- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two of Washington's key Arab allies, yesterday issued their strongest endorsements yet of the U.S.-led anti-terrorism effort, breaking a silence they had kept since the air strikes on Afghanistan began Sunday that had raised concerns about their commitment to the cause.
Diplomats and terrorism analysts said the two countries are crucial to the United States and its coalition partners in terms of acquiring intelligence and other unique information. The U.S. government is focusing on covert cooperation with them that may never be made public, they said.
Egypt became the first Arab state to back the U.S. and British strikes against the Taliban regime, with President Hosni Mubarak saying he supports "all U.S. measures to eradicate terrorism, because we have suffered from it."
Saudi Arabia acknowledged for the first time that there is clear evidence linking Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network to last month's attacks on New York and Washington, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
"There is clear evidence that he is connected with this," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said in a Time magazine interview. "This is from the ongoing exchange of information that we have had" with American authorities.
"It's necessary to pursue with vigor and tenacity the criminals who created this tragedy," he said.
But he warned against "unmeasured responses" to the Sept. 11 attacks "that bring others into the fray and cause collateral damage that increases the sense of injustice."
Mr. Mubarak, in comments to reporters, urged the United States "to take effective measures to resolve the Palestinian problem because we think such a solution is of key importance to drying up the sources of terrorism."
Senior Palestinian officials yesterday vigorously rejected bin Laden's attempts to use the Palestinian cause to justify his war against the United States a reference to bin Laden's appearance on the Al-Jazeera television network almost immediately after the air strikes began.
"The Palestinian people is not a toy in the hands of any ill-intentioned individual because the Palestinian cause has its own specificity," Arab League spokeswoman and Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi told Agence France-Presse.
"We don't want innocents to be killed or wars between religions and civilizations to be declared in the name of the liberation of Palestine," she said.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, for talks with senior officials ahead of meetings of Arab and Islamic foreign ministers in Qatar.
As daunting a challenge as building and maintaining a global anti-terrorist coalition is for the United States, few countries are more crucial in the fight against terrorism than Saudi Arabia, diplomats and analysts on the region said.
But they said the importance of the Saudi engagement has much less to do with using military bases to launch attacks on Afghanistan than with acquiring intelligence and other unique information about bin Laden and al Qaeda that only the Saudis are able to provide.
Saudi Arabia is the very reason for bin Laden's war on the United States, said Kevin Taecker, a consultant to Saudi and American businesses and former financial attache at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.
"Bin Laden's objective is to control the holy mosques and he needs a country, so he wants to overthrow the Saudi royal family, whom he regards as not worthy custodians of the mosques," Mr. Taecker said in an interview.
"We have the idea that we are the first target, then Israel and then the rest, but what he's trying to do is drive a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia and put the Saudis in a situation in which they can't get help from the United States," Mr. Taecker said. "He can't prevent Israel from doing what it wants, but he can cause turmoil in Saudi Arabia and delegitimize the royal family."
Bin Laden is above all a revolutionary and then, as a means to achieving his goals, he is also a terrorist, Mr. Taecker said. Bin Laden has repeatedly accused the Saudi regime of siding with the United States against other Arab nations and has demanded that U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia leave the country.
While expressing appreciation for the Saudi help, Western diplomats and analysts have often blamed the royal family for not tolerating democracy and thus creating groups like bin Laden's. But Mr. Taecker said most of the Saudi people support the regime of King Fahd and not bin Laden, because "they don't want to go back to the Stone Age."
Walter Cutler, twice U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, said the Saudis have "historically had the dilemma how to cooperate with us to ensure their security and maintain their reputation as legitimate custodians of the home of Islam." Their survival has been at stake, especially during the 1991 Persian Gulf war against Iraq, he said.
David Long, former deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism and a foreign service officer with extensive experience in the Middle East, said the Saudi regime has wrongly been accused of tolerating terrorism, because "you can't stop private citizens and companies to support causes like these."
He said the Bush administration's priorities in its requests to Riyadh are not likely to be military, in spite of much speculation about using the Prince Sultan military base.
"The first thing is to get covert intelligence something you can't print in a newspaper," he said. "They have sources we don't, and if you don't have real-time intelligence about a person, you can't get him."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide