EDITOR’S NOTE: This appeared in the September 5, 2002, issue of the New York Post.
Just before he hosted Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan at his Texas ranch on August 27, President Bush phoned Crown Prince Abdullah to trumpet “the eternal friendship” between America and the desert dictatorship. Two days later, the Saudis reportedly returned the favor by choosing to free a suspected al Qaeda comrade with possible ties to the 9/11 terrorists. And they wouldn’t let American antiterrorists question him first.
The FBI issued an August 20 bulletin urging the arrest of Saud Abdul Aziz Al-Rasheed. It called him armed, dangerous and “suspected to be associated with the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers.” News channels immediately aired a picture of the 21-year-old Saudi wearing a red and white headdress. His passport photograph surfaced among evidence gathered overseas in the ongoing 9/11 probe. Investigators also noted that Al-Rasheed was in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan between June 18, 2000 and June 9, 2001 — to perform humanitarian work, his father insists.
Al-Rasheed, who was on vacation in Egypt when the FBI issued its arrest notice, quickly returned to Saudi Arabia. At his father’s urging, he voluntarily surrendered to the Interior Ministry on August 22.
According to the independent, U.S.-based Saudi Information Agency (SIA), an unnamed Saudi security official indicated in the August 29 Al-Riyadh daily that Saudi authorities dismissed the FBI’s accusations against Al-Rasheed after interrogating him. The source added that Al-Rasheed would not be extradited to the U.S. Instead, he promptly would be released once examiners conclude their inquiry. Although Al-Rasheed’s revelations supposedly will be shared with Washington, U.S. investigators may not question him.
This is typical of America’s Saudi “friends.”
‐Al-Hayat, a Saudi daily, reported on June 17 that the Saudi Interior Ministry released 160 Saudi al Qaeda members who had fled Afghanistan for Iran as the Taliban collapsed. As an SIA summary of this Arabic-language news story points out, Iranian officials arrested the fighters, then let the Saudi government fly them home via Medina last January. They were briefly detained, then freed. A Saudi security staffer explained that the al Qaeda members fought for the Taliban for religious reasons and thus did not threaten Riyadh.
‐Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Saudi diplomats arranged for Osama bin Laden’s relatives in Massachusetts and Florida to jet home — outside the grasp of U.S. detectives.
‐After a terrorist truck bomb killed 19 American GIs at Dahran’s Khobar Towers on June 25, 1996, Saudi authorities prevented a team of 70 FBI agents from questioning suspects or eyewitnesses. As Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie observe in the recently translated French best-seller Forbidden Truth, “the FBI was relegated to collecting material evidence from the bomb site.”
The U.S.-Saudi relationship is not one of mutual support and affection but instead based on sadomasochism. Riyadh obstructs American counterterrorist probes, sponsors homicide bombers who murder Israelis and U.S. citizens and finances madrassahs and mosques here and abroad to promote anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Semitic Wahhabi Islam. Washington, like a battered but loving wife, warmly praises the sandy tyranny and arranges high-profile visits for its ruling despots.