The U.S.-Saudi alliance is coming under unprecedented strain. Everything seems to be going wrong. Up in arms over growing Shi‘ite resistance in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, the ultra-Sunnis in Riyadh are alarmed that Obama continues to press ahead with arms negotiations in Teheran, from its viewpoint the center of the Shi‘ite conspiracy.
Saudis want the U.S. to overthrow Syria’s Assad in return for its cooperation in the fight against ISIS, yet Washington is signaling that it wouldn’t mind if the Baathists remain in power in Damascus a while longer. Similarities between Saudi methods and those of the Islamic State – both have a peculiar fondness for beheadings – are harder and harder to ignore. But with Saudi executions now running at triple the 2014 rate according to Amnesty International, the Saudis are pressing on regardless.
Even the kingdom’s decision to award a $200,000 prize to an Indian tele-preacher named Zakir Naik for “services to Islam” seems like a deliberate thumb in the eye of the United States. Naik, who has been banned from entering Canada or the U.K., is a Salafist nightmare who attacks evolution, defends al-Qaeda, and claims that George W. Bush was secretly responsible for 9/11. What is Riyadh’s point other than to flip Washington the bird?
But the ultimate body blow may prove to be Zacarias Moussaoui’s sensational testimony in an anti-Saudi lawsuit filed by 9/11 survivors. Now serving a life sentence in a federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, Moussaoui, the so-called “twentieth hijacker,” told lawyers about top-level Saudi support for Osama bin Laden right up to the eve of 9/11 and even a plot by a Saudi embassy employee to sneak a Stinger missile into the U.S. under diplomatic cover and use it to bring down Air Force One.
Moussaoui’s list of ultra-rich al-Qaeda contributors couldn’t be more stunning. It includes the late King Abdulllah and his hard-line successor, Salman bin Abdulaziz; Turki Al Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence and subsequently ambassador to the U.S. and U.K.; Bandar bin Sultan, a longtime presence in Washington who was so close to the Bushes that Dubya nicknamed him Bandar Bush; and Al-Waleed bin Talal, a mega-investor in Citigroup, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the Hotel George V in Paris, and the Plaza in New York.
These are people whom a series of U.S. presidents have fussed and fawned over – not just Bushes I and II, but Obama, who bowed deeply at the waist upon meeting Abdullah in April 2009. Yet according to Moussaoui, the princes provided bin Laden with millions of dollars needed to engineer the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan.