisters, you would conclude that a power struggle has been going on for years. There is a "struggle" going on, and there even may be a dime's worth of difference to us who wins, but no more.

THOSE SEEKING TO TAKE the reins in Saudi power are one sorry bunch. Prince Sultan, the oldest, should succeed Abdullah, but his challengers -- Princes Naif and Turki al-Faisal -- seem stronger. Sultan is another Abdullah. His "routine" Wahabi anti-westernism has the grace to put a smiley face on support and tolerance of terror. His is an appeasement that buys the Saudi royals an exemption from assassination. Prince Naif, the Interior Minister, is another matter altogether. He is the custodian of the "Dawa fund," a supposedly charitable fund that supports Muslim evangelism. But under Naif, the fund is one of the chief financial pipelines for al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Naif is a very bad actor, and would turn the Saudi oil sales back into the weapon it was in the earliest days of OPEC and Jiminy Carter's "malaise."

Somewhere between the two, and working with both, are the other players. They are the professionally false moderates such as Prince Bandar (ambassador to the U.S., whose wife financed the escape of some of OBL's family from the U.S. right after 9/11, under the noses of our ever-vigilant State Department and other intel folks). Another in this pseudo-faction is Prince Turki al-Faisal, now the Saudi ambassador to the UK and Ireland. Turki is a far more radical Wahab. Formerly the head of Saudi intelligence, he has met with Taliban chief Mullah Omar (to persuade him, he said, to surrender OBL) and knows bin Laden himself.

The terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia are -- according to al Qaeda -- aimed at toppling the Saudi regime. Not so. Al Qaeda and the rest don't want their Saudi money to be cut off. They want it to increase, and without fear of interruption. That's why their attacks have been on westerners, and not on the Saudi royals. By targeting the western presence the terrorists prevent any moderation among the Abdullah faction and strengthen the Naif group. With every terrorist attack, the radicals gain strength and make their inclinations more public. And Bandar and Turki play their game quite well. Consider Turki's latest round of "diplomacy" in the UK papers.

In a May 24 letter to the UK's Independent, Turki said, "No matter how exalted the aims of the U.S. in that war, in the final analysis it was a colonial war very similar to the wars conducted by the ex-colonial powers when they went out to conquer the rest of the world ..." Singing from OBL's sheet of music, Turki added, "What we read and hear from our commentators in America and sometimes congressional sources…there was the issue of the oil reserves in Iraq and that in a year or two they would be producing so much oil in Iraq that, as it were, the war would pay for itself." According to Turki, this "indicated that there were those in America who were thinking in those terms of acquiring the natural resources of Iraq for America." Those American imperialist running dogs are at it again. Turki, like Abdullah, Sultan, and Bandar, pushes us just so far, but no farther. They realize that they are as dependent on oil sales to us as we are on oil purchases from them. They walk a narrow line. It's time to give them a shove.

OUR DIPLOMATS ARE FEVERISHLY arguing that we shouldn't exert any pressure on the Saudis while they fight to stabilize their country after the terror attacks. The diplos point to the "cooperation" they gave us in the Khobar Tower and USS Cole bombing investigations. Nonsense. Saudi cooperation is a myth. It didn't happen. The Saudi government -- like every other despotism -- is inherently unstable. And that instability should be maintained, to our advantage.

The Saudis -- as insecure as they are -- are easy targets for our pressure. We can up the ante by first cutting off their most obvious efforts to thwart what we are doing. The State Department is arguing that Adnan Pachachi -- the former Iraqi foreign minister who is noticeable only for his Sunnism and anti-Americanism -- should be the new president of Iraq. Pachachi is a close friend of the Saudi royals. That, alone, should disqualify him.

Of equal or even more importance, the Saudis are in a position to help us deter or preempt whatever terrorist attacks may be planned against us this summer and fall. Anyone who believes that OBL and his ilk don't have an October Surprise of their own, hoping to defeat George Bush, is dreaming. The President should call his "buddy" Abdullah and explain to him -- none too gently -- that America under-reacted to 9/11. If there is another major attack here -- particularly one employing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons -- we will over-react against any and every nation that might have contributed to the attack. Anyone, the president should say, who doesn't want to be on that list has to cooperate now. That cooperation has to be more than just talk. It has to take the form of capturing and turning over people, giving us actionable intelligence, and cut off the money flowing to the terrorists. And then he should hang up.

Yes, that will be insulting. Yes, that could be handled with far more diplomacy by the EUnuchs or in another UN kabuki dance. But those approaches fail again and again. We're run out of time to be nice.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.