Politics & Policy

Completing The Big Picture

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the Holy Land.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a four-part series of exerpts from Endgame: The Bluepring for Victory in the War on Terror, by Thomas McInerny and Paul Vallely.


The House of Saud is now locked in a fight for its life against Islamist terror.

On May 12, 2003, al-Qaeda struck in Riyadh, killing twelve people in suicide car bomb attacks. In the fall of 2003, terrorists struck again in Riyadh, attacking a compound in which foreign workers, many of them Lebanese Christians, were killed and wounded. Another worrisome aspect of this attack was that some of the attackers wore Saudi Arabian police uniforms and drove Saudi Arabian police cars.

To his credit, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah, responded forcibly. Saudi security forces have killed dozens of al-Qaeda terrorists, many in ferocious gun battles, and arrested hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda operatives and their supporters. The Saudi authorities also have uncovered large caches of arms as well as bundles of documents related to al-Qaeda’s financial records.

Al-Qaeda has many fighters and supporters within Saudi Arabia. As one analyst told us, only about 25 percent of the Saudi population wholeheartedly supports the royal family. Ironically, the inflexible Wahhabis Islam preached by Saudi-funded clerics in mosques, taught in Saudi-funded schools, and put into action by Saudi-supported Islamist groups around the world is what inspires the anti-monarchist forces. The chickens have come home to roost for the House of Saud. It now is fighting the very terrorism that it helped create.

That might seem poetic justice to some, but the United States has an interest in Saudi reform rather than revolution. In the late 1970s, the United States stood by while the Shah of Iran fell and an Islamic republic took his place. That foreign policy mistake gave rise to the mullahs and eventually the Web of Terror that constitutes the greatest post-Communist threat to the Western world. The United States, therefore, cannot make the same mistake in Saudi Arabia that it did in Iran. We cannot let anti-American mullahs replace another monarchy in the Persian Gulf region.

The House of Saud is a seething mess of competing factions–and, therefore, the Kingdom’s government often seems to be of two minds (at least), with some of its members assuring the West that it stands with it against terrorism as others pursue those policies that help spread the stern Wahhabi Islam that often drives Islamist terror. The infuriating fact remains, however, that, in the short term at least, the United States must support the House of Saud. We must continue to provide material assistance and training to the Saudi military and the kingdom’s security forces in their now almost daily battles with Islamist terrorists.

That said, it is time for the United States to put the House of Saud on notice. Business as usual isn’t good enough. The Kingdom’s recent tough response to domestic terrorism–striking with “an iron fist,” as the Crown Prince colorfully puts it–is an admirable one; as the Shah discovered in 1979, however, that can only go so far in preserving a dynasty. The Kingdom needs to reform its economy, domestic politics, and foreign policy immediately.

The president should be clear: Saudi Arabia must close “the Islamic interests” section in every Saudi Arabian embassy and stop its support and promotion of Islamic schools and mosques that promote Wahhabi Islam, Islamic “charities,” and other incubators of terror. For too long, the House of Saud has assumed that by funding radical Islam it could tame and divert it. In fact, the Saudis have a created a monster that threatens the Islamic world and the West and now the monarchy itself. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year supporting radical Wahhabi Islam around the world, funding terrorist groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and making payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. This money should be better spent reforming the Saudi education system so that it teaches job skills, not hatred of “infidels.” Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, Qatar, provides a perfect model for reform of the Saudi education system. In 2003, under the sponsorship of the Emir of Qatar and his wife, Qatar established “Education City,” a 2,400-acre facility in cooperation with such institutions as Texas A&M, Cornell University Medical School, and the Rand Corporation. Not only do the institutions of “Education City” offer schooling, they spur research and development that can improve the quality of life for the people. Soon, the Qatar government will begin a reform of its elementary and secondary education system. One of its specific goals is to develop an appreciation of other cultures and religions, to foster tolerance and understanding, rather than hatred and terrorism. If Saudi Arabia–with its much greater wealth–followed Qatar’s lead, it could become the major center of learning in all disciplines (not just in Wahhabi theology), in the Arab world, indeed in the Islamic world.

