Saudi Arabia’s Envoy

New York Sun, Editorial

The links between Saudi Arabia and the September 11 terrorist attacks are not something we’d expect the desert kingdom to be trumpeting, but it has done just that by appointing one of its princes, Turki al-Faisal, as its new ambassador to Washington. It’s an odd choice, to say the least. Save for diplomatic immunity, one could just as easily make an argument that Riyadh’s newest envoy should, on arrival at Dulles Airport, be brought in for questioning by the authorities.

Here’s a brief resume:

Prince Turki served as head of Saudi intelligence from 1977 until 10 days before September 11, 2001. As such, he was Riyadh’s main contact with the Taliban in Afghanistan – and thereby also with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He admits to having met Mr. bin Laden a few times, according to “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001,” a Pulitzer-winning book by the Washington Post’s Steve Coll.

Mr. Coll writes that while the Saudis deny Mr. bin Laden was ever a Saudi agent, “it seems clear that bin Laden did have a substantial relationship with Saudi intelligence.”

The Saudi intelligence services, under the prince, also oversaw the funding of “radical Islamists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere,” Mr. Coll reports. One such Islamist was Abdullah Azzam, who “preached stridently against the United States” and helped found the terrorist group Hamas.

The prince was named in a civil lawsuit filed in 2002 by September 11 families seeking $1 trillion from alleged financiers of Al Qaeda. The lawsuit notes that the testimony of a senior Taliban official who defected, Mullah Kakshar, “implicates Prince Turki as the facilitator” of money transfers from wealthy Saudis, “in support of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and international terrorism.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the prince was party to a 1998 agreement between the Saudis and the Taliban. In the alleged deal, the Saudis promised not to seek Mr. bin Laden’s extradition or the closing of his terrorist training camps and would provide the Taliban with oil and financial assistance, in exchange for Mr. bin Laden promising not to try to overthrow the Saudi monarchy.

The prince, in his role as head of intelligence, the lawsuit suggests, “was in a position to know the threat posed by bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the extremist and violent perversion of jihad and hatred that the Saudi religious schools were fomenting in young people.”

The prince denied the allegations against him. But that denial has never been adjudicated by a jury. Prince Turki successfully persuaded Judge Richard Casey to dismiss the claims against him because they stem from his alleged actions when he was acting for the Saudi government, so he cannot be held accountable for them in an American court. One of the lawyers for the September 11 families, Michael Elsner, told The New York Sun that a letter has been filed with the court asking permission to appeal the dismissal.

It may well be that Prince Turki was simply acting on behalf of the Saudi monarchy, but that only raises the bigger question of America’s relations with the kingdom. The knowledge that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis and that Saudi money and religious instruction helped finance and inspire the terrorists has already put the relationship between the kingdom and America in a precarious spot.

Recent reports indicate that links between Saudi Arabia and terrorism continue to this day. The Sunday Telegraph reported this week that Saudi officials admitted that two senior Al Qaeda operatives in the kingdom – both of whom are now reportedly dead – “made money transfers and used coded text messages to communicate with suspected terrorists in Britain before last month’s terrorist attacks in London.” The Telegraph reported that one of the terrorists, Abdel
Karim al-Mejati, was alleged to have been behind last year’s terrorist attacks at Madrid. The Telegraph also reported last week that two men arrested for the July 21 attempted bombings at London were also linked to Riyadh. Hussain Osman called the kingdom on his cell phone just before he was arrested. Muktar Said Ibrahim, according to friends cited by the Telegraph, traveled to the kingdom for a few months in 2003 for a “training course.”

On American soil the Saudis are propagating a “totalitarian ideology of hatred that can incite to violence,” according to an 89-page Freedom House report released in January. It was based on the study of more than 200 documents distributed in American mosques by the Saudi government. Muslims are reminded that it is a religious obligation to hate Christians and Jews. They are told that they must behave as on a mission behind enemy lines while living in the lands of unbelievers. They must make money and acquire knowledge to use either for jihad against the infidels or to proselytize them.

Textbooks, Freedom House reported, also “propagate a Nazi-like hatred for Jews” and “avow that the Muslim’s duty is to eliminate the state of Israel.”

There are no signs that the princes in Riyadh are ending their support for radical Islamists and terrorism – let alone granting women equality, introducing democracy, and all the other reforms
President Bush is demanding from other repressive countries. Prince Turki’s own resume reads like a checklist of the many faults Americans find in the Saudi monarchy. That the prince is the most suitable candidate the Saudis can offer for ambassador is but another reminder of why the kingdom is a prime candidate for regime change.

August 26, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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1 Comment / 1 Comment

  1. It has become an accepted legal strategy in America for lawyers to try their cases in the court of public opinion as they defend their clients or prosecute the defendant in court.

    I find it strange therefore that Michael Elsner counsel for a number of families who filed suit in 2002 seeking $1 trillion dollars against alleged financiers of Al Qaeda which suit named Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal as one of the defendants aiding in money transfers from wealthy Saudis to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and international terrorism, has not taken his case into the court of public opinion.

    Perhaps he has tried and the MSM have refused to allow him their stage.

    Regardless, it is not just about Michael Eslner trying or not trying to bring this situation to the public’s attention.

    All the families he represents have voices. Surely they should be angry enough at this Saudi Arabian gall and American government complacency in accepting Prince Turki al-Faisal as the new Saudi ambassador, to raise their own voices to demand that their issues with Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki al-Faisal and this virtual slap in the face by their own American government, squarely before the American people with the co-operation of the MSM.

    The MSM should be approached by these families in such a way that the MSM will know that to deny these people their opportunity to be heard would be callously un-American.

    Just in case Michael Elsner and the families he represents have not yet made that effort, they should be told it is an option worth considering.

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