Saudi Arabia: Friend of America?

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Saudi Arabia: Friend of America? by Kerby Anderson
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Is Saudi Arabia a friend or foe of America?  Is it helping terrorists and promoting terrorism worldwide?  Answering those questions is somewhat complex, but a recent guest on Point of View has helped clear the confusion about its role in the world.
Dore Gold is a former ambassador for Israel to the United Nations and was a guest on Point of View. In his book, Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, he marshals evidence of the country's involvement in terror operations.He details discoveries by Israeli intelligence indicating hundreds of thousands of dollars going to the Palestinian terrorist organization group Hamas.  Some of this money has actually been funneled through Saudi-financed American Muslim organizations.  The Saudis have also given considerable sums of money to families of suicide bombers.He devotes a significant amount of research to Wahhabi Muslims.  The members of this particular sect of Islam are often violent and terrorist-friendly.  The founder of Wahhabism was Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (born sometime between 1699 and 1703).  He called for a return to true Islam and harshly criticized the mainstream Islam of  the 18th century that worshiped at shrines and imputed power to inanimate objects.  He lead a war against shirk (polytheism) in order to return to a strict monotheism.This brand of Islam is quite militant.  "Wahhabism revived the Islamic idea of jihad as military expansionism – a concept that had fallen out of favor with traditional Islam after the early Muslim conquests."One of the more disturbing aspects of his interview with us, was his careful documentation of how the Saudis have aggressively exported this brand of Islam throughout the world, especially to the United States.  Sufi Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani told a State Department Open Forum on religious extremism that "the problem with our communities is the extremist ideology.  Because they are very active they took over the mosques; and we can say that they took over more than 80% of the mosques that have been established in the Unites States.  And there are more than 3,000 mosques in the U.S."One prominent American Muslim leader (W.D. Muhammad) told how the Saudis have gained control of American mosques.  "In Saudi Arabia it's the Wahhabi school of thought" and they say to the mosques that they will only give them money if they "prefer our school of thought."  This leader once took money from them in the past but doesn't now.  He "suspected some strings were attached" and said he couldn't "accept this kind of relationship."  Unfortunately, he appears to be in the minority among American Muslim leaders and mosques.Saudi Arabia's vast oil revenues have played a major role in this ability to finance terrorist organizations, sometimes through government actions and other times through wealthy individuals in the country.  Saudi petrodollars and radical Wahhabism form a dangerous mixture.Historian and scholar Bernard Lewis uses this illustration: "Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their brand of Christianity.  This was what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism."Ambassador Gold recounts the story of Osama bin Laden when Sudan offered in 1996 to hand him over.  "U.S. Intelligence officials became convinced that Saudi Arabia had struck a deal with bin Laden."  Dick Gannon (former director of operations for the State Department Office of Counterterrorism) said, "We've got information about who's backing bin Laden, and in a lot of cases it goes back to the royal family.""U.S. intelligence sources confided that two Saudi princes were channeling funds to bin Laden."  One government official estimated that Saudi payments to Osama bin Laden began in 1995, the year the National Guard headquarters was struck.  "There's no question they did buy protection from bin Laden," a government source said.  "The deal was, they would turn a blind eye to what he was doing elsewhere."Gold argues that the Saudis were essentially "paying a ransom to be left alone."  In essence, they were saying "your fight is with the United States, not with us."  The Saudis appear willing to tolerate Islamic extremists as long as they engage in terrorism outside the country, even if it was directly at the United States.  So while Saudi Arabia can say it was not directly funding terrorism, the net result was just the same as if they was deliberately funding Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.The evidence Ambassador Gold puts forth demands action.  The United States must make it clear to Saudi Arabia that it has to make a choice.  "Saudi state support for terrorism must come to an end, particularly the use of its global charities for funding International terrorist organizations."President Bush has said, either you are for us or you are for the terrorists.  The Saudis are promoting a radical brand of Islam throughout the world and indirectly funding terrorists who continue to threaten the United States and our allies.  We cannot fight a war on terrorism and ignore what is happening in Saudi Arabia.

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