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Fifteen of the nineteen Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis like Osama bin Laden. Although bin Laden and his followers' primary obsession is ousting the U.S. from Saudia Arabia and other Islamic countries, they also want to topple the Saudi royal family, whom they accuse of corruption and of working against their own people and their Islamic faith. Here are interviews with two key Saudis -- the ambassador to the U.S. and a leading dissident -- as well as significant background readings on the forces confronting this longtime U.S. ally in the Middle East.

arrowPrince Bandar bin Sultan

Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington, he has served as Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. since 1983. In this interview Prince Bandar argues that while U.S. policy in the Middle East has its flaws, it cannot be blamed for the atrocities of Sept. 11. Prince Bandar also speaks candidly about dissidents within his own country, about relations between Saudi Arabia and other governments in the Middle East, and about the role that Saudi Arabia may take in the fight against terrorism.
arrowSaad al-Fagih

A Saudi Arabian dissident living in exile in London, Dr. Saad al-Fagih heads the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. In this interview, he outlines the issues behind anti-Americanism in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations and explains the Saudi government's dilemma in allying itself with the U.S. in the war on terrorism. This interview was conducted in late September 2001. In an earlier 1999 interview with FRONTLINE Dr. al-Fagih described the loose organization of individuals that make up Al Qaeda.
arrowWhy is America the Target of Militant Islam?

U.S. policymakers, and Saudi and Iraqi dissidents, discuss the reasons for anti-U.S. hatred in the Islamic world. Here are the views of former Senator Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), who served as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1997 to 2000; Dr. Saad al-Fagih, director of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia; Edward Walker, former assistant secretary of state for Near-Eastern affairs; Michael Sheehan, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department; U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; and Nabeel Musawi, political liaison of the Iraqi National Congress.
links & readings
arrow"Bin Laden and His Followers Adhere to an Austere, Stringent Form of Islam"

An article from The New York Times (Oct. 7, 2001) outlining how the faith that drives Osama bin Laden and his followers is a particularly austere and conservative brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, which was instrumental in creating the Saudi monarchy, and, if sufficiently alienated, could tear it down.
arrow"War Against Terror Tests Fragile Relations With U.S."

Another New York Times article (from Sept. 15, 2001) on how Saudi Arabia's track record in previous terrorism investigations has been one of keeping its distance from the United States.
arrow"Saudi Friends, Saudi Foes"

An article from the Oct. 8, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard suggests that to understand Saudi influence within the Muslim world today one must look at Wahhabism, the fundamentalist strain of Islam that is "the state-sanctioned doctrine" of Saudi Arabia, and argues that "powerful elements in Saudi society have supported Osama bin Laden throughout his campaign of terror, just as they support the Taliban."
arrow"Double-edged Sword"

A Sept. 27, 2001, commentary from The Economist argues that "the Saudi royal family has long exploited religion to bolster its standing." This in turn "has helped breed the very sort of religious extremism that inspired the terrorist attacks on America and is now threatening the kingdom's own stability." (Click here for more coverage of Saudi Arabia from The Economist.)
arrow"Royal Mess"

In this 1994 article from The New Yorker, authors Leslie and Andrew Cockburn report on opposition within Saudi Arabia from groups critical of the government and the Saudi royal family.
arrow"Saudi Arabia: Post-War Issues and U.S. Relations"

This April 2001 issue brief for Congress, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, is a timely and in-depth primer on U.S.-Saudi relations. In addition to information on Saudi Arabia's positions regarding Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict, the brief details recent U.S. arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and the two countries' trade relationship.
arrow"Saudi Arabia: A Secret State of Suffering"

Amnesty International's March 2000 report on the status of human rights in Saudi Arabia. "Every day the most fundamental human rights of people living in Saudi Arabia are violated, yet rarely is this fact publicized. The Saudi Arabian government spares no effort to keep its appalling human rights record a secret, and other governments have shown themselves more than willing to help maintain the secrecy."
arrow"Saudi Arabia: One Hundred Years Later" (PDF)

In April 1999, the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies convened a conference on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the modern Saudi Arabian state. In discussing Saudi Arabia's history, much is made of the fact that it is the only country in the region that was able to reject direct colonization and, thus, it "exists as a result of an indigenous process of state building that yielded a unique form of government."
arrow"Saudi Arabia Enters the 21st Century"

A new project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., examines the economic, political, and military trends affecting the future of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the Persian Gulf region. Of particular interest is a draft report on "Islam Extremism in Saudi Arabia and the Attack on Al Khobar" available in PDF format.

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