The Dysfunctional House of Saud

(Weekly Standard) Stephen Schwartz - In April came the U.S. liberation of Iraq and the specter, terrifying for the House of Saud, of a Western-oriented, protodemocratic regime on Saudi Arabia's long northern border. Such an Iraq would almost surely be led by Shia Muslims--whom the Wahhabis view much as the Nazis viewed the Jews. Even now, Wahhabi preaching incites Saudi subjects to head north to die in jihad against America, and at least 1,000 of them, according to Saudi informants, have answered the call. It is thus that the ranks of Baathists attacking coalition troops in Iraq were suddenly fortified by adherents of al Qaeda. Lately, however, Saudis have told of Wahhabi volunteers returning disappointed, rejected by the Iraqis they had claimed they would save. The U.S.-Saudi relationship is unique in our history, and redefining it in the light of what Americans now know about terrorism, Wahhabism, and Saudi governance will not be simple. There was no manual for the Western response to the fall of Soviet totalitarianism, and neither is there any blueprint for disengagement from Saudi totalitarianism. President Bush cannot be faulted for missteps as the administration feels its way; the blacking-out of the 28 pages was an error, not a coverup. But the administration must resist the bland assurances of Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, who happily echo Saudi assurances that somehow, someday the relationship will be restored to its earlier, more pleasant status. Indeed, full disclosure can no longer be put off. Almost two years have gone by since September 11, and Saudi promises of help in the war against terror have grown stale.

2003-08-11 00:00:00

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