As the Shah of Iran discovered in the late 1970s, however, establishing a quality education system is not enough. There must be jobs for the well-educated graduates. And that means reforming Saudi Arabia’s economy so that it is no longer almost solely dependent on the extraction of mineral wealth, but is a diversified market economy from which Saudi Arabia can derive widespread economic prosperity as other Gulf States–like Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi–have done. Taking a cue from other Muslim monarchies, such as Morocco, Qatar, and Bahrain, the leadership of Saudi Arabia should begin the process of transforming the kingdom’s political system from a family business into a constitutional monarchy, complete with a written constitution and a sound and open legal system in which any citizen can expect justice. If the House of Saud persists in treating Saudi Arabia as a family possession run solely for the family’s benefit, the dynasty’s future will be imperiled, no matter how successful its current crackdown against internal terrorism.

If the House of Saud does not follow an American diplomatic lead to reform along the lines we’ve sketched, it could easily fall to an Islamist revolution. So the United States must dust off the contingency plans to meet that threat, which would mean invading Saudi Arabia, seizing its oil fields, production facilities, and tanker terminals, securing and isolating them from the Islamists–and defeating them with the assistance of the more Western-oriented princes, who need to be identified now, who can lead a counterrevolutionary opposition. Other Gulf States, like Qatar and Kuwait, would certainly come to our aid.

On the subject of Saudi Arabia, two words are enough to prevent some U.S. policymakers from acting aggressively to save the regime: Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam. The presence of American forces in Saudi Arabia inflamed Osama bin Laden and prompted the Khobar Towers bombing. But a radical Islamic takeover would be worse than any reaction to American troops in Saudi Arabia. With the help of the other Gulf States and with reformist pro-Western Saudi princes, we can turn back that terrorist threat.


Pakistan is balancing on a razor’s edge. The two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 show how tenuous the situation is in Pakistan. Like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is divided between a pro-Western faction and a large and powerful Islamist faction. Pakistan considers itself a leading Islamic country. Its constitution enshrines sharia law. It has the only Islamic nuclear weapon–so far. And, unfortunately, many within Pakistan, including some in its army and military intelligence service, supported the Taliban, which is now regrouping in the tribal areas of Pakistan along the Afghan border. Al-Qaeda’s presence is reportedly growing. The country’s religious schools continue to indoctrinate masses of students in the doctrines of radical Islam. And Pakistani nuclear scientists have made the rounds of rogue states, selling equipment and technical expertise to advance their nuclear weapons programs. Pakistan’s future depends on its willingness to confront the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist terrorist and terror-supporting groups within its own borders.

President Bush must press President Musharraf to continue investigating–and to halt–the “private” activities of Pakistani nuclear scientists, which it appears he has done with the admission of guilt by A.Q. Khan. Such activities have resulted in nuclear weapons knowledge going to Iran and North Korea. The United States needs to know the full extent and details of these breaches of security, so that we can have a better idea of how far developed are the nuclear weapons programs of these rogue states.

Like its nuclear-armed neighbor India, Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, unless and until India unilaterally rids itself of its nuclear weapons, Pakistan is unlikely to become one. An Indo-Pakistani mutual nuclear disarmament treaty would be another diplomatic option–and a nation that India and Pakistan might consider an honest broker should be encouraged to propose the idea to them. India’s long-term possession of nuclear weapons and its well-founded self-image as a country that is growing in international importance, however, probably would make that effort more than a little difficult.

In the probable absence of an Indo-Pakistani nuclear disarmament treaty, the United States and the United Kingdom could offer Pakistan an agreement in which Pakistan would strictly and effectively prohibit its nuclear establishment from engaging in any activities that would advance nuclear proliferation and, in exchange, the United States and the United Kingdom would provide increased economic and military aid to Pakistan.

Another important step for President Musharraf is to purge the Pakistani military–especially the army–of Islamist influences before he relinquishes his post as chief of staff of the Pakistani Army, a position he agreed to surrender by December 2004 in order to give Pakistan a civilian-run government. The Pakistani army is the only national institution that has both the brains and the brawn to control Pakistan. Turkey’s military is the guarantor of a secular, democratic Turkey. Musharraf needs to follow the Turkish model and make the Pakistani army a bulwark against the radical Islamists. Moreover, he needs to reorganize Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), the military intelligence service that is best known for organizing, training, and arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Unfortunately, it also has been linked to terrorism in Indian-held Kashmir and is credited with being the organizing force behind the Taliban. The ISI has outlived its usefulness to Pakistan, and if allowed to exist in its present form, has the potential to destabilize Pakistan as well as other countries in South and Central Asia.

Related to reorganizing the ISI, Pakistan must eliminate the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from within its own borders. If President Musharraf asks for assistance in this effort, we must be willing to provide everything from intelligence to air strikes, from transportation to conventional ground forces. It is risky for Musharraf to act, but our diplomats need to point out that it is riskier for him not to act–and that we will support him. Finally, we have to think of how we would deal with the consequences of the unthinkable: the overthrow or assassination of President Musharraf and perhaps a consequent civil war with the ultimate prize being nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and the infrastructure to build more of them. America should work closely to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and keep nuclear warheads from falling under control of rogue commanders or Islamic terrorists. We should be prepared to give them U.S. technology that will prevent Pakistan from launching its nuclear weapons by rogue elements.


Within the foreign policy establishment, it is an article of faith that settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question is the key to peace in the Middle East. Give the Palestinians a homeland of their own and suddenly peace will descend on the Middle East; radical Islam will lose its appeal; and the lion will lie down with the lamb. All this is a dream: a self-defeating, nonsensical dream.

Unfortunately, this dream has enormous power. It is the conventional wisdom–and a convenient excuse–in many capitals around the world. In early January 2001, during the waning days of the Clinton administration, Yasser Arafat rejected what history probably will record as the best deal for Palestinian statehood ever offered. The Americans created–and Israel approved–a plan that would have created a Palestinian state that covered more than 95 percent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and would have allowed for Palestinian control of many of the religious sites in Jerusalem. If he had accepted it, Yasser Arafat could have become a bona fide head of state. Palestine could have become a magnet for returning immigrants, who would have used their expertise to create a vibrant business sector that would have provided jobs and economic growth. Arafat, however, remained true to his blood-soaked revolutionary roots and his directions from Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh, and took the Palestinians to war.

In this new intifada, the situation in Israel and Palestine has spiraled ever downward. Rather than take on the Israeli Defense Force in a stand-up fight they would certainly lose, the Palestinian Authority and its allies Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have embarked on a terrorist campaign of suicide bombings, ambushes, and sniper attacks. Sustained by weapons and explosives smuggled to the West Bank and Gaza via tunnels that run to and from Egypt as well as through southern Lebanon and Syria, this campaign has been all too successful; the attacks have killed approximately one thousand Israelis and injured another six thousand.

In retaliation, Israel has hunted down and killed many members of the Palestinian terrorist organizations as well as reduced many of the physical trappings of the Palestinian Authority to rubble. Instead of living in his luxurious seaside villa and receiving fellow heads of state there, Arafat now hunkers down in the remnants of his West Bank compound in Ramallah, itself shattered in a 2002 siege. The tourist trade has evaporated, accelerating the decline of the Palestinian economy, now in shambles. Yet, because of the restraint–urged by the United States–that Israel has shown, and the financial support still provided to the Palestinian Authority by outside governments, many of the institutions of the Palestinian Authority remain up and running, and Palestinian and Arab television and radio continue to spew toxic anti-Israeli propaganda and encourage suicide bombings.

