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Monday, November 14, 2005 

Late posting on the Senate's investigation of Saudi hatemongering

I wish I could've posted about this earlier, but, here's what news I can find of the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation into Saudi Arabia's hatemongering schemes in the US. The Counterterrorism Blog's got the main news summary on the issue, and wouldn't you know it, any Saudis who were called to testify and showed were uncooperative:
Today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing evolved into a debate between Steven Emerson and Nina Shea on one side, and Anthony Cordesman on the other, over the extent of the Kingdom's counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S. (or lack thereof), and the extent of official Saudi complicity in the dissemination of hateful propaganda. You can see CSPAN's coverage of it here (RealPlayer needed). Steve's testimony includes a 1994 quote from then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, following an Al Qaeda attack in the Saudi port city of Yanbu, in which he said, "It became clear to us now that Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the kingdom. I can say that I am 95% sure of that." The testimony also discusses an audiotape, obtained by NBC earlier this year, of the chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council heard exhorting young Muslims to go to Iraq to kill Americans. When NBC asked Saudi officials for their reaction, Saudi officials falsely claimed that the tape was a fabrication. NBC then contacted the Sheik directly in Saudi Arabia, who admitted that he made the recording. When asked about these and specific instances of propaganda cited by Shea, Cordesman replied that Saudi officials had never expressed warlike sentiments to him during his numerous visits there over 30 years, and that we are seeing real, though incomplete, progress by the Saudis in excising hateful propaganda from textbooks. See also Bill West's post with his angle on the hearing.

The Saudis refused to testify and have not assured committee chairman Sen. Specter that they have excised their textbooks, but they did mount a PR offensive today. They announced that they have a fugitive Al Qaeda suspect in custody; they used another Washington event to deny the committee's bipartisan criticism; and the new Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. "vowed" that his government would show terrorists "no mercy." His words are ironic considering that he personally assisted the Taliban after they took in UBL and also oversaw the spread of the hateful literature that was the subject of the hearing. But the Ambassaador couldn't stop the State Department today from releasing its report citing Saudi Arabia as one of 8 countries "of particular concern" for failing to safeguard religious freedom.
Sorry, but having a suspect "in custody" if that's to be believed coming from the mouths of the Saudis, is not enough. But if there's anything that's clear, it's that the now king Abdullah most certainly did convict himself in past years of being an anti-Zionist. I wonder if creatures like Abdullah even know what Zionism means? Well, if that's important, Zionism is more or less an Israeli form of patriotism. Which makes Abdullah an anti-patriot.

One Jerusalem today also noted the House of Saud's very transparent attempt to go on the defensive about their supposed progression towards democracy.

The Saudis also resorted to yet more blame-Israel rhetoric a few days ago:
Yesterday, the new Saudi Ambassador to the United States condemned terrorism and suggested the existence of Israel as a reason why the United States is the target of terrorists.
Simply disgusting. But the disappointment doesn't stop there. The State Dept, which was supposed to be a witness, did not send any representatives:
Also, yesterday the State Department did not show up at a Senate hearing about the Saudi role (if any) in the spread of Islamic terrorism. State said they were sending someone but the representative did not materialize. Maybe, State did not want to cross swords with Nina Shea, of the Center for Religious Freedom, who made the case that the Saudis are helping spread Islamic fundamentalism in the United States. Or, maybe it had something to do with the fact that Secretary of State Rice is on her way to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps, she wanted to keep the focus on the right of Saudi women to drive cars (remember Karen Hughes' last trip?).

If the United States keeps treating the Saudis as friends we will never win the war against terrorism.
The New York Sun reported that:
WASHINGTON - The State Department's last-minute withdrawal from a Senate hearing yesterday into Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of terrorism maddened lawmakers and hearing witnesses, who faulted the State Department for soft-pedaling on Saudi Arabia in advance of a visit to the kingdom tomorrow by Secretary of State Rice.


Conspicuously absent from the proceedings, Messrs. Specter and Leahy said, was a representative of America's Department of State. Both senators repeatedly denounced the State Department's absence from the hearing as a "disappointing" development.


On the witness list for the original October 25 hearing was the State Department's director of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs, Alan Misenheimer. During the opening remarks for yesterday's hearing, Mr. Specter said that the committee had expected the rescheduled hearing to feature State Department testimony, but that "we were notified late yesterday afternoon that the State Department would not be sending a witness."

Mr. Specter continued: "It is anticipated that the Secretary of State will be visiting Saudi Arabia soon, and the indications are that the State Department thought from their point of view that it was not advisable to have testimony presented at this hearing."
Needless to say, the excuse the State Dept. gave is very disappointing.
At the time of the cancellation, speculation emerged that it had resulted from influence by Saudi agents. One of the hearing witnesses and the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Steven Emerson, said that Senate staff had informed him that the Saudi government was "aggressively lobbying to have the hearing canceled."

