WASHINGTON, 1 August 2004 â€” This Thursday night, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry drew one of his largest ovations at the Democratic nominating convention when he said, â€œI want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation-not the Saudi royal family.â€ Kerry reportedly blew a kiss toward filmmaker and author Michael Moore, when he made that statement and went on to criticize the US relationship to â€œMiddle East oilâ€. Moore recently released the now $100 million grossing film â€œFahrenheit 9/11â€ which alleges many indiscretions on the part of the Saudis in the 9/11 caper. And the 9/11 Commission recently released report is getting the once-over from many political pundits for not placing enough blame on the Saudis for the 9/11 affair.
There are many renewed attacks on Saudi Arabia these days as the political season and the US national elections are upon us. Even when Saudi Arabia is exonerated by research findings such as exist in the 9/11 Commission report, Saudi Arabia is assessed blame for many of the worldâ€™s problems. It is one thing for John Kerry to pander to anti-Saudi sentiments at the Democratic National Convention even though the US gets most of its oil from countries other than Saudi Arabia and Americaâ€™s â€œingenuity and innovationâ€ have little or nothing to do with the Saudi royal family.
Michael Saba, an American who works on improving US-Saudi relations, and whom I’ve cited before, is a frequent contributor to the Arab News.
He does a good job here in pointing out that even after the 9/11 Commission refused to point blame at Saudi Arabia on a number of issues that have been claiming headlines, there are still those who refuse to accept it. Kerry’s failure to repudiate the noxious “Farenheit 9/11″ is indeed telling. Authors who made if not their names, then at least good money, are reluctant to now say “I was wrong”.
I differ with Michael, though, in that I don’t think you have to look for sponsors behind this kind of behavior. It’s pretty typical human behavior, alas.
Kerry can’t dump Michael Moore because so much of his political base
Posner and Unger are in a different situation. Their public personae are out there, making strong allegations against the Saudis, as well as the Bush Administration. To admit an error would be a grave step-down for them. Professionally, Posner could probably survive it; he’s a respected legal scholar. Unger, though, exists pretty much through his writings.
I am not saying that Posner and Unger don’t believe what they wrote. I’m very sure that they do. I’m sure that they will continue to believe it until they find evidence that convinces them otherwise. But I don’t know if that kind of evidence is available in mortal life.
Saudi-bashing has become somewhat of a cottage industry in the US (and to a lesser degree in the UK). There are those who sincerely believe that the US-Saudi relationship is detrimental to the US, to Saudi Arabia, or to both. There are others who are more than happy to pander to the ignorant, as well as those who will produce the work they’re paid to produce. The bashing isn’t going away anytime soon, but efforts–such as Saba’s and my own–are attempts to minimize the effect.
Also on Al Jazeer’s website, a “Special Report” on reform in the Arab world. It’s worth taking a look at. It’s a page rich in links to informative articles and reports. Most certainly, you should take a look at the UNDP reports on Human Development in the Middle East. The link goes to the “press kits” with abstracts and summations of the reports. Hardcopy and Adobe Acrobat PDF files can be ordered from the UN site.
I think Al Jazeera goes a bit out of its way to find people who think reform is “being imposed” by the US, however. What the US government is offering is cooperative programs, defined by Arab states, in which the US can offer expert, technical and financial assistance. No where is there a dictate or order.
When I was in Riyadh, we made it very clear–and Washington made it clear to us–that we were not interested in improsing reform. Rather, if the Saudis could identify programs in which they needed assistance, and we felt they would be helpful, then we would consider different kinds of support. But the first step
The programs were just getting underway when I finished my assignment in Oct. 2003.
Iraqi Sunni and Shia Muslim religious leaders on Friday preached against the Saudi proposal to send an Arab or Muslim force to Iraq.
In contrast to an item posted yesterday, Al Jazeer TV finds people who don’t want Saudi or pan-Muslim forces in Iraq! Imagine that.
By Matthew Barakat
Associated Press Writer
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – A prominent Muslim activist who said he participated in a Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s crown prince pleaded guilty Friday to engaging in illegal business deals with Libya.
