The Corner

Kerry On The Saudis

Just saw John Kerry deliver his major foreign policy address at the Council on Foreign Relations. He took after the Saudis big time. This is becoming a major Democratic theme, and is one to be encouraged since Saudi relations is an issue where the Democrats can usefully get to Bush’s right. Here is Kerry’s take (excuse the long post):

“The Saudi government now claims to be cracking down on terrorist financing, but their actions have not matched their words. The United States must do everything possible to ensure that Saudi reforms are real, not just window-dressing. There needs to be accountability.

I have specific concerns.

Saudi Arabia has long been a major supporter of Islamic extremism here and elsewhere. Saudi-funded hate speech can be found in schools, mosques, and other institutions across the world, fostering hatred of Jews, Christians, Americans, and the West. This kind of officially sanctioned bigotry breeds terrorism. Spokesmen for the Saudis now say that textbooks are being rewritten to remove “possibly offensive” language and that Islamic clerics are being told to tone down their rhetoric. But we need more than promises. We need to see the new textbooks. We need to hear what the government-financed clerics are preaching.

Saudi officials and spokesmen have said repeatedly that the Saudi government is opposed to every form of terrorism; yet the Saudi regime openly and enthusiastically supports Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas,. The Saudis cannot pick and choose among terrorist groups, approving some while claiming to oppose others.

Beyond all this, one purveyor of Saudi hate speech is a senior member of the ruling family who serves as the top law enforcement official in the kingdom. I’m referring to Prince Nayef, the Saudi interior minister. More than a year after 9/11 attacks, Prince Nayef told an Arab media outlet that he thought “the Jews” were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. How can we even begin to regard Saudi Arabia as a reliable ally against terrorism when its top law enforcement officer, supposedly responsible for tracking down terrorists, is a man who promotes wild, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to explain away the 9/11 attacks?

The truth is, we have deep, and for the moment inescapable ties – corporate and energy dependence – that complicates our relationship with significantly. And that is why we must adopt a new energy policy for America and create a real partnership against terror which is in the best long-term Saudi interests as well.”


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