The Saudis, Mr. Specter said yesterday, had been asked to participate in the hearing but declined, selecting as their representative the co-director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Anthony Cordesman.

The Saudis, Mr. Emerson said, "did not want this hearing to happen."

Representatives of the Saudi government in America declined to comment yesterday on whether the kingdom was "aggressively lobbying" to have the hearing scrapped.

Mr. Specter told The New York Sun after the hearing that he had been informed by State Department staff that Foggy Bottom's last-minute withdrawal was linked to Secretary Rice's upcoming contacts with Saudi officials.

Several calls placed to the State Department yesterday requesting comment went unreturned.

"I regret that that decision was made," Senator Specter said of the State Department pullout, adding that if America is to maintain a good relationship with "our friends the Saudis," "it ought to be in a context in which we both speak frankly about what the facts are."

The lone representative of the Bush Administration at yesterday's hearing was the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, Daniel Glaser. While Mr. Glaser discussed American efforts to dismantle the cash pipeline connecting Saudi Arabia, Muslim charities, and terrorism, he declined to address matters of diplomacy, deferring to the absent State Department.

This prompted exasperation from Messrs. Leahy and Specter, who said that the questions they had for Mr. Glaser were "above your pay grade" and better answered by representatives of Secretary Rice.

Mr. Leahy also expressed concern about the State Department's general willingness to push the Saudis to reform. "One of the things I would have asked Secretary Rice or her representative," Mr. Leahy said, "is, is she willing to speak out strongly when she goes to Saudi Arabia?"

The frustration with Foggy Bottom's absenteeism spilled over into the senators' interviewing of witnesses. Mr. Emerson said at the beginning of his testimony that he felt the State Department had timed its release of a report that includes Saudi Arabia in a list of countries that restrict religious freedom today to make amends for "almost obstructing" the hearing by pulling its witness.

"Almost obstructing?" Mr. Specter interrupted, prompting Mr. Emerson to reply: "Obstructing."

If the State Department's non-cooperation with the hearing was meant to improve Riyadh's responsiveness, it would likely have the opposite effect, Mr. Emerson told the Sun.

"It may cement the notion in the Saudi mind that they can pit the State Department against Congress, so that it reduces the pressure on them," the terrorism analyst said.

While Saudi representatives declined to comment on the State Department's withdrawal, the embassy responded to the hearings yesterday in a statement in which the kingdom's ambassador, Prince Turki al-Faisal, enumerated the measures Saudi Arabia has taken to tame radical imams, revise textbooks filled with hate material, and combat terrorism in Saudi Arabia.
Forget it, Turki. Words alone don't prove anything. One thing that's certain though, is that the State Dept. is going to have to cut out the play acting and start cooperating.

Also, while we're on the subject, here's another interesting topic in which Iraq's national security adviser says that
...there is not "the least doubt that nine out of 10 of the suicide bombers who carry out suicide bombing operations among Iraqi citizens ... are Arabs who have crossed the border with Syria... Most of those that blow themselves up in Iraq are Saudi nationals." Al-Rubaie's comments seem to further undermine the shaky conclusions presented by Anthony Cordesman and Nawaf Obeid in their recent CSIS report on the role of Saudi fighters in Iraq.
Pay sharp attention to that interview as well, as it's certainly telling in more ways than one where a lot of terrorists come from and are being trained. (Update: these two topic posts from Emet M'Tsiyon show how Saudi Arabia was helped to get rich by US tax favors.) And also, see this article from Front Page Magazine by Rachel Ehrenfeld from today, which also gives a lot of interesting thoughts on the subject.

Update: I found this interesting article from the UK Guardian via The Redhunter weblog:
The court of appeal yesterday granted lawyers acting for three men who were tortured and detained in Saudi jails for more than two years permission to seize the kingdom's assets in this country, including Saudi commercial airliners.
The ruling follows a decision by the court of appeal last October giving the men the right to sue Saudi officials responsible for their torture in the British courts.

In October, the Saudi government decided it would not contest an order to pay the men's costs, yet has failed to do so. It has promised to take the case to the House of Lords.


The Saudi embassy could not be reached for comment yesterday, but lawyers for the kingdom indicated in court that they would seek to overturn the order to pay costs by asserting immunity, setting the stage for further legal arguments.
Like my fellow blogger, I'm also quite sure they didn't want to comment. But failing to do so can only end up weighing against them even more.

For more on the subject, here's some older topics from the same blog here and here.

There's also more on the subject from the Middle Ground weblog, both here and also here.

It's time to show the Saudis that enough's enough as far as pointless torture goes, I say!

Also available at Choose Life, Point Five, The Political Teen, TMH's Bacon Bits. Others on the subject include SoccerDad, Winds of Change, Clarity and Resolve, White Pebble, The Right Scale.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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