Winds Swirl Around
The House Of Saud
By Robert Fisk
12 November, 2003
bin Laden has an awful lot of friends in Saudi Arabia. In the mosque,
among the disenchanted youth, among the security forces, even - and
this is what the West declines to discuss - within the royal family.
routinely dismiss these facts as "unfounded", but Sunday's
attack in the capital, Riyadh, is part of a growing insurrection against
Bin Laden's enemies in the House of Saud.
Whether or not the
bombers were Saudi security force members - they were certainly wearing
Saudi military uniforms - the Riyadh Government's own "war on terror"
is now provoking bombings, gun battles and killings almost every day
in the kingdom.
The enemies of the
House of Saud want to make the kingdom ungovernable - just as America's
enemies in Iraq want to make its occupation ineffective. Iraqis are
still the principal victims of the bombings in Baghdad, just as Saudis
were the principal victims on Sunday.
Clearly, after years
of procrastination, the Saudi authorities are passing on some of their
own intelligence to the US. For once, the latest warning from Washington
- that al Qaeda's next attack was moving from the "theoretical"
to the "operational" stage was spot on the mark.
But the Saudi royal
family - that part still desperate for US assistance - provided plenty
of reasons during the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq for their Arab
enemies to attack them.
For although they
publicly said the US would not use Saudi military facilities during
the war, they allowed the Americans to direct 2700 air sorties a day
from the Prince Sultan Air Base - far more damagingly, they gave secret
permission for 200 US aircraft at the base to fly 700 combat missions
over Iraq daily.
The Jordanians suspect
the bombing of their embassy in Baghdad was retaliation for a secret
military operation in which 26 US F/A-18 fighter bombers flew missions
from a Jordanian air base to bomb Iraqi air force facilities possibly
able to fire missiles at Israel.
So, Crown Prince
Abdullah, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, must be feeling some
frightening winds blowing across the Saudi desert. For Bin Laden's aim
to destroy the royal family is shared by the American right wing.
When Laurent Murawiec,
friend of the then US defence policy board chairman Richard Perle, gave
his odd but damning assessment of Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the US
and the "Kernel of Evil", he might have been Bin Laden spokesman.
Murawiec, who works
with the Rand corporation and has been an executive editor of Executive
Intelligence Revue presented a slide show to the Pentagon last year
with titles that included "taking 'Saudi' out of Arabia".
He claimed that
since 1745, 58 per cent of all Saudi rulers had met a violent demise,
that other Arabs consider Saudis "lazy, overbearing, dishonest,
corrupt" and that they are "active at every level of the terror
chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from
ideologist to cheer leader."
A suspicion persists
in Washington that the Saudi royal family is still trying to compromise
with the country's religious hierarchy and its al Qaeda enemies. And
Bin Laden's messages are still laced with venom for the House of Saud.
Indeed, his original aim is to do what Murawiec demanded: to take the
"Saudi" out of Arabia.
Could the Americans
sit back and watch al Qaeda take over the nation's oil wells? There
are those in the House of Saud who fear that now the US is in Iraq,
it can - in the event of a revolution - just seize the oil fields in
northern Saudi Arabia, leaving Riyadh and other cities to whichever
Arabian ruler takes control.