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Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2002 / 4 Teves, 5763

Michael Barone

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Feeling some heat |
Our war on terrorism is not only a war against evil leaders-Saddam Hussein, the Iranian mullahs-but also a war on evil ideas. In the latter war, we need to be clear on what those ideas are and who is spreading them. George W. Bush likes to speak of Islam as "a faith based upon peace and love and compassion," and for most Muslims around the world it is. But for the Islamist terrorists who are our enemies, Islam means jihad, which, "historically speaking," says scholar and JWR contributor Daniel Pipes, "has meant expanding the realm of Islam through armed warfare." The terrorist accused of the bombing in Bali, Indonesia, when asked what he would say to the victims' families, said, "Convert to Islam."

Islam is not unique among religions in having in its scriptures or traditions a warlike strain; so do Judaism and Christianity. But Jews and Christians no longer believe in armed conquest for their religions. Some Muslims-Pipes estimates between 100 million and 150 million of the world's 1.2 billion-do. Not a large percentage, but a large number of people.

Many are in no position to do us harm. But a significant number are, thanks in large part to people we have referred to for years as our friends, the Saudis. Our officials haven't wanted to acknowledge this, but evidence is coming out anyway. Newsweek reported November 22 that Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, was sending money regularly to the Jordanian wife of a Saudi man who was signing it over to the wife of one of the two Saudis who befriended and supported two of the September 11 hijackers. U.S. News reported last week that government sources said FBI higher-ups seemed reluctant to follow up an agent's lead indicating that the money trail to the hijackers could be traced back to the Saudi Embassy.

Complex web. Princess Haifa's money, if it reached the hijackers, was only a tiny part of the flow of Saudi money to fund terrorism and propagate totalitarian Wahhabi Islam. Through phony "charities," huge sums are sent to terrorists-$1 million to $2 million a month for al Qaeda, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report. Some of the money flows have been cut off by U.S. authorities. But sometimes the Saudis have refused to cooperate: In September they refused to freeze the funds of Wael Hamza Julaidan, of the Saudis' World Muslim League. Why? Former Rand analyst Alex Alexiev writes, "Any genuine help by Riyadh in untangling the complex web financing extremism will inevitably implicate both the Saudi government and countless prominent Saudis."

Even more dangerous may be the Saudis' effort to spread Wahhabi Islam, which preaches, according to Stephen Schwartz, author of "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'Ud from Tradition to Terror ". The Two Faces of Islam, "the most extreme, violent, puristic, fundamentalist, and rigid form of Islam in the history of the religion." All around the world the Saudis have funded hundreds of mosques, Islamic centers, and madrasahswhere Wahhabism is preached, plus hatred of Christians and Jews. This is, Alexiev says, "the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted"- mounted against us.

There are signs that George W. Bush understands this and that his administration is acting on it. On November 26 the Washington Post reported that a National Security Council task force was preparing an ultimatum for the Saudis: Stop your terrorism supporters within 90 days, or we'll bring them to justice. Denials were made. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer tartly noted, "Even a good partner like Saudi Arabia can do more." Last week Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel al-Jubeir in a rare news conference lamented that Saudis were targets of a campaign that "borders on hate." He said the Saudis agreed to take new measures to stop the flow of money to terrorists. Really? Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef recently said Zionists were behind September 11. Still, the Saudis are at last feeling some heat. They have agreed to let us use the major air base near Riyadh, U.S. officials said.

They will probably feel more heat when U.S. troops occupy Iraq. Then we will no longer need the Saudis' military bases and will have less need of its oil. We will have much greater leverage to insist that the Saudis stop financing terrorism and stop propagating Wahhabi Islam. Evidence has accumulated that George W. Bush, despite his public support of the Saudis, has privately made it clear we need regime change not just in Iraq and Iran but in Saudi-ruled Arabia as well.

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Michael Barone Archives

JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report and the author of, most recently, "The New Americans." He also edits the biennial "Almanac of American Politics". Send your comments to him by clicking here.


©2002, Michael Barone