U.S.-Saudi Tensions

(Council on Foreign Relations/New York Times) Michael Scott Doran - Saudi Arabia has a long history of supporting radical Islam and many of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis. In Saudi Arabia, radical Islamic forces and groups ideologically sympathetic to radical Islam are accusing their domestic Saudi rivals of being agents of the Americans. They are keeping alive a level of anti-Americanism tied to radical Islam that we should be deeply concerned about. The big dividing line in Saudi politics is over the question: should the political and educational role of the clerics be reduced? Crown Prince Abdullah is trying to raise the possibility of altering the system to give voice to non-Wahhabis, but there is a very serious outcry from the clerical right about this. There are many indications that Prince Nayef [head of the interior ministry] is more sympathetic to the clerics than to the liberals clustered around Abdullah. King Fahd [the nominal head of state] is incapacitated. Abdullah may be the crown prince, but there is no center to this system. There are a lot of competing fiefdoms. Prince Sultan, the defense minister, shares top billing with Nayef and Abdullah. Nayef and Sultan are full brothers. A good working assumption is that Sultan and Nayef are closer to each other than they are to the crown prince. Since last May, Nayef has been cracking down heavily on the extremists inside Saudi Arabia, but it's not true that he's willing to take on the conservative clerics. The writer is assistant professor at Princeton University and an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2004-02-13 00:00:00

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