Editor’s Note: In 2014, journalist Anthony C. LoBaido traveled to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region. During this time, he explored Arabic and Islamic culture and art, studied Shariah law, Sufism, as well as the Arabic language and calligraphy. This is the second installment of his series “Arabiana.” In Part I, LoBaido investigated Saudi Arabia’s alleged links to terrorism, planned procurement of nuclear weapons from Pakistan, the Wahhabi branch of Islam, and Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Christians, amongst other issues. In Part III, LoBaido examines Saudi Arabia’s multidimensional interests in Yemen, the ongoing war gripping that beleaguered nation, as well as Saudi Arabia’s (and the UAE’s) grand design to connect Arabia and North Africa with a land bridge – the Bridge of Horns – spanning Yemen and Djibouti.
These days, the news headlines are filled with stories about Saudi Arabia allegedly funding and directing ISIS, imprisoning and executing Christians, forbidding homosexuals and even “Emos” from attending high school and university, as well as an alleged plot to blow up Air Force One.
Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman – rumored to have funded jihadist movements during his long and illustrious rise to power – has become a lightning rod for the idea of taking a fresh look at the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
According to one Washington Free Beacon report:
“Throughout his public career in government, Salman has embraced radical Muslim clerics and has been tied to the funding of radical groups in Afghanistan, as well as an organization found to be plotting attacks against America [emphasis added], according to various reports and information provided by David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“In 2001, an international raid of the Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia, which Salman founded in 1993, unearthed evidence of terrorist plots against America, according to separate exposés written by Dore Gold, an Israeli diplomat, and Robert Baer, a former CIA officer [emphasis added].
“Salman is further accused by Baer of having “personally approved all important appointments and spending” at the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a controversial Saudi charity that was hit with sanctions following the attacks of September 11, 2001, for purportedly providing material support to al Qaeda” [emphasis added].
The New York Times ran a story broaching the possibility there are Saudi princes who are secretly patrons of al-Qaida. This would appear to run counter to Saudi Arabia’s “image restoration” program that was enacted after Sept. 11 – since most of the 9/11 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia.
The official response from Saudi Arabian officials is that their main accuser, the infamous “20th hijacker,” Zacarias Moussaoui, “is a deranged criminal whose own lawyers presented evidence that he was mentally incompetent. His words have no credibility.”
Represented by attorney Sean Carter, Moussaoui’s allegations have been bandied about on CNN by host Michael Smerconish. According to the Guardian, Robert Grenier, the CIA’s former counter-terrorism chief, said Moussaoui’s allegations were “inconceivable.” A former top Navy terrorism investigator, Robert McFadden, likened claims of official Saudi backing for the devastating 9/11 attack to “a unicorn.”
Thanks to WikiLeaks, the New York Times learned more about Saudi Arabia’s financing of terrorism than had been previously known. It appears that unicorns are at least conceivable. One fancier of unicorns is former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. Graham has put a lot of thought into Saudi Arabia.
As Graham explained to the Independent, “I believe that the failure to shine a full light on Saudi actions and particularly its involvement in 9/11 has contributed to the Saudi ability to continue to engage in actions that are damaging to the U.S. – and in particular their support for ISIS.”
Another looming question is, what will happen when the 28 secret and redacted pages from the 867-page “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” are released to the public concerning Saudi Arabia’s alleged role in 9/11? (Some believe those pages have been vetted and do not hold “evidence.”) The U.S. has long found allies against the Shia theocracy in Iran by making friends with Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein (during the Iran-Iraq War) as well as the intelligence services and military of Pakistan. Yet peeling back the layers of those relations may well reveal some unpleasantness.
For example, the New York Times reported:
“A classified memo sent by Mrs. Clinton last December made it clear that residents of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, all allies of the United States, are the chief financial supporters of many extremist activities. ‘It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,’ the cable said, concluding that ‘donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide‘” [emphasis added].
The article continued:
“Saudi Arabia, a critical military and diplomatic ally, emerges in the cables as the most vexing of problems. Intelligence officials there have stepped up their spying on militants in neighboring Yemen … But while the Saudis have made some progress, ‘terrorist funding emanating from Saudi Arabia remains a serious concern,’ according to a cable in February. Mrs. Clinton’s memo two months earlier said Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups ‘probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan’ [emphasis added]. Officials said they believed that fund-raisers for extremist groups had often descended on the pilgrims to seek money for their causes.
“The American Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reported in February that the Saudis remained ‘almost completely dependent on the C.I.A.’ for leads and direction on terrorist financing.
The difference it makes
Since millions of pilgrims visit the Hajj each year, it’s very difficult to keep track of all the monies that are collected during this time, and how those monies will be spent. Jihad continues as there’s plenty of money to fund terrorism in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a recent White House terrorism summit refused to even use or consider the term “Islamic extremism.” This comes on the heels of reports of ISIS beheading scores of Christians in Libya – where former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “Came, saw and Gadhafi died.” Subsequently, Americans saw the late ambassador Chris Stephens, perhaps the epitome of the archetype postmodern Lawrence of Arabia, and who hailed from Piedmont, a tony suburb of an otherwise dangerous and violent Oakland, California, be murdered in the cruelest way imaginable. Stephens was a talented, capable man widely admired across the U.S. political landscape.
The Huffington Post reported that Stephens “was dispatched to Benghazi in the midst of heavy fighting in April 2011 … to set up America’s central office for coordinating military strategy, financial assistance and political work with the Libyan opposition.” Sadly, we are reminded, “Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword.” We are also reminded that those who get into bed with Islamic terrorists might never wake up again.
Yet despite such harsh realities, the New York Post reported:
“The rub for the Obama administration is that while the murderers cite their faith as motivation, they don’t represent Islam and therefore shouldn’t be associated with the religion. ‘There is absolutely no justification for any of these attacks in any religion, and that’s the view of the vast majority of Muslims who have suffered huge casualties from the likes of [ISIS] or al Qaeda. We are not treating these people as part of a religion. We’re treating them as terrorists,’ the [Obama administration] official told reporters.”
Whether we call them “radical Islamists” or “terrorists” or even “pink fuzzy bunnies,” for that matter, the fact remains is that these people do belong to a religion. And while they might not wish to eat your face like the crazy man in Florida, they might want to trick you into eating your child. And to think that Joseph Scaffido, a dean at an Ivy League university, was excoriated in the New York Post for suggesting that ISIS be allowed to come to campus at Cornell to conduct “camps.” The enemy is not merely at the gates. The enemy is inside the gates. This would be like Saudi Arabia inviting John MacArthur and Dr. Charles Stanley to evangelize at university campuses inside their kingdom.