Our Enemies, the Saudis

Let’s get this straight: Saudi Arabia is Al Qaeda. If there was any doubt about that, the Kingdom’s invasion of Yemen makes it plain as day.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“A brazen territorial grab by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen – together with a $1-million bank heist, a prison break and capture of a military base – has given the terrorist group fundraising and recruitment tools that suggest it is following the brutal path blazed by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which was long forced into the shadows by US drone strikes and commando raids, has taken advantage of the growing chaos in Yemen’s multi-sided war to carve out a potential haven that counter-terrorism experts say could help it launch terrorist attacks.”

The Times piece confirms that the Saudis, who have never lifted a finger to strike at Al Qaeda, are now enabling their mutant offspring to seize and hold territory:

“With the Saudis focused on the Houthis, AQAP fighters launched a jailbreak near Mukalla that freed about 300 prisoners, including several dozen of their comrades, officials and residents said. … After seizing a regional airport and a coastal oil terminal this week, Al Qaeda militants consolidated their gains Friday in Mukalla, an Arabian Sea port. Fighters stormed a weapons depot and seized armored vehicles and rockets after apparently forging a truce with local tribes and forcing government troops to flee.”

The Saudi invasion of Yemen, under the pretext of alleged Iranian involvement in the Houthi rebellion, is nothing but a thinly disguised helping hand extended to Al Qaeda. Saudi air strikes are directed exclusively against the Houthi militia, which the New York Times says “is considered Al Qaeda’s most determined foe.” Al Qaeda, however, is untouched.

The Saudis took the Americans by surprise, much to John McCain’s delight: at a congressional hearing, the Arizona Senator declared: “These countries, led by Saudi Arabia, did not notify us nor seek our coordination or our assistance in this effort because they believe we are siding with Iran. The prospect of radical groups like Iranian-backed Houthi militants” was “more than [U.S. Arab allies] could withstand.” Radical groups like Al Qaeda don’t seem to be in McCain’s purview: Iran is the main enemy, and Al Qaeda is just a footnote.

However, the Pentagon doesn’t quite see it that way, as Al Jazeera reports:

“A senior commander at Central Command (CENTCOM), speaking on condition of anonymity, scoffed at that argument. ‘The reason the Saudis didn’t inform us of their plans,’ he said, ‘is because they knew we would have told them exactly what we think – that it was a bad idea.’

“Military sources said that a number of regional special forces officers and officers at US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) argued strenuously against supporting the Saudi-led intervention because the target of the intervention, the Shia Houthi movement – which has taken over much of Yemen and which Riyadh accuses of being a proxy for Tehran –  has been an effective counter to Al-Qaeda.”

Which is precisely why the Saudis invaded.

The US military has gone all around the globe, striking Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, in search of Al Qaeda “safe havens” – and yet the biggest safe haven of them all, the center of the vipers’ nest, has remained sacrosanct. All but four of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of the Kingdom, and that government has spent billions spreading the fundamentalist Wahabi version of Islam – the religious doctrine that inspires and motivates the terrorists – to the four corners of the earth.

And there is a more direct connection than just ideological affinity at work here: there are 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 detailing the involvement of foreign governments which we are not allowed to read. Those members of Congress who have read it strongly hint that the Saudi government was heavily involved in the planning and preparations for the attack.

When are we going to stop pretending the Saudis are our allies?

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul is making a big deal about how the Obama administration refuses to “name the enemy,” and struts about the stage proclaiming his own fearlessness in pointing the finger at “radical Islam.” But what the heck does that mean? In case he hasn’t noticed, Islam is in the midst of a vicious internecine war comparable to the Thirty Years War that wracked Europe in the sixteenth century, pitting Catholics against Protestants. While there are “radicals” on both sides of the Shi’ite-Sunni divide, the real fundamentalists are Sunni – and the epicenter of this fundamentalist radicalism is in Riyadh. These are the people who attacked us on 9/11.

Does that mean we should attack Saudi Arabia? No, it does not: but at the very least we should stop helping them undermine the United States. And that is precisely what we are doing at the present moment.

Washington has endorsed the Saudi invasion of Yemen, providing logistical support and vital intelligence. As Al Qaeda breaks out of its isolation and begins to establish a “caliphate” like its brothers in ISIS, they are doing so with military support from the United States. A crazier development would be hard to imagine.

I can’t help but think of the opening paragraphs of Michael Scheuer’s brilliant book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism:

As I complete this book, US, British, and other coalition forces are trying to govern apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq, while simultaneously fighting growing Islamist insurgencies in each – a state of affairs our leaders call victory. In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, US forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally." [Emphasis added]

Scheuer’s analysis was based on the principle of “blowback” – that the unintended consequences of our efforts to thwart Al Qaeda were instead enabling and empowering the terrorists. Today, however, we are actively assisting the heirs of Osama bin Laden, not only in Yemen but also in Syria, where the mythical “moderate” Islamists are fighting to overthrow the government – with our help. As we funnel arms to the “Free Syrian Army,” their battalions are defecting to Al Qaeda affiliates by the hundreds and thousands. And of course the Saudis and the Gulf states have been funding the Syrian Islamists all along.

This is all part of the “Sunni turn” on the part of the United States that saw its first iteration in the much-touted “Anbar awakening,” when Washington put the Sunni tribesmen of Anbar province on the US payroll, bribing them to take on Al Qaeda. The policy was continued and elaborated on by the Obama administration when the “Arab Spring” was in its heyday. In fear of being left behind by events, the US State Department under Hillary Clinton sought to hitch a ride on that particular bandwagon by taking a “proactive” role, encouraging the turmoil and forging links to Islamists in Egypt, Syria and Libya.

This led directly to the disastrous events in Libya, where terrorists now cavort in what used to be the US embassy’s swimming pool – and the ghost of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens hovers over the scene.

Events in the Middle East are rapidly culminating in what could be the opening shots of a regional war. As an armed Iranian convoy heads for Yemen, a direct clash between Riyadh and Tehran is in the works. The latter is helping us destroy ISIS in Iraq while the former is handing Yemen over to Al Qaeda. Yet we are committed to giving unconditional support to Riyadh the same way we’ve been giving unquestioning allegiance to Israel – which, by the way, is hovering in the background, stoking the inter-Muslim conflict and undermining US interests at every turn.

The idea that we have any allies in the Middle East is laughable – and, yes, that includes Israel. It’s one big snake pit, with the biggest serpents professing their eternal friendship with Washington – while biting us on the ankles when they can. What we are faced with now is a Saudi-Gulf states-Israeli alliance intent on war with Iran – with the United States directly in the crossfire.

We are, in short, but a few steps away from a regional conflict that has all the makings of a third world war.

Is there a way out? Yes, but it will take a President with guts – and a willingness to break with the Washington consensus — to do it. We must cut our ties to the Saudis, make peace with Iran, stop supporting the Syrian rebels, and tell the Israelis they’re on their own. We must stop blocking the creation of a Palestinian state, stop canoodling with Egypt’s military dictatorship, and – most of all – stop appeasing the real sponsors of terror in Riyadh. Sen. Paul had the right idea when he suggested we ought to be boycotting the Saudis – not because they aren’t feminists, but because they, and not the Iranians, are the principal sponsors of terrorism in the world.

Oh yes, and while we’re at it, let’s release those 28 pages – that will shut down the caterwauling of the foreign policy “experts” faster than you can say 9/11.


You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].