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Saudi Friends and Foes

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It seems that, thanks to Saudi Arabia, the latest effort to kill Americans with sophisticated bombs failed. Thanks to Saudi Arabia, we are certain to be subjected to more such attacks in the future.

The preceding paragraph captures the double game we confront from a kingdom that, on the one hand, is routinely characterized by American officials as a reliable U.S. ally in the volatile Middle East, a crucial source of oil and a trustworthy recipient of sophisticated weaponry. On the other hand, it is also the wellspring of shariah, the supremacist totalitarian doctrine that is the law of the land in Saudi Arabia and that animates and enables jihadists worldwide – thanks to immense support from Saudi royals, government agencies, businessmen, clerics and “charities.”

In a report Sunday on the intercepted Hewlett Packard printers whose ink cartridges were transformed into potent bombs and dispatched from Yemen, the New York Times declared that Saudi Arabia in recent years had been forced to “wake up to a reality it had long refused to acknowledge. The puritanical strain of Islam fostered by the state, sometimes called Wahhabism, was breeding extremists who were willing to kill even Muslims for their cause.” Now, the paper concluded, “Saudi Arabia’s problem…has become the world’s problem.”

The truth is that the Saudis’ problem has been the world’s problem for some time now. It is a problem that becomes more intractable, not less, as our government and others refuse even to come to recognize, let alone come to grips with, the Kingdom’s double game whose malevolent elements are directly fueled by what the authorities of Islam – especially those who operate in the kingdom – call shariah, rather than Wahhabism.

How has Washington chosen to respond instead? By and large, it has seen what it wants to see in the House of Saud and averted its gaze from what it does not want to see. Accordingly, the Saudis’ episodic help with countering terrorism is lauded, while their vast material and ideological contribution to its spread is largely overlooked. Their contribution to instability in the Middle East is discounted and their “peace plan” for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict on terms that would assuredly endanger the Jewish State is enthusiastically embraced.

Similarly, the Saudis are never held accountable for their role as prime-movers behind the “stealth jihad” – the effort to insinuate shariah into nations like ours through the text books, mosques, Muslim Brotherhood front organizations, media ownership and other influence operations they underwrite. This dangerous practice is often lubricated by the Saudis’ generous financial and other relationships with former senior U.S. government officials and prominent businesses, who can be counted upon to discourage probing questions or more prudential policies here.

At the moment, this “see-no-evil” approach is manifested by President Obama’s proposed sale of $60-plus billion worth of advanced American arms to Saudi Arabia. Unless Congress objects in the next few weeks, large quantities of sophisticated fighter planes, helicopters, missile systems and bombs will be transferred to the Saudis over the next decade.

Such weapons are, of course, unlikely to do much to help the Saudis with what the New York Times euphemistically calls their “problem” with “extremists” and “militants.” The latter are, after all, simply acting upon the Saudis’ own politico-military-legal code, shariah.

These arms may or may not assure the Kingdom will provide down the road the sort of help its intelligence services reportedly gave us in recent days in countering “their problem” as it continues to metastasize around the world. Even less certain is whether this massive infusion of U.S. military equipment will have any appreciable impact in contending with the Saudis’ other problem – and ours: a nuclear-armed and ever-more-aggressive Iran.

What does seem predictable, however, is that at some point these arms will wind up in the hands of people who are not even our fair-weather friends. Candidates would include those among the 5,000 Saudi princes who take seriously their duty under shariah to wage holy war against infidels like us. Then, there are the followers of Osama bin Laden – some of whom are actually affiliated with al Qaeda, others of whom simply emulate him – who seek to supplant the Saudi royals and would love to have access to the Kingdom’s arsenal and oil wealth to pursue their jihadist ambitions against Israel and the United States.

Another possibility is that a nuclear-armed Iran may become so dominant a force in the Persian Gulf that it manages – one way or another, perhaps by direct force of arms or perhaps by collusion with the Shiites who populate the Saudis’ most oil-rich region – to acquire this array of formidable American-supplied weaponry. While the dangers associated with such an eventuality may be mitigated somewhate by the need to have U.S. contractors maintain and support such weapons, they cannot be denied.

The United States simply can no longer afford to look the other way on Saudi double-dealing. The time to establish whose side they really are on – and are likely to be on in the years to come – is before we arm them to the teeth with weapons that could come back to bite us.

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