Here’s Madeleine Albright on the Saudi problem. There’s much about the piece that is deeply, deeply flawed (hey, it’s Albright), not least the failure to draw a distinction between the need to deal with the Saudis in the years of the Soviet threat and the situation after the Soviet collapse. Perhaps this was inevitable – the failure to grasp that things had changed (and to realise that the strategic significance of Saudi Arabia was now completely different) was a failure of George H W Bush and, for eight wasted years, Albright’s old boss, Bill Clinton.
This, however, is right:
“The House of Saud cannot conduct business as usual and survive. The era of unaccountable high living is over, and the sooner the rank and file of princes (and princesses) understand that, the better.
“It is not possible to buy protection from the likes of an Osama bin Laden; nor can Saudi leaders pretend the evil he represents does not exist. They have to defeat his message, and show by their own actions that he is wrong.”
And so is this…
“Over the past 30 years or more, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the west has nourished unhealthy habits within both. Cynicism, secrecy and greed have tarnished pragmatic accomplishments, which include considerable behind-the-scenes cooperation on security matters. The concerns of average Saudis have been neglected, creating openings for extremists.
“Critics can write as much as they want about what the Saudis have done in the past. More important is what happens next. By attacking and killing fellow Muslims – and by bringing explosives into the Holy City of Mecca – it is possible that al-Qaida has overreached. That is an opportunity, because the battle against al-Qaida must be fought and won by Islam’s mainstream majority.
“To win the allegiance of that majority, the Saudi government must reinvent itself by keeping its promises to reform. The US can help by living up to its own principles, terminating any complicity with Saudi corruption and waste, and showing respect for the rights of all who live in the Middle East. “