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Is Saudi Arabia an ally or enemy of the United States in the war on terror?

The question is raised with the disclosure of secretly recorded comments from the kingdom’s chief justice encouraging young Saudis to travel to Iraq to wage war against Americans.


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Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan (NBC News)

“If someone knows that he is capable of entering Iraq in order to join the fight, and if his intention is to raise up the word of God, then he is free to do so,” says Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan in Arabic on the October audiotape from a government mosque, obtained by NBC News.

While Luhaidan warns Iraq is risky because “evil satellites and drone aircraft” watch the borders, he stresses making the trip to fight Americans is religiously permissible.

“The lawfulness of his action is in fighting an enemy who is fighting Muslims and came for war,” says Luhaidan.

“This statement shows the real face of the Saudi government,” Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Saudi Institute told NBC, noting Saudi officials, including Luhaidan, publicly oppose holy war in Iraq, but send a different message in private.

“He is telling Saudis it’s OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis and they won’t be punished for doing that,” says Al-Ahmed.

When a Saudi spokesman denied the authenticity of the tape, the network contacted Luhaidan himself in Saudi Arabia to play the tape.

“Yes, this is my voice,” the sheik confirmed in Arabic.

But Luhaidan said he meant to convey the message that it’s “not worth it for young Saudis to go to Iraq and that the Iraqis are capable of fighting on their own,” according to NBC.

The revelations on the tape come the same week Saudi Arabia’s crown prince met with President Bush in Texas to discuss oil-related and economic issues, and extremism was also said to be discussed.

Last month, responding to a report revealing Saudi exportation of religious extremism to the U.S., 15 senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding the Bush administration take stronger action against Riyadh.

New York Democrat Charles Schumer was among the signers of the letter, which called for the U.S. to define its relationship with Saudi Arabia more clearly.

Schumer stated: “It is a massive contradiction that a country we call an ally could be both so regressive in their own country and so brazen in its propagation of anti-American, anti-women, anti-Semitic books, publications, and practices. American security is undermined as the Saudi government exports these hateful commodities to millions beyond its borders, planting the seeds for new generations of terrorists and totalitarian Wahhabi leaders.”


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