- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Unlike many who concluded in the wake of September 11 that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi regime is an enemy of the United States, we have tried to keep an open mind about that government. Despite a considerable body of evidence that it has looked the other way while prominent Saudis subsidized terrorists linked to groups like Hamas and al Qaeda, we have given Saudi officials the opportunity to make their case on our Op-Ed page, including as recently as last week.

But, in the wake of new revelations about Monday’s car-bomb attacks by al Qaeda terrorists on three residential compounds in Riyadh — which killed 34 people, including at least eight Americans, and injured nearly 200 others, including 40 Americans — it’s much harder to give the House of Saud the benefit of the doubt any more.

Brian Ross of ABC News reported this week that the Saudi government failed to act on urgent requests made last week for security assistance at residential compounds where Americans live — including one of the locations attacked on Monday. In fact, Deputy National Security Adviser Steven Hadley visited Saudi Arabia last week to warn his hosts that an attack was imminent. On Saturday, a U.S. team identified one of the very compounds attacked two days later as a specific terrorist target. So, what did the Saudis do when requests were made for vehicles with machine guns mounted on them to be placed at the gate of the complex and a reaction team inside the complex? An unidentified Saudi brigadier general in that country’s air force, which is responsible for guarding the compound, turned them down.

It would hardly come as a surprise to learn that there are elements in every Arab nation’s “street,” including that of Saudi Arabia, who would like to see harm come to the maximum possible number of Americans. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it appears, there are senior members of the Saudi military, and perhaps the Royal Family as well, who are quite willing to see Americans living on Saudi soil killed and maimed by terrorists. So much for the renowned Arab tradition of generous hospitality to guests in their tent.

Unfortunately, the Saudis’ refusal to allow their American guests to be protected against terrorist attacks is just the latest example of how that regime has obstructed U.S. efforts to fight terrorism. In June 1996, terrorists affiliated with an Iranian- and Syrian-backed group known as Saudi Hezbollah killed 19 American servicemen in a truck-bomb attack at the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis consistently blocked FBI efforts to investigate Khobar Towers — in particular, by refusing to permit the Bureau to interrogate terrorist suspects in Saudi custody. Beyond that, 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis, and Saudi money has found its way to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who attack Israel and to the notorious madrassas in Afghanistan and Pakistan that inculcate students with hatred of the United States and non-Muslims in general.

In this week’s bombing, ABC reported that U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan is livid over the Saudi refusal to provide increased security at the Riyadh compound — so angry in fact, that at one point he raised the possibility of severing diplomatic relations with the Saudis. We aren’t prepared to go that far, yet. But, given the Saudis’ disgraceful refusal to protect their American guests, it’s time for Washington to undertake a reassessment of its relationship with the Saudi regime.

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