Despite Saudi Arabia’s funding and arming of militants in Syria, Iraq and beyond, President Obama is set to visit the kingdom this week to meet with King Abdullah. It’s the only Middle Eastern or Gulf nation on Obama’s overseas itinerary. Saudi Arabia is a crucial US partner for decades now.
Many analysts say the conflict in Syria has grown into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia’s links to jihadist groups go back decades. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi. The 9/11 Commission Report identified Saudi Arabia as the main source of al-Qaeda financing (but there was nothing in the mainstream media about it). And in 2010, WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables which identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups.
Members of Congress and human rights organizations have also been calling on Obama to address the kingdom’s treatment of women, religious minorities and political activists. There’s a great interview with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent on Democracy Now. I just saw it. Cockburn wrote The Independent’s recent five-part series examining the resurgence of jihadists across the Middle East, “Al-Qa’ida’s Second Act: Why the Global ‘War on Terror’ Went Wrong.”
Cockburn stated, among other things, that:
It’s pretty extraordinary, given that so much of what happened on 9/11 can be traced back to Saudi Arabia. Why hasn’t there been a greater reaction in the U.S. and the rest of the world? Well, the Saudis have cultivated people in Washington, government in Washington. There are enormous arms sales by the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. The arms on orders—on order at the moment are worth a total of $86 billion—fighter aircraft, helicopters, everything else. And they’ve also spent money cultivating former diplomats, officials, academics and so forth. And therefore, there hasn’t been—though I find this rather amazing—more pressure on Saudi Arabia or on the U.S. government to stop Saudi Arabia supporting jihadi movements. It’s not just money. It’s, I mean, a lot of it, propaganda of a satellite television, which is anti-Shia, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, hate propaganda. So long as they have these methods of propaganda, they can probably raise men and money to send to Syria and Iraq and elsewhere.
Washington draws too great a distinction between people who have a direct operational link to the remains of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda in Pakistan and other groups that have the same ideology, operate in the same way, have the same methods. And you could see that in Libya, when—where the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was killed by jihadis, who were not, in fact, al-Qaeda, and he seems to have thought, and the people around him thought, were not as dangerous as al-Qaeda. And tragically, he and they were proved wrong. You can see that in Syria at the moment, that the largest group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is not in fact part of al-Qaeda—it used to be. There’s a new group, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the official representative, but there isn’t much difference between these groups. They’re all pretty well the same. They are extraordinarily bigoted. They’re extraordinarily brutal. They kill Shia or any other nonfundamentalist Muslims who fall into their hands. So, pretending that one group, simply because it’s funded by Saudi Arabia, is not the equivalent of al-Qaeda, I think, is self-deception—and self-deception which may well have disastrous results, you know, as happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which eventually produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.
Watch the full interview at Democracy Now.