With the grace and speed of a child’s toy top, Saudi Arabia’s top public relations “spinner,” Adel al-Jubeir, has been whirling across the airwaves and newsprint of the American media ever since the Kingdom experienced last week’s wave of murderous, terrorist bombings. Mr. al-Jubeir’s ubiquitousness (notably, in place of Prince Bandar, the equally charming, but less-Western and more controversial Saudi Ambassador) is evidence of how much trouble the Saudis now know they are in. His mission: to ensure that American audiences see Saudi Arabia as a fellow-victim of radical Islamic (or Islamist) terrorism -- not as its most important source.
Toward this end, the man whose day-job makes him the foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah, employed his many impressive linguistic and other skills (in particular, an unaccented and idiomatic command of the English language, a magician’s gift for dissimulation and verbal prestidigitation, even choking-up theatrically at one point). And he largely got away with it. Until, that is, he made the mistake of appearing Sunday with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Russert has earned a reputation for thorough and tough, but fair, cross-examinations of his guests. In al-Jubeir’s case, he used lengthy questions to put before the public hard facts about such conduct as: Saudi calls for holy war (jihad) from state-sponsored Wahhabi clerics; virulently anti-Western incitement widely disseminated via such means as Saudi government-controlled media and 8th grade textbooks; comments by the Saudi Interior Minister that suggest sympathy for Islamist terrorists and hostility to U.S. efforts to bring them to justice; and funding by Saudi-based and -controlled “charities” that supports suicide bombers and their families.
Before it was over, even as accomplished an artful-dodger as Mr. al-Jubeir was reduced to declaring that reports of such activities in Saudi Arabia were “overblown,” characterizing this sort of behavior as “wrong” and promising that it would be stopped in the future.
Let us earnestly hope so. But since Mr. al-Jubeir (and, to an even greater degree, other less-skilled Saudi spokesmen) seem unable fully to acknowledge the extent of Saudi complicity in terror at home, and since in any event it is difficult for Americans to monitor exactly what is happening in the closed and secretive Kingdom, there are several other things the Saudi royals, their clerics, companies and other agents could do in this country that would be both helpful -- and relatively transparent:
1) Stop their organized efforts to recruit convicted felons in the U.S. prison system as cannon-fodder for the Wahhabist jihad.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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