Abdurahman Alamoudi, 52, was not charged in the assassination plot. But a 20-page statement of facts spells out many elements in an elaborate killing scheme that had Alamoudi serving as a go-between for high-ranking Libyan government officials and Saudi dissidents.
The plot was exposed before it could be carried out.
Alamoudi’s case is a prime example of what happens when people don’t pay attention to organizations to which they give support. Alamoudi (also Al Amoudi in some documents) was a founder of the American Muslim Council and the related American Muslim Foundation. Many American Muslims, believing these organizations to be above-board, willingly lent their names and money to them.
On their face, these organizations appeared to be what they said: affiliation groups to protect Muslims’ interests in the US and to stand up to the “Muslim-bashing” that has been prevalent in American media. What was not visible were Alamoudi’s private interests: deep financial connections with the Libyan government–and at a period when nearly any contact with Libya was unlawful for Americans–and his involvement in plots to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at Libya’s behest.
Alamoudi’s attorney Stanley Cohen says, “What hurts the most is that there are those people who will seek to manipulate this plea into an attack on the entire Muslim community.” This is indeed a problem. And Alamoudi’s behavior will be used against Muslims in general. It’s another instance of one Muslim being permitted to blacken the reputation of all Muslims. But an unwillingness on the part of American (and other) Muslims to hold to account those who would claim to act in their benefit is a tragic flaw. Much more attention must be paid to those leaders and associations to ensure that they are who they say they are and that they do what they say they will do.
[UPDATE] The Washington Post:
Local Muslim leaders have protested the government’s prosecution of Alamoudi, portraying him as a moderate with no ties to radical groups. But prosecutors have sketched a different picture in the indictment, alleging that Alamoudi hid his ties to a top leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
In plea negotiations, Alamoudi has told investigators that he was recruited by the Libyan government because of his ties to Saudi dissidents opposed to the royal family, sources familiar with his account said. They said Alamoudi maintains that he did not initially realize that the Libyans wanted to assassinate key members of the royal family, thinking that they only wanted to sow dissent inside the kingdom.
[UPDATE #2] The Saudi media today are carrying only news wire reports of this story. It will probably take another day or two to get editorial comment. I sincerely hope, as noted by the commenter, that they take advantage of the opportunity to strongly condemn these actions. And further, to highlight how actions like this do grave damage to all Arab and Muslim causes.
7/29/2004 8:00:00 AM GMT
Source: Middle East Business
Iraqi officials met with their Saudi counterparts to discuss boosting economic co-operation between their two countries which broke off relations more than 13 years ago.
Al-Jazeera TV reports that Saudi Arabia and Iraq have restored economic relations for the first time since the first Gulf War. One of the first things on the agenda will be discussions about reducing Iraq’s $28 billion debt to the kingdom.
Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News
JEDDAH, 30 July 2004 â€” Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and US Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday welcomed a Saudi initiative to muster a Muslim force to assist in maintaining order in war-torn Iraq as the Kingdom formally restored relations with its northern neighbor.
Crown Prince Abdullah’s offer to send a Saudi military force to Iraq, to help with stabilization, seems to have received a warm welcome with the Iraqi provisional government.
Kholood Alqahtani, firstname.lastname@example.org
Should we really blame Rania Al-Baz for failing the test under the typically intensive pressure of our society? Should we question her ability to continue the fight in a judgmental society like ours? I believe that our Saudi culture is the one to blame, because it directly and indirectly filled Rania with shame and guilt: â€œHow dare you? How could you? No wife puts the father of her children in jail?â€
This Arab News article is a follow up to an earlier piece which told the story of a Saudi woman, abused by her husband, who had to plea for his release from jail because she could not otherwise support herself and her children.
I note the article because it does show that Saudi women are aware of their holding the short end of the rights stick. The article demonstrates, I believe, that Saudi women are also active in trying to change things, at their own pace and in their own ways.
“We’re taking this initiative because a) we want to help the Iraqi people get back on their feet and reclaim their sovereignty as quickly as possible, b) because there is a tremendous desire in the Arab and Muslim world to help Iraq and help the Iraqi people get back on their feet and c) we’re doing this because instability in Iraq has a negative impact on Saudi Arabia and stability in Iraq has a very positive impact on Saudi Arabia. We want to stabilize the situation in Iraq,” said Adel Jubeir, chief foreign policy adviser to Abdullah.
