Frightening Winds Swirl Around the House of Saud
by Robert Fisk
November 11, 2003
First Published in The Independent
Osama bin Laden has an awful lot of friends in Saudi Arabia. In the mosque, among the disenchanted youth, among the security forces, even - and this is what the West declines to discuss - within the royal family.
Saudi ambassadors routinely dismiss these facts as "unfounded", but Sunday's attack in the capital, Riyadh, is part of a growing insurrection against Bin Laden's enemies in the House of Saud.
Whether or not the bombers were Saudi security force members - they were certainly wearing Saudi military uniforms - the Riyadh Government's own "war on terror" is now provoking bombings, gun battles and killings almost every day in the kingdom.
The enemies of the House of Saud want to make the kingdom ungovernable - just as America's enemies in Iraq want to make its occupation ineffective. Iraqis are still the principal victims of the bombings in Baghdad, just as Saudis were the principal victims on Sunday.
Clearly, after years of procrastination, the Saudi authorities are passing on some of their own intelligence to the US. For once, the latest warning from Washington - that al Qaeda's next attack was moving from the "theoretical" to the "operational" stage was spot on the mark.
But the Saudi royal family - that part still desperate for US assistance - provided plenty of reasons during the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq for their Arab enemies to attack them.
For although they publicly said the US would not use Saudi military facilities during the war, they allowed the Americans to direct 2700 air sorties a day from the Prince Sultan Air Base - far more damagingly, they gave secret permission for 200 US aircraft at the base to fly 700 combat missions over Iraq daily.
The Jordanians suspect the bombing of their embassy in Baghdad was retaliation for a secret military operation in which 26 US F/A-18 fighter bombers flew missions from a Jordanian air base to bomb Iraqi air force facilities possibly able to fire missiles at Israel.
So, Crown Prince Abdullah, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, must be feeling some frightening winds blowing across the Saudi desert. For Bin Laden's aim to destroy the royal family is shared by the American right wing.
When Laurent Murawiec, friend of the then US defence policy board chairman Richard Perle, gave his odd but damning assessment of Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the US and the "Kernel of Evil", he might have been Bin Laden spokesman.
Murawiec, who works with the Rand corporation and has been an executive editor of Executive Intelligence Revue presented a slide show to the Pentagon last year with titles that included "taking 'Saudi' out of Arabia".
He claimed that since 1745, 58 per cent of all Saudi rulers had met a violent demise, that other Arabs consider Saudis "lazy, overbearing, dishonest, corrupt" and that they are "active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheer leader."
A suspicion persists in Washington that the Saudi royal family is still trying to compromise with the country's religious hierarchy and its al Qaeda enemies. And Bin Laden's messages are still laced with venom for the House of Saud. Indeed, his original aim is to do what Murawiec demanded: to take the "Saudi" out of Arabia.
Could the Americans sit back and watch al Qaeda take over the nation's oil wells? There are those in the House of Saud who fear that now the US is in Iraq, it can - in the event of a revolution - just seize the oil fields in northern Saudi Arabia, leaving Riyadh and other cities to whichever Arabian ruler takes control.
Robert Fisk is an award winning foreign correspondent for The Independent (UK), where this article first appeared. He is the author of Pity Thy Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (The Nation Books, 2002 edition). Posted with author’s permission.