Staff Reporter of the Sun (November 27, 2007)
WASHINGTON — On the eve of the Annapolis summit on the Middle East conflict, the Saudi royal family released 1,500 members of Al Qaeda from prison, requiring them only to promise to refrain from jihad within the Arabian Peninsula. The presence of the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, at the peace parley has been touted by the White House and the State Department as an important diplomatic breakthrough.You have to hand it to the Saudis: a breathtaking success. What are they doing right that no one else is doing? And we can surely trust Saudi Arabia when it comes to terrorism. After all, when did we last hear of Saudi terrorists causing harm to anyone?
Mr. Faisal has said he was reluctant to attend the meeting, the first time the Saudis would be formal participants in an international peace conference dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. In an interview with Time magazine, he said he would not shake the Israeli prime minister's hand and that he was only interested in a response to his kingdom's peace offer, a full withdrawal from the territory Israel won in 1967 in exchange for peace.
However, while the State Department was wooing the Saudi foreign minister, the kingdom's Interior Ministry released about 1,500 Al Qaeda members arrested in crackdowns that began in 2003 against the group headed by Osama bin Laden.
The story first broke over the weekend in the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. In an interview with the newspaper, a member of a special committee to reform jihadists in the kingdom, Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said the newly released prisoners had been reformed. "The committee has met around 5,000 times to offer counseling to 3,200 people, who were accused of embracing the takfir ideology. The committee has successfully completed reforming 1,500 people," he said.
But wait. That 1,500 number rings a bell. Ah yes, here it is:
Since September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia has questioned more than 1,500 individuals, arrested hundreds of suspects, and succeeded in extraditing Al-Qaeda members from other countries to face justice. The Kingdom has audited its charities and enacted strict financial control measures to ensure that evildoers cannot take advantage of the generosity of our citizens. Bank accounts of suspected individuals have been frozen and some of the most stringent banking regulations implemented. Saudi Arabia today has some of the toughest counter-terrorism laws and regulations in the world.Go check it out. It's currently on the official Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington DC website. (Probably a coincidence, but what if all the internal investigations into Saudi complicity in the massacres of 9/11 resulted in a religious conversion ceremony followed by a 'promise you won't do it again' pledge?)
All this thoroughness, this dedication to stamping out terrorism, is why we get a warm feeling all over when we read about the head of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (by far the world's largest and most lucrative family business) instructing the government of the United Kingdom last month in how to deal effectively with terrorists. As the BBC headline put it: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has accused Britain of not doing enough to fight international terrorism. (You can't make this stuff up.)
But one aspect of this really bothers us. What could the Saudis possibly mean when they say the terrorists had to promise "to refrain from jihad within the Arabian Peninsula". What sort of retraining is that? Could it be that the Saudis have no problem seeing their home-grown terrorists (like these and these and these and these) go out and create mayhem and carnage so long as it's not producing Saudi victims? Strange that the Saudis seem to be saying nothing about that aspect of the story.
The war on terrorism is war. For those of us who want our families and our societies to be free of the ongoing threat of harm by the barbarians, it's the war. There's much more to know about this than the official Saudi version suggests.