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The Terrorist State We Dare Not Name

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The nation we dare not name is the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula. Bordered by Jordan on the northwest, Iraq on the north and northeast, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates on the east, Oman on the southeast, and Yemen on the south, with the Persian Gulf to its northeast and the Red Sea to its west. One could hardly find a more pivotal entity.

Fourteen of nineteen 9-11 hijackers belonged to this nation. It operates under Sharia Law, the essential principles of which are pretty much incomprehensible to western minds;
(Wikipedia) Judges are free to impose capital punishment or corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for certain crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, drug smuggling and for various forms of sexual behaviour such as homosexuality and adultery.
The punishments, especially the executions, are carried out in public in order to add humiliation to the convicted person and also to act as a deterrence. Theft is punishable by the amputation of the right hand. Drinking, selling, or buying alcohol and sniffing drugs or injecting drugs is punished by a sentence of eighty lashes. Smuggling heroin or cocaine into the country is punished by death (beheading with a sword).
Murder, accidental death and bodily harm are open to punishment from the victim's family. Retribution may be sought in kind or through blood money. Honor killings are not punished as severely as murder. This generally stems from the fact that honor killings are within a family, and done to compensate for some dishonorable act committed.

The country that we dare not name is of course, Saudi Arabia, our closest (yet daily more distant) ally in the Middle East.
(Washington Post, July 27) During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. But, said administration officials who provided an account of the exchange, the Saudis remained skeptical, adding to the deep rift between America’s most powerful Sunni Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, and its Shiite-run neighbor, Iraq.

Maliki is Shiite (as is Iran) and Saudi Arabia is Sunni Muslim. The United States has pretty much thrown out the Sunni ruling class within Iraq and replaced it with incompetent Shiites. Not incompetent because they were Shiites, but because they had no status under Saddam and thus no experience running anything other than pizza delivery.

That was part of Paul Bremer’s de Baathification program, getting rid of the old Sunni Baath Party and a stroke of typical neo-conservative wisdom that just happened to destroy Iraq’s ability to function at a civic level and fueled the insurgency.

For their part, Saudi Arabia was perfectly content to get rid of Saddam Hussein, who didn’t happen to share their particular brand of Sunni Islam and was too powerful as well as too irresponsible for their tastes. But they were hardly prepared for a country so capable as America to be so thoroughly and embarrassingly incapable of the successful occupation of a third-rate nation like Iraq.

They were and are stunned. They were and are very nearly joined at the hip to the Bush family, financially and politically. They were and are very nervous about what son Georgie has done to destabilize a part of the world that was only nominally stabile.

The Saudi king first tried to reason with Cheney and Rumsfeld through Prince Bandar, their minister to Washington since 1983. Then the king recalled Bandar as a warning of how estranged he was from the current Bush White House. Then he began providing and funding Sunni insurgents within Iraq.
Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.
One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, “That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not.”

Get into disagreements as well over who is an ally and who is not, who gets $20 billion worth of armaments and who does not and, ultimately, who controls the essential oil cartel and who does not. You can readily see that there are many ‘who is and who is not’ questions that hang in the balance between a ranch in Crawford, a family compound in Kennebunkport and a palace in Riyadh. 
Officials in Washington have long resisted blaming Saudi Arabia for the chaos and sectarian strife in Iraq, choosing instead to pin blame on Iran and Syria. Even now, military officials rarely talk publicly about the role of Saudi fighters among the insurgents in Iraq.
As well as blaming them for inculcating the development of a religious environment that was virulently anti-American, in order to diffuse Muslim protest against the monarchy. Cutting off the hands of the poor while building additional palaces and skiing in St. Moritz hasn’t gone over all that well in Saudi Arabia. The King’s quid-pro-quo has been to allow madrasahs (radical Muslim schools) to ostensibly blow off the excess steam of the have-nots.

To judge by results, it hasn’t worked, instead enlisting masses of formerly conservative Muslims into jihadist terror organizations. This is serious stuff. The King is not amused. The King is on the edge of insurrection within his own country and Iraq, if it has not taught anything else, has proven the impotence of a uniformed military (or police) against a fanatical opposition.
In agreeing to interviews in advance of the joint (Gates/Rice) trip to Saudi Arabia, the officials were nevertheless clearly intent on sending a pointed signal to a top American ally. They expressed deep frustration that more private American appeals to the Saudis had failed to produce a change in course.

Further evidence, if such is needed, that the administration still doesn’t get it. A change in course in Saudi Arabia is not an option, it’s a matter of the survival of the monarchy.

The terrorist state we dare not name has become, through out own incompetent intervention, the terrorist state we will be forced to deal with on their terms, not ours.

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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)
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