Even if he wanted to negotiate a lasting settlement with Israel–and that is extremely unlikely–Arafat is aging, his health is declining, and his life and liberty are dependent on Israeli sufferance. He is losing the authority he once had as the leader of the Palestinians. Despite his continuing efforts to “Islamify” himself and the Palestinian Authority, younger Palestinians shun Arafat. They flock instead to the banner of radical Islamist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and are influenced by the examples of the terrorists of Hezbollah. They have no interest in negotiating with Israel, only in destroying it.

Given these trends, Israel’s decision to construct a security fence (the Seam Line) seems a prudent one–and not deserving of the criticism that many people, including some in the U.S. government, are directing at it. The wall will not only keep terrorists out, it will spare Israel–and the Palestinians–the otherwise inevitable Israeli counteroffensive against an ever more violent and ever more radicalized intifada. This security fence is already proving effective in preventing suicide bombers from entering into Israel from the West Bank.

The Israelis already understand what the rest of the world needs to understand: that a negotiated settlement with Yasser Arafat is a pipe dream. They also know that terror will not end with the creation of a Palestinian state, unless that Palestinian state is purged of terrorists. A Palestinian state allied to Iran, or a puppet of Syria, or full of terrorist groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas will not be “a partner for peace” but an implacable enemy. Only when the terrorists are beaten will a peaceful Palestinian state emerge.

For that to occur, the Palestinians themselves need to be lifted out from under the thumb of the terrorists and the kleptomaniacal Palestinian Authority. They both need and deserve what the people of Iraq now have: liberation. Liberation will begin when the Palestinian terror complex is cut off from its outside support–Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the chief culprits–and the terrorists are then given a choice: total war, which they will lose, or real peace. Put another way, the current policy relies on an inside out solution; our solution is to approach the problem from the outside in. The dictatorships of Syria and Iran should be toppled and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should be reformed, as we’ve outlined.

The liberation and transformation of Palestine represents a huge gamble. It means gambling that a Palestine purged of terrorists is a Palestine that will pursue peace with Israel and economic freedom for its own people. It is a gamble worth taking. Today, the Palestinians and the Israelis are living in intolerable conditions. The Palestinians are governed by an oppressive dictatorship that practices “crony capitalism” and political terror. The Israelis are forced to live lives in constant fear. To allow this situation to continue, to allow it to continue to serve as a rallying point for radical Islamic terror, is tantamount to criminal neglect. The risk is worth the likely gain.


We know the country-by-country strategy that we have outlined to end the Web of Terror might sound daunting, but it can be done. And it must be done. Al-Qaeda has a global presence. It is active in the Middle East and North Africa. It is increasingly active in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It has cells in the West. It is active in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. And it is in East Africa. America is fighting al-Qaeda, globally, and we are winning. But victory requires more than killing al-Qaeda’s terrorists and freezing their accounts.

When World War II began for the United States after Pearl Harbor, our nation understood it had to defeat a great threat to world peace. Today we face another such threat, after the Pearl Harbor of September 11, 2001. We will achieve victory again. With the tools our nation has now, we can do it and, in relative terms, more easily than we did almost sixty years ago. And the stakes are just as high.

We can act now and win, or we can wait and let the danger grow–grow into the nightmare scenarios we sketched earlier. Any commander in chief who chooses the latter course has violated his obligation to defend the people of the United States. President Clinton’s refusal to act in a decisive way against the murderous attacks by al-Qaeda against Americans overseas emboldened the terrorist to launch the September 11 attacks. No American president should make that mistake again. Declared enemies of the United States must be taken at their word. If not cooperative and they remain defiant, our message in response to them should be manifest: We will not tolerate your support of terrorism, and your regime will be changed unless you cooperate.

Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney retired from the U.S. Air Force as assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and director for the Defense Performance Review. Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely retired from the U.S. Army as deputy commanding general, Pacific, and is the senior military analyst for FOX News Channel.


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