- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

A book released in France this week documents, chapter and verse, the "axis of evil," but it's not the one President Bush had in mind. It is the axis between Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clergy and al Qaeda.

Roland Jacquard runs the Paris-based "Observatory of International Terrorism" and is an adviser on terrorism to the U.N. Security Council. He has compiled devastatingly incriminating documents, correspondence and fatwas (religious edicts) found in the rubble of Osama bin Laden's Afghan offices and in al Qaeda's terrorist training camps. The book is appropriately titled "The Secret Archives of Al Qaeda."

The U.S. intelligence community presumably has copies of these documents and then some but with the House of Saud in deep denial about its clergy aiding and abetting Islamist terrorists, the Bush administration does not wish to rock the already leaky boat of Saudi-U.S. relations. There is a Saudi religious dimension to al Qaeda that official Washington and other Western capitals have decided to sidestep.

Mr. Jacquard's documents include fatwas issued by Saudi and other Gulf religious leaders, including the late firebrand Hamoud Shuaibi who, according to the author, issued the first religious ruling condoning the World Trade Center bombing. Another fatwa by a Kuwaiti cleric approved suicide attacks as "the most noble rung a Muslim can attain." It also mentioned "crashing your plane into an important location that will cause your enemy to suffer colossal losses."

The book, first publicized by the International Herald Tribune earlier this week, also contains an "Encyclopedia of Jihad" on how to be an effective terrorist; how to set up "sleeper cells" in the West; how to put explosives in a hair brush, a stapler, a pack of cigarettes or a ballpoint pen; how to detonate a bomb with a rat in a cage that gnaws at a metal wire coated with blood or fat; diagrams of construction methods of skyscrapers. There is also a manuscript that mentions the suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden in October 2000 by two men in a dinghy" that cost just $10,000." The $1 billion warship was disabled for almost a year and the repair bill ran to $250 million. The WTC Towers and Pentagon suicide attacks are estimated to have cost between $300,000 and $500,000 and the accumulated damage to the U.S. and world economies is now thought to be almost $700 billion.

The House of Saud recently dispatched a phalanx of princes of the royal blood to America where they fanned out in think tanks and television talk shows. They tried to convince their American interlocutors that they had not funded Islamist extremism in Pakistan or Afghanistan; that they have never encouraged extremism anywhere; that they had never given a penny to the Taliban regime, even though Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries (with Pakistan and the UAE) to recognize the Taliban regime ("they asked us, but we said no"); and that the only ticking time bomb in the region was the Bush administration's benign neglect, flavored with an Israeli bias, of the Palestinian-Israeli debacle.

As for Pakistan's thousands of religious schools that teach the virtues of holy war against Western infidels, the Saudi government has never given them any money. "Maybe private money," conceded Prince Turki al Faisal, who had run the Saudi intelligence service for 24 years until he suddenly and unexpectedly resigned two weeks before September 11.

The House of Saud's accounting practices would make Enron and Arthur Andersen salivate with envy. They are a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't shell game that allowed King Fahd's youngest son to build himself a $350 million palace outside Riyadh. The deliberations of the unelected, king-appointed consultative body known as the Shura are as opaque as the budget it is not authorized to discuss.

Prince Turki's non-denial denial was as close as the Saudi royal family will come to facing the ugly truth. He also admitted that Osama bin Laden still enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of young Saudis. Sixty percent of Saudi Arabia's 18 million population is under 21. As a man who has been the kingdom's top intelligence honcho for a quarter of a century, Prince Turki knows, but cannot admit, even off the record, that radical mullahs have been exporting Wahhabi extremism for years.

The Wahhabi clergy has been the beneficiary of the House of Saud's munificence since 1974, when oil prices suddenly tripled following the October 1973 war. The clergy received untallied billions of riyals to build mosques around the world and spread Wahhabi intolerance. In return for this royal largess, the clergy turned a blind eye to the extravagant excesses of the House of Saud, feathered its nest and consolidated its Muslim dominion abroad.

The only problem with this royal protection arrangement is that for the clergy America is the enemy, and. for the House of Saud, America is a close friend for 60 years and one that saved the kingdom from a fate worse than death when it intervened to turn back Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. The Pakistani madrassa network of some 15,000 religious schools (7,500 are deemed important) was entirely funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From there, gung-ho wannabe jihadis John Walker Lindh was one of them moved west into Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Pakistan was thus relieved of the burden of public education so it could spend more on its military budget.

Hopefully, Mr. Jacquard's "Secret Archives of Al Qaeda" will persuade Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the kingdom's de facto ruler, to muster the will and courage to bring the radical clergy to heel before radical Islam topples the House of Saud.

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