The revelation that Zacarias Moussaoui had “high-level” contacts with Saudi officials brought back attention to the Saudi role in the formation and financing of Al-Qaeda. It also revived the debate on whether the U.S. government should release Part 4 of the September 11 report, which deals with Saudi financing of terrorism.
The report remains classified and the U.S. government has been vigilant to protect the Saudi government in court and in Congress. The Saudi government, in typical fashion, dismissed the account of Moussaoui as the product of a deranged mind––just as it accuses all critics of its policies and repression of being deranged. But the American public can never understand the real circumstances of September 11 and the origins of Al-Qaeda without releasing the report and bringing more attention to the role of Saudi Arabia in funding (and arming, as in the case of Syria) of various militant Jihadi terrorist groups.
This is what we know. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. government launched a horrific campaign to recruit fanatical Muslims from around the world in order to form an anti-communist militia. It jointly ran the program through the CIA with the Saudi and Pakistani intelligence.
So the U.S. government is not only protecting the Saudi royal family from scrutiny, but also protecting its secret role in the campaign against the Soviet army in Afghanistan. We still don’t know the extent to which American intelligence officials in Pakistan had direct contacts with Osama Bin Laden when he was a chief organizer of the Arab volunteer effort against the Soviet Union (the gang of Jihads was technically a volunteer force, because the Saudi government picked up the tabs for those who came to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia). The Economist revealed after September 11 that American intelligence agents did have contacts with Bin Laden, at least prior to 1994.
The man who was assigned to run the entire affair was none other than Prince Turki Al-Faisal, who ran Saudi foreign intelligence apparatus from 1977 until days—literally days––prior to September 11. We still don’t know why he resigned and under what circumstances.
When Turki Al-Faisal became Saudi ambassador in London, there was an outcry in the United Kingdom about his past role, but his assignment here in the U.S. (also after September 11) did not arise much controversy. (He later resigned but for other reasons dealing with a clash with his predecessor, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan).
Turki also had very good relations with the Taliban movement and is one of the few foreign officials who had direct, and by all accounts cordial, relations with Mullah Omar (let us remember that the three governments which extended recognition to the Taliban regime were all close allies of the United States: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan). Turki was a chief financier for the Jihad movement when Bin Laden was closely coordinating with the Saudi government. By their own admissions, all top Saudi princes (including the former King Abdullah) had close dealings with Bin Laden, and Prince Turki still holds the view that Bin Laden was a good and gentle guy but that his Egyptian deputy corrupted him and led him astray.
It is unlikely that the Obama administration would respond to the pleas by the families of September 11 victims. There is so much at stake for his government and for his close ally, Saudi Arabia. It is certain, for example, that Princess Haifa (who is also the sister of Prince Turki and wife of Prince Bandar––such are marriage arrangements in the House of Saudi) sent regular checks to Omar Bayyumi, who had strong connections to at least two of the hijackers. She was never investigated and the matter was typically covered up by the government. Let us just imagine the U.S. government response if this was the wife of the Iranian or Syrian ambassador in the United States.
Saudi Arabia is not only financially tied to the world of Jihadi terrorism, it also provides the ideology that motivates Jihadi recruits. It is not mentioned in the American press that the ideology and practices of ISIS don’t deviate from the ruling ideology of Wahhabiyyah in Saudi Arabia, which has been spread by billions of oil revenues. Until the American public demands the full disclosure about the Saudi role, we won’t understand the real circumstances of September 11 and the forming and funding of Al-Qaeda.
As'ad AbuKhalil is a professor in the Department of Politics at California State University, Stanislaus.