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June 10, 2004
Another Good Reason For Saudi Cooperation

The Saudi royal family has presided over their Wahhabist kingdom for eighty-plus years now, spreading their firebrand fundamentalism throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. While they've cooperated and done business with the West, their mosques also inspired terrorist groups by spreading hatred, somewhat schizophrenically, against their business partners. Over the past year their chickens have come home to roost as the terrorists led by a scion of a wealthy Saudi family have increasingly attacked royal assets and foreigners. Now the New York Times reports that Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi also wanted to decapitate Saudi leadership:

While the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was renouncing terrorism and negotiating the lifting of sanctions last year, his intelligence chiefs ordered a covert operation to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia and destabilize the oil-rich kingdom, according to statements by two participants in the conspiracy.

Those participants, Abdurahman Alamoudi, an American Muslim leader now in jail in Alexandria, Va., and Col. Mohamed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer in Saudi custody, have given separate statements to American and Saudi officials outlining the plot. ... Mr. Alamoudi's statements were offered in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors that are not complete. He was indicted last October in the United States District Court in Alexandria accused of violating United States sanctions by traveling to Libya and receiving money from Libyan officials.

Of course, Qaddafi earlier agreed to renounce terrorism and WMDs in response to seeing fellow strongman Saddam Hussein pulled out of a rathole near Tikrit with nothing but his beard and some rags. Qaddafi has proved cooperative on WMD research, and his nuclear program wound up being much more advanced than initially thought. Perhaps Qaddafi qualified his anti-terrorism pledge, in his own mind, as anti-Western terrorism. However, since the Saudis (mostly the ruling contingent of the royal family) remain friendly to the West, any attempt to decapitate the government there would only have the effect of throwing more radical elements to power, dangerously destabilizing not only Saudi Arabia and its oil supply, but also the military situation for the United States, UK, and Israel.

Bush seems well aware of this:

A senior Bush administration official said that the emergence of convincing evidence that Colonel Qaddafi ordered or condoned an assassination and terror campaign could cause a "180 degree" change of American policy toward Libya.

President Bush has conveyed to the Saudi royal family that he is going to find out what happened in the alleged conspiracy, according to a diplomat.

You may recognize the name Abdurahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi's previous gig was as a founder and spokesperson of the American Muslim Council, an Islamic special-interest group that spread the message of Islam as a religion of peace. The group took such a middle-of-the-road approach that the State Department often sent Alamoudi abroad to preach American tolerance -- yet another boneheaded decision in State's glorious history of picking the wrong horse:

Mr. Alamoudi, an American citizen living in Falls Church, Va., has been a longtime spokesman for Muslim views in America as founder of the American Muslim Council.

The State Department paid him as a consultant to travel overseas and advocate tolerance and reconciliation among Jews, Christians and Muslims, but was thereafter accused of making statements in support of terrorism.

Looking at this, one supposes that Prince Abdullah would want to reconsider his partnership with a country that hires assassins as spokespeople, but looking around his area, he'd be hard pressed to find a country that doesn't, and at least we don't do it on purpose. Abdullah could also be forgiven if he wanted the US to take a hard line once again with Libya, but for now, he prefers to continue engaging Qaddafi to isolating him. Perhaps now that the Libyan colonel sees how badly this operation unraveled, he will be loath to try something newer and instead settle for re-engagement as an end rather than a means.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 10, 2004 6:02 AM

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