Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 14, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Vice President Cheney: 91 People Were Killed in the Saudi Attack (Reuters/Haaretz-Hebrew)
    There were contradictory reports with regard to the number of casualties in the Riyadh attack.
    Vice President Cheney estimated the number of fatalities at 91 during a U.S. appearance.
    The Saudis, in contrast, have produced a lower estimate of approximately 30 fatalities.
    The State Department reiterated the figure of 91 dead from the attacks.
    It will take time to evaluate the final number of casualties.
    See also Saudi Bomb May Have Killed 90 (London Evening Standard)

Saddam Still Alive and in Iraq - Chalabi (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Pro-American Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi said in remarks published on Monday he had credible information that ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his two sons were still alive and in Iraq.

Huge Mass Grave Found in Iraq (BBC)
    Iraqis have uncovered what is thought to be one of the largest mass graves found since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.
    The remains of up to 3,000 people had been found so far near Hilla, about 90 km south of Baghdad, and the total could be as many as 15,000.
    Among the remains are thought to be the bodies of Shia political prisoners killed in 1991, as well as entire families.

Stolen Israeli Historical Documents on Sale in U.S. - Leah Stern and Michael Strongin (Jerusalem Post)
    A number of valuable historic documents stolen from some of Israel's leading research institutions are being offered for sale in the U.S.
    Antiquities expert John Reznikoff said Monday that "all the major archives in Israel are being looted....I myself am in possession of letters written by Weizmann, Jabotinsky, and Albert Einstein, which were transferred to me for preview before sale."

