Conflict & Justice

Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia

(Is Saudi Arabia today less likely to produce 15 terrorists like those who committed the 9/11 attacks?) It's less likely but not possible. The spirit of Jihad in Saudi Arabia has been nurtured for two decades, and the Saudis turned a blind eye to this during the 1990s. and by that ignorance, the Saudi authorities allowed this movement to gain strength. After 9/11 and after Al Qaeda began to attack in Saudi Arabia itself, in 2003, the Saudis realized they had a real problem on their hands. (So what has changed then in the past 7 years?) Two things: the Saudi government on the security side is more aware of these movements�they've arrested thousands of people. Also on the ideological side, the Saudi government and its religious establishment has begun to take on these ideas, to say that this understanding of Jihad is incorrect, that Bin Laden's interpretation of Islam is incorrect. One thing hasn't changed: this is still an extremely literalist and conservative society. So there's probably still an audience for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. (Can Al Qaeda still recruit and raise funds in Saudi Arabia?) Yes, but not as easily. (How satisfied is Washington in terms of Saudi Arabia's developments in fighting terrorism?) I think the Bush administration would give the Saudis a B. the Bush administration has expended a lot of capital to maintain a relationship with Saudi Arabia, which was very unpopular after 9/11. (Why?) Saudi Arabia plays a major role in the oil market. But the Bush administration also understood the importance of getting Saudi Arabia on board against Al Qaeda. (Given that you know so much and have spent so much time in Saudi Arabia, when 9/11 comes up on the calendar, what goes through your mind?) My family used to work in Manhattan and we knew people who worked by the World Trade Center. It's changed so many lives, it's worth remembering.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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