Originally Published: May 1, 2002 6:15 p.m.
It is irritating, if not outrageous, to watch the crown prince of Saudi Arabia tell the elected president of the United States that he must put more pressure on the elected prime minister of Israel to bend to the will of a dictatorial Arab regime.
The possibility of Saudi assistance in an invasion of Iraq, along with Saudi oil, apparently are what keep the Bush administration in its "close relationship" with the Saudi leadership. Prior to Crown Prince Abdullah's meeting with the president at Bush's Texas ranch last week, there were reports that Saudi Arabia might reduce the amount of oil it sells to the United States if Bush did not lean harder on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian enclaves.
One wishes Bush had said to Prince Abdullah: "Go ahead. We'll either get our oil from other sources, or conserve, but we won't be intimidated." A boycott can work both ways. What if the president said the United States would reduce the amount of oil it buys from Saudi Arabia until the Saudis start pressuring Yasser Arafat to live up to the agreements he has signed and violated? The fragile Saudi economy needs our money more than we need their oil.
Much has changed since the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. While the United States still buys a lot of oil from Saudi Arabia, it has diversified its oil purchases. Other nations would be happy to take some of the business away from Saudi Arabia, including Russia, Norway, Canada, Angola, Mexico and the Caspian Sea countries. If the U.S. Senate Democratic leadership would allow drilling in a barren and tiny strip of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we could reduce our reliance on Saudi oil, along with the political pressure.
Saudi Arabia is no friend to the United States or to U.S. interests. Most of the hijackers of those Sept. 11 planes were from Saudi Arabia, where an extreme doctrine of Islam flourishes and it even enjoys government subsidy. Saudi Arabia underwrites schools, including some in the United States, that teach religious extremism, hatred of Jews and anti-Americanism.
Saudi Arabia also supports terrorism, directly or indirectly, against Israel and the United States. USA Today reporter Jack Kelley discovered in 1999 that prominent Saudi businessmen had transferred billions of dollars to New York and London bank accounts with links to a man whose name was not then widely-known: Osama bin Laden. (The founder of Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank was later detained in the case after a bank audit.) The money transfer occurred more than a year after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – which bin Laden, a Saudi, allegedly masterminded. These bombings killed 224 people. Kelley reported senior U.S. intelligence officials as saying that some of the money had financed several terrorist acts by bin Laden, including the attempted 1995 assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia.
"The money was deposited into the accounts of Islamic charities, including Islamic Relief and Blessed Relief, that serve as trusts for bin Laden," wrote Kelley. American authorities have closed down some of these organizations and continue to investigate others.
Who really speaks for Saudi Arabia? Is it Crown Prince Abdullah or a prominent government cleric named Shaikh Saad Al-Buraik, who recently hosted a two-day telethon that raised $109 million for the families of "martyred" Palestinian fighters? A tape that the Saudi Information Agency obtained (http://www.nationalreview.com/document/document-042602.asp) shows Al-Buraik delivering a speech in a Riyadh government mosque. National Review magazine reports that Al-Buraik is a cleric within the strict Wahhabi sect (the most extreme within Islam) and closely tied to Prince AbdulAziz Ben Fahd, Saudi King Fahd's youngest son and a member of the delegation that accompanied Crown Prince Abdullah to Texas.
About America, Al-Buraik says on the tape: "I am against America until this life ends, until the Day of Judgment ... My hatred of America, if part of it was contained in the universe, it would collapse ... She is the root of all evils and wickedness on earth ... Oh Muslim Ummah don't take the Jews and Christians as allies ... Muslim Brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy, neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women? Why don't you wage jihad? Why don't you pillage them?"
Why should a democracy listen to people like this?
(Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas can be reached at Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.)