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • The Target in Saudi Arabia: U.S. Experts
    The terrorists knew that the three residential compounds in Riyadh were among the most popular with Westerners working in Saudi Arabia and were close enough to enable simultaneous attacks. It took the bombers less than 15 minutes to fight their way inside the complexes, all of which had the latest security, and to detonate their explosives next to villas and blocks of flats where families slept. They synchronized the assaults to ensure that security guards did not have time to warn neighbors or alert the authorities.
        Intelligence experts believe the main target was the Vinnell compound, home to scores of former U.S. servicemen who train the Saudi Arabian National Guard. It was the first to be attacked. About 70 American military specialists live here, some with their families. The company has worked in the kingdom for more than 25 years. A car bomb in December 1995 destroyed a U.S. Army building where Vinnell staff were working.
        A U.S. Army general described how a lorry and a black car had driven up to the main gates, approaching the U.S.-trained men on duty at the front gates. Gunmen in the car opened fire with automatic weapons, killing four Saudi sentries. One of the terrorists entered the main guardhouse and opened the heavy iron gates, allowing the lorry and its explosive load to pass through the security cordon. The lorry was driven a further 250 yards until it reached the highest building in the compound, where it exploded. Some witnesses say that they saw some of the gunmen escaping, including at least one man who had been in the lorry.
        General Powell stared up at the gutted block of flats and said: "These are people who were determined to penetrate places like this just for the purpose of killing people in their sleep, killing innocent people, killing people who had tried to help others." (London Times)
  • Saudis Tie Al Qaeda to Attacks
    A known al Qaeda cell headed by a veteran Saudi militant who trained in Afghanistan carried out the coordinated car bombings in Riyadh, Saudi officials said. Saudi officials said at least some of the attackers wore Saudi Arabian National Guard uniforms and approached guard posts at the three gated communities driving the sort of vehicles commonly used by residents or guards. (Washington Post)
  • Terror Cell Had Recent Gun Battle With Police
    The Islamic militants behind the bombings were part of an al Qaeda cell whose members fought a gun battle last week with Saudi authorities before escaping arrest, Saudi officials said. On May 6, police raided a suspected hideout several hundred yards from one of the buildings hit, uncovering a weapons cache. (Washington Post)
  • Khatami Says No Breakthrough in U.S.-Iran Ties
    Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday during a visit to Beirut that talks in Geneva between Iran and the U.S. signaled no a breakthrough in relations between the two. "There is nothing new between us and the U.S. side. What is happening in Geneva has been going on for a year or two under the supervision of the UN, particularly when the Afghan issues were at their peak," he said. Newspapers in Iran on Tuesday said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had rejected restoring relations with the U.S., saying it would be tantamount to "surrender." (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Rivers of Money Still Flow - Amos Harel
    Tens of millions of dollars are continuing to reach terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. Since the start of the year, however, there has been a sharp decline in the amount of money sent from overseas to Islamic charities associated with Hamas, due mainly to restrictions by U.S. and German authorities. Saddam Hussein had been perhaps the largest financial backer of suicide bombers' families. The arrests of the Islamic Movement leaders are meant to "dry up" the channel that leads from overseas through Israeli Arabs to the territories, but there are still plenty of other ways for money to reach the territories from abroad. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt to Train Palestinian Security Units
    The London-based Arabic newspaper Azamman, quoting a senior Egyptian security official, reported Wednesday that Egypt is preparing to train Palestinian anti-terror and police units. (Itim/Ha'aretz)
  • PA Gaza Security Chief: We Will Disarm No Palestinian
    Col. Rashid Abu Shabak, current head of the PA's Preventive Security Service in Gaza, said on Sunday that his organization had no intention of disarming any Palestinian. It is the Palestinian security bodies' intention to incorporate other Palestinian organizations into its ranks, Abu Shabak said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU's Solana Cancels Israel Visit Over PM's Refusal to Meet Him - Aluf Benn
    European Foreign Policy Coordinator Javier Solana has canceled a visit to Israel after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office declared he would not be able to meet with the EU official because of Solana's plans to meet Arafat. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Greek FM One of Few to Meet Both Sharon and Arafat (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Saudi Arabia Must Confront the Enemy Within - Editorial
    The Saudis know that they must do far more to cooperate with Western intelligence agencies and be more proactive in identifying and arresting suspects, tracking the funds flowing out from Saudi accounts to extremist organizations, and penetrating al-Qaeda itself. Amazingly, the Saudi authorities have so far failed to infiltrate an organization whose senior members have close family links inside the country and that has won approval among disaffected Saudis. The Saudis have still failed to clear up the bombing of the al-Khobar barracks, which killed 19 Americans in 1996. The Americans were denied permission to interrogate suspects, and the investigation ran into a dead end after officials concluded that the attack was Iranian-inspired. But the investigation into these latest bombings must be swifter, more intensive, and more open. (London Times)
  • Osama's Offspring - Maureen Dowd
    Buried in the rubble of Riyadh are some of the Bush administration's basic assumptions: that al Qaeda was finished, that invading Iraq would bring regional stability, and that a show of American superpower against Saddam would cow terrorists. (New York Times)
  • Hizballah's Message of Hate and Powell's Levant Visit - Avi Jorisch
    Hizballah's Lebanese television station. al-Manar, broadcasts messages calling for death to America and suicide bombings against American forces in Iraq. Hizballah's stance is strikingly similar to al-Qaeda's declared goal of driving U.S. forces out of the Middle East. Moreover, as the most well-known and organized movement in the Arab Shi'a world, Hizballah may reach out to Iraqi Shi'a radicals. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    The Suicide Bombing Attacks in Saudi Arabia: A Preliminary Assessment
    - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Historically, al-Qaeda grew from Saudi roots. Its founder, Osama bin Laden, used Saudi charities as one of the primary conduits for its initial funding. A captured document from the Saudi-run International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), dated in 1989 and possessed by Bosnian Intelligence, documents how this funding route was established during meetings between IIRO and representatives of bin Laden. The IIRO office in the Philippines was run by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law from 1986 to 1994 and funneled funds to the Abu Sayyaf organization; while the brother of bin Laden's deputy, al-Zawahiri, worked for IIRO in Albania.
    • Parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly the mountainous southwestern area near the Yemeni border, are ideal hideouts for al-Qaeda. These areas, similar to other al-Qaeda sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistan border and the Iraq-Iran border (e.g., home of the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam), are extremely difficult to access. Nevertheless, a U.S. Predator unmanned aircraft took out a private vehicle with Saudi license plates driven by a key al-Qaeda operative in this area in November 2002. In fact, Yemeni authorities have reiterated in the Arab press that Saudi Arabia was emerging in 2002-2003 as a new al-Qaeda center. In October 2000, al-Qaeda sent a bomb-laden skiff from the Saudi port of Jizan that tore into the USS Cole in Aden. A number of significant al-Qaeda suspects wanted by authorities in Germany and the U.S. are known to have fled to Saudi Arabia to seek sanctuary.
    • Given years of anti-Western incitement in the Saudi religious educational system, Saudi Arabia is probably the most sympathetic location for al-Qaeda members to hide. Indeed, in the 1990s Saudis had already become the largest national grouping in al-Qaeda. Major figures in the Wahhabi clergy, such as Sheikh al-Ulwan or Sheikh al-Shuaibi, backed bin Laden. In October 2001, Saudi Arabia's internal intelligence agency ordered a confidential poll of Saudi men between the ages of 25 and 41, that demonstrated that 95% approved of Osama bin Laden's cause.
    • The U.S. announcement in the aftermath of the Iraq War that U.S. forces would be withdrawing from Saudi Arabia should have removed one of al-Qaeda's primary grievances against Washington: the presence of American troops in the Islamic Holy Land. Nonetheless, the multiple bombing attack against Westerners in the kingdom took place. It could be that al-Qaeda recognized that the U.S. withdrawal would undercut their movement and weaken support for their cause. By appearing to force the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia, under fire, al-Qaeda could claim victory and build up support in the Middle East. In any case, al-Qaeda is committed to war against the West and to its collapse as its primary objective, and not to a U.S. pullout from Saudi Arabia alone.
    • It is imperative that the U.S. and its Western allies prioritize their diplomatic efforts to demand that the Saudi Arabian government halt its financial support for terrorism - both direct and indirect - once and for all, whether to al-Qaeda or to Hamas and other groups. (The U.S. roadmap for Middle East peace, in fact, requires in the first phase that all Arab states discontinue support for Palestinian groups backing terrorism.) Moreover, Saudi security forces must dismantle the operational infrastructure of al-Qaeda, as the Pakistanis and the Kurds have attempted to do in their own regions. For the war on terrorism to be won, the Saudi front can no longer be ignored.

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