Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our Friends the Saudis

Foreign Policy wonders what a world without the Saudis would look like:

But when it comes to the third element -- Wahhabism -- a world without the Saudi regime is hardly an upsetting thought. Years after the September 11 attacks, the kingdom is still a center of ideological indoctrination, incitement, and terrorist financing. "If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia," Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told ABC News in 2007. Thanks to the kingdom's policies, countless young boys are brainwashed to hate Christians, Jews, and other "infidels" in Saudi-funded madrasas from Bangladesh, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Spain, and even in the United States. Pakistan, perhaps of the most concern, has some 12,000 madrasas, many of which are Saudi-funded. Wahhabism provides not only the breeding ground on which Islamist terrorism flourishes, but it also threatens to overshadow other, more moderate traditions within Islam. As Lawrence Wright described in The Looming Tower, with a little over 1 percent of the world's Muslim population, the Saudi Wahhabis support 90 percent of the entire faith's expenses, radicalizing many bastions of moderate Islam beyond recognition.

Despite all that, because of the kingdom's chokehold over the global economy, Washington has had to accept its abysmal human rights record, its treatment of women and non-Muslims as second-class citizens, its brutal attitude toward gays, and its financial support for radical Islamist institutions. Without the Saudi state, the veneer of political correctness that has characterized the U.S. attitude toward Wahhabism would quickly dissolve, and the United States would be free to fight back against radical Islam openly and decisively. Such a world might not be free of terrorism, but at least it would spare Americans the indignity of paying for both sides in the war on radical Islam, classifying 28 pages in the congressional report that dealt with Saudi Arabia's role in the September 11 attacks, and watching one U.S. president after another, Democrat and Republican alike, bend a knee before a human rights-abusing tyrant.

We think the alliance with Pakistan is troubled. Saudi Arabia is even more so. It's the epicentre of jihad, but on paper is the key US ally in the Arab world.

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