2003 May 13 Tuesday
Saudi Bombings Cause Expatriates To Flee

The United States government has advised US citizens to leave Saudi Arabia.

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The United States Tuesday advised its citizens to leave Saudi Arabia following a series of car-bomb attacks in the kingdom's capital that killed 29 people, including seven Americans.

There are about 35,000 Americans, about 30,000 Britons, and a total of 5 million expatriate workers living in Saudi Arabia.

Given the large number of expatriates serving in key roles in many different parts of the Saudi Arabian economy the rush of expatriates to leave has got to cause the government of Saudi Arabia some major problems.

Expatriates began flying out of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after the terrorist attacks punctured their safe havens. Diplomats said flights were fully booked, and the airports were crowded with families queuing to leave.

Will the Saudi princes respond to the rising problem with terrorism inside their own borders by reforming their school cirricula to stop teaching intolerance of non-Wahhabis? Will the princes pressure the Wahhabi mullahs to stop delivering sermons that condemn the infidels? Will the Saudi government start locking up a significant number of the Al Qaeda who came back from Afghanistan after the Taliban regime fell? On all these questions count me in the ranks of the skeptical. They may instead decide they need to try even harder to appease their own religious extremists. The House Of Saud may not be capable of reforming their Kingdom to make it less a threat to themselves and to the rest of the world. If that is the case then a civil war in Saudi Arabia may happen at some point in the future.

Would a revolution and civil war in Saudi Arabia work to the disadvantage of the United States? That depends. If Saudi Arabia broke apart in a revolution one great result would be that the Shias would gain control of all the oil and hence all the money.

Shi'ites are thought to form a majority in the Eastern Province, where most of the oil lies.

The spread of Sunni Wahhabi Islam would be undercut if the oil fields that provide the biggest source for funding Wahhabism came under control of a Shia population that is unsympathetic to the Sunni sect.

Currently a lot of Saudi money is going into the spread of Wahhabism in the United States and around the world.

"I would say billions of dollars have been spent in the United States to advance Wahhabism," Schwartz said. "The Wahhabi sect, backed by Saudi Arabia, controls 70 to 80 percent of the mosques in the United States. That means they control the teaching, the preaching, the literature that's distributed, and they control the training of the Imams. They control all the Imams in the federal and state prisons, and they control the imams in the U.S. military. That is, they instruct, they indoctrinate and they certify the chaplains in the federal and state prison systems and in the military."

The Saudis are spending more per year to spread Wahhabism than the Soviet Union spent to spread communism.

"This is the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted," he explains. "Official Saudi sources indicate that between 1975 and 1987, Riyadh's ‘overseas development aid’ averaged $4 billion per year, and there is evidence that this level was maintained in the 1990s. While some of this aid did go to legitimate development-assistance activities, Saudi data show that at least half ($50 billion over two and a half decades) and perhaps as much as two-thirds financed strictly ‘Islamic activities.’ Compared to these numbers, the massive Soviet external-propaganda budget (estimated at $1 billion annually) at the peak of Moscow's power looks modest indeed."

The editors of The Christian Science Monitor go so far as to name Riyadh as the more important battleground in the war against Islamic terrorism.

The US-led global war on terrorism has an epicenter, and it's not Washington or New York. It's the Saudi capital, home to a conservative monarchy that would still be the prime target for Saudi-born Osama bin Laden even if all 35,000 Americans and other non-Muslim "infidels" left Islam's holiest land.

Wahhabism is creating problems for the United States on other battlegrounds. The Saudis are also making the reconstruction of Iraq into a secular democracy more difficult by by funding the spread of Wahhabism among the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Sachedina is worried about inroads being made among Sunnis by Saudi Arabia's puritanical Wahhabi movement, which has been connected with the rise of extremism and despises Shiism.

Saudi Arabia has become too dangerous a place for Westerners to live. The Saudi government has responded to previous car bombings which were most likely the acts of terrorists by blaming the bombing attacks on supposed rival alcohol bootleg gangs and locking up Westerners. Now the terrorists have escalated their attacks to a level that can not be passed off as the acts of bootleggers. Westerners are wise to leave. They should have taken the car bombings and the Saudi government response as clear signals that it was time to get out. But the recent big bombings have finally driven the point home.

The events in Saudi Arabia ought to be a wake-up call to the Bush Administration to look for ways to accelerate the expansion of Iraqi oil production. Saudi Arabia is not stable. The terrorists could easily reduce Saudi oil exports.

During the 1980 's, according to a former American intelligence official, the United States government did a secret study of the vulnerability of Aramco's installation at Abqaiq, the world's largest oil and gas processing center. Investigators found that the chemical reactions from a well-placed explosion could cripple Abqaiq's gas-oil separation plant for months, the former official said.

While the Bush Administration has, with considerable justification, placed greater priority in dealing wth regimes which are developing weapons of mass destruction events in Saudi Arabia may force a reshuffling of those priorities. Still, it is not at all clear that the United States should try to become more heavily involved in what is taking place in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis themselves have to become convinced that they should turn against the Wahhabi clerics and reform their society. But if civil war breaks out the United States should look for ways to intervene to help the Shias achieve independence of their provinces from the rest of the country.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 13 04:52 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

AMac said at May 14, 2003 6:05 AM:

The prospect of conflict between the Sunni Wahhabis and Shiite extremists is a little reminiscent of the circumstances in Europe in the 1930s. There, Liberal democracies were faced with fascists on the one hand and communists on the other. The outcome of WW2 was determined by who allied with whom (and who double-crossed whom).

Not a cheerful analogy.

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