FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saudi Arabia and 9/11: the Kingdom May be in For a Nasty Shock

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 11.17.40 AM

Photo by Michael Foran, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

 

Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable of carrying on a coherent conversation about important issues.

One visiting US delegation meeting with King Salman recently observed a different method of convincing visitors – or at least television viewers watching the encounter – that he can deal with the escalating crises facing Saudi Arabia. The king did not look at the group but at a giant television screen hanging from the ceiling of the room on which was appearing prompts. Simon Henderson, the Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who tells the story, writes that off to one side in the room was an aide who “furiously hammered talking points into a keyboard”.

Of course, King Salman is not the only world leader past or present whose inability to cope has been artfully concealed by aides and courtiers. But eyewitness accounts of his incapacity does put in perspective the claim by the White House that President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and two hour meeting with the king on 20 April was “cordial” and cleared the air after a troubled period in Saudi-US relations.

It is hardly a secret that real authority is shifting to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. But the power vacuum does help explain the bizarre and self-destructive nature of present-day Saudi foreign policy that suddenly shifted from cautious use of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth to further its aims, while always keeping its options open, to a militarised and confrontational pursuit of foreign policy objectives.

It is not exactly that the Saudi’s priorities have changed, but that the means being used to achieve them are far riskier than in the past. Since King Salman succeeded to the throne, Saudi Arabia has escalated its involvement in the war in Syria and engaged directly in an air war in Yemen. Both ventures have failed: greater support for armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria early last year allowed the rebels to advance, but also provoked direct Russian military intervention, making Assad very difficult to displace. Bombing Yemen has not forced the Houthi opposition out of the capital Sanaa and, where the Houthis have retreated, there is chaos which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has used to set up their own mini-state on the south coast of Yemen.

The Saudi leaders are more or less openly saying that they are waiting for the departure of President Obama from the White House to resume their status of most favoured ally of the US. The permanently anti-Saudi bias of the present administration, though usually verbal rather than operational, came across clearly in the interviews with Mr Obama and his top officials in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg. He says that “in the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi”.

But the Saudis are making a mistake in imagining that hostility to them will dissipate once Mr Obama leaves office. There is renewed pressure for the release of the unpublished 28 pages in the official Congressional 9/11 report on possible Saudi official complicity in the attacks, with CBS’s influential and widely watched 60 Minutes devoting a segment to it, thereby putting it back on the political agenda. “Saudi Arabia legitimises Islamic extremism and intolerance around the world,” states an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. “”If you want to stop bombings in Brussels or San Bernardino, then turn off the spigots of incitement from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.” Not only is there a growing anti-Saudi mood in the US, but it is one of the few political developments common to both parties.

In reality, the missing 28 pages in the 9/11 report on possible high level Saudi involvement may not be as categorical or as damaging to the Kingdom as the fact of their continued non-publication. The secrets that Saudi Arabia has most interest in hiding may be rather different, and relate to allegations that between 1995 and 2001, two senior Saudi princes spent hundreds of millions of state funds paying off Osama bin Laden not to make attacks within Saudi Arabia, but leaving him free to do whatever he wanted in the rest of the world.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail