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Saudi, U.S. relations strained over reports Crown Prince Abdullah angered by reports of Saudi noncooperation By Karen DeYoung THE WASHINGTON POST Nov. 6 — In a fiery speech broadcast on Saudi state television Sunday, Crown Prince Abdullah accused the U.S. media of conspiring to damage Saudi Arabia’s reputation and to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Washington. Even President Bush was angered by media reports that the Saudis were not fully cooperating in the war against terrorism, said Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in place of ailing King Fahd.

‘The ferocious campaign by the western media against the kingdom is only an expression of its hatred toward the Islamic system.’ — ABDULLAH Saudi crown prince

“PRESIDENT BUSH phoned me. He began the conversation by saying that he was sorry,” Abdullah recounted. Bush, Abdullah said, told him, ” ‘We will not accept this and I will not accept it, and most American people will not accept it.’ ”

But the high-level reassurance, and repeated administration statements of satisfaction with the Saudi effort, have failed to quell criticism from Congress and elsewhere in the United States of Riyadh’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Among the most frequent complaints is that Saudia Arabia has balked at providing military facilities for the anti-terrorism campaign and has been less than zealous in tracking down possible terrorists and their money inside the kingdom. ALLIANCE PROSPERED The alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia has prospered for years despite enormous differences between the world’s oldest democracy and the secretive, religion-based monarchy that is America’s largest oil supplier. The Saudis provide energy stability and a strategic regional foothold for U.S. military forces. The Americans offer superpower protection against incursive neighbors such as Iraq and do not belabor the absence of political and religious freedom in the kingdom. Asked at a news conference last week what actions the Saudis had taken, Jimmy Gurule, undersecretary of the treasury for enforcement, said, “I don’t think we should become so fixated on the blocking of assets. What’s important is cooperation.”

Those evasions have provoked pointed questions in Congress, along with more broader assertions that the undemocratic nature of the Saudi government, its strict interpretation of Islam and its religion-based educational system may actually encourage Islamic-based terrorism against the West. U.S. SENATORS BLAST SAUDIS “They’ve been playing . . . kind of a double game here,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’ve satisfied their extremists within their own societies . . . [and] also financed some of these organizations.” Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), on the same program, said the United States “can’t tolerate a nation like the Saudis — whose government, in many ways, continues to stand because we support them — to promulgate that hatred.”

Nayef, who is among the most influential members of the Saudi royal family, said such comments are part of a campaign in the United States to denigrate Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah has been even more scathing. “The ferocious campaign by the western media against the kingdom is only an expression of its hatred toward the Islamic system” and Saudi Arabia’s religious practices, he said in a recent speech, according to the Arab News, an English language daily.

Al-Jubeir, who works for Abdullah and has spent the past week in Washington making appearances on U.S. television and at congressional hearings, said it was ludicrous to imagine that Riyadh would not want to use every available weapon against al Qaeda. Bin Laden’s hatred of the United States, he said, pales beside his hatred of the Saudi government.

“These guys are out to get us, not you,” he said. “You’re the soft target.”

His government, al-Jubeir added, has gone out its way to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks and is puzzled by the reaction in some quarters of the United States. “The king has condemned it, along with every senior official,” he said. POWELL CREDITS SAUDIS Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has publicly credited the Saudis with intelligence assistance, and Brent Scowcroft, chairman of Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, said the Saudis “are cooperating. Quietly.”

“They’re scared,” Scowcroft said. “Osama bin Laden is a Saudi.” The bilateral relationship has long been based on give-and-take, said Scowcroft, who was President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. At that time, he said, “we tried to accommodate to their concerns in keeping our soldiers out of town and so forth. But they also cooperated by giving us military bases on Saudi soil. We had 500,000 troops there.”

The FBI privately seethed when the Saudis balked at U.S. attempts to investigate the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 U.S. service members. When a U.S. grand jury last summer indicted 13 Saudi fugitives for the crime, Riyadh ruled out any extraditions. But little was said in public.

The administration’s insistence that it could not be happier with Saudi cooperation in the current anti-terrorist effort is intended in large part to reassure the Saudis themselves. In his own recounting of Bush’s Oct. 25 call to Abdullah, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “The president noted that he is very pleased with the kingdom’s contributions.” The Bush administration believes that much of al Qaeda’s funding is funneled through organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Muslims around the world. Much of the money for those organizations, Treasury officials have said, comes from wealthy Saudis. The Saudis have responded that tithing for those less fortunate is one of the five pillars of Islam and that if some of the money goes astray, it is only after it leaves the kingdom and passes through European and U.S. banks. MYSTERY AROUND SAUDI AMBASSADOR Saudi domestic political and religious concerns are often difficult for U.S. officials to decipher. Reports of a rift between the straight-laced Abdullah and his more westernized and pro-U.S. relatives in high positions have been fueled recently by the unexplained, weeks-long absence from Washington of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Bandar, the son of the defense minister, has been the most direct U.S. pipeline to the Saudi government since his appointment here in 1983. Depending on whom one talks to, he is either seriously “out of favor” with Abdullah and lying low in Europe, recovering from an illness, or engaged in high-level consultations in Riyadh.

But the administration has its own domestic politics to deal with. Peppered with senators’ questions about why the administration should support a monarchy that allows no freedom of political thought or religion, Powell cryptically agreed that “unto dust thou shalt return the day you stop representing the street.”

“When you don’t have a free democratic system, where the street is represented in the halls of the legislature and in the executive branches of those governments, then they have to be more concerned by the passions of the street,” Powell said. He added that he had “started to raise these issues and talk to some of our friends in the region and say, you know, in addition to sort of criticizing us from time to time . . . [you] better start taking a look in the mirror.”

-- Martin Thompson (, November 06, 2001


“PRESIDENT BUSH phoned me. He began the conversation by saying that he was sorry,” Abdullah recounted. Bush, Abdullah said, told him, ” ‘We will not accept this and I will not accept it, and most American people will not accept it.’ ”

I hate it when he does that. Sorry to say, President Bush, but most Americans, at least this American, do accept it. The House of Saud better wake up and smell the coffee!!!!!!

-- Steve McClendon (, November 06, 2001.

Americans need to wake up and smell the gasoline fumes of a chronically near empty gasoline tank --- and wallet! Also, regularly read URL: for an overview of the result of Saudi Arabia's "politics of paradox".

-- Robert Riggs (, November 06, 2001.

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