Interesting Washington Post article about talks between the Saudi government and Secretary of State Powell. It’ll be even more interesting to see what the Iraqis think of it.
[Update] Well, it seems the terrorist groups don’t think much of this idea…
Group Vows to Hit Muslims Who Send Troops to Iraq
Thursday, July 29, 2004; 11:46 AM
DUBAI (Reuters) – An Islamist militant group threatened Thursday to attack Muslim countries that send troops to Iraq as proposed by Saudi Arabia and welcomed by the United States.
“We will not remain silent if troops are sent to Iraq by any Arab or Muslim country, especially by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and others,” said the statement by the group calling itself the Islamic Tawhid Group, posted on an Islamist Web site.
“We will strike with an iron fist all the traitors of Arab governments who cooperate with the Zionists,” it added.
You can find the text of the Powell/Saud Al-Faisal press conference here
An opinion survey conducted recently in 15 European Union countries by the European Commission showed nearly 60 percent of the questioners believed that Israel represented the greatest threat to world peace. This corresponds with the rising percentage of people around the world who reject and condemn Israelâ€™s occupation, discrimination and gross violations of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people
This is a very interesting article. It’s written by a Palestinian diplomat and gives, thoroughly, the reasoned Palestinian view of the Israeli-Palestinian argument. It’s dispassioned and goes back to the beginning.
While no one has to agree with him, the article is worth reading.
24 July 2004
THE seriousness of the Darfur crisis in Sudan is deepening and the diplomatic pressure on Khartoum of the last few months is now changing to open talk of UN-sanctioned military intervention. The Sudanese government is still arguing that it is caught in a long-running civil war and no outside powers should seek to meddle in its internal affairs. Unfortunately its unhelpful responses to successive diplomatic interventions have strengthened the hand of countries that wish to intervene. It will not be long before no one is interested in hearing Khartoumâ€™s side of events and the focus will be entirely on alleviating the humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding for over a million black Sudanese citizens. This is likely also to involve action against the Janjawid militias that have driven this tide of humanity, their fellow Muslims, from its homes and villages in Darfur.
I missed this editorial of a couple of days ago. I think it very typical of how Saudi Arabia approaches foreign affairs: trying to get those most involved to settle their differences without violence and confrontation. It’s clear, too, though that there are limits to that approach: the Sudanese government has very little time left to find a solution before a solution is imposed. The Saudis will not have a difficult time deciding which side to come down on: Muslims killing Muslims is not acceptable, no matter their color.
[Update 07/27: I very much think the Saudis try to avoid conflicts wherever they can. Sudan, as a member of the Arab League, is by definition "Arab". So the Saudis are going to try even harder to avoid taking a position that puts them at loggerheads with the Sudanese government. That government is "legitimate" (and I agree that their demonstrated level of competence is falling fast), putting more pressure on the Saudis to avoid bringing it down.
That, I think, is what makes this editorial so interesting. It's showing that the Saudis do have a limit, even when avoiding problems. I do believe that 9/11/01 and 5/12/03 have finally convinced the Saudis that some problems won't go away by themselves. The government seems to be asserting itself to push for an end to the chaos in Dafur.
I note there is no big rush on the part of the Arab League to get involved here. Let's see if the Saudis try to get something going on that front.
And Patrick, thanks for the tinyurl.com link. That's going to be standard from now on.]
Today’s Saudi Gazette shows that the Saudis–like the Poles–are onto Michael Moore’s exercise in propaganda. This article points particularly at Moore’s false allegations about Saudis flying out of the US prematurely and without having been investigated by the FBI.
JEDDAH, 27 July 2004 â€” A second Saudi has died in Jeddah as a result of dengue fever in a private hospital, Okaz daily reported yesterday.
The cases of suspected dengue fever reported in Jeddah hospitals has now reached 251. Of these 145 cases were confirmed by laboratory tests. Most of these cases were treated and only 11 patients remain in hospital.
While health care in Saudi Arabia is far above Third World standards, it’s not downtown Omaha. Right now, the country is facing problems with “Malta fever” (brucellosis) as well as Dengue Fever. This reports goes into some detail about the prevalence of the latter.