A special relationship

The New York Sun editorial probes the relationship between the news Saudi ambassador to the United States and the forces at war with the United States: “Saudi Arabia’s envoy.” The Sun writes:

Prince Turki served as head of Saudi intelligence from 1977 until 10 days before September 11, 2001. As such, he was Riyadh’s main contact with the Taliban in Afghanistan – and thereby also with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He admits to having met Mr. bin Laden a few times, according to “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001,” a Pulitzer-winning book by the Washington Post’s Steve Coll. Mr. Coll writes that while the Saudis deny Mr. bin Laden was ever a Saudi agent, “it seems clear that bin Laden did have a substantial relationship with Saudi intelligence.”
The Saudi intelligence services, under the prince, also oversaw the funding of “radical Islamists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere,” Mr. Coll reports. One such Islamist was Abdullah Azzam, who “preached stridently against the United States” and helped found the terrorist group Hamas.
The prince was named in a civil lawsuit filed in 2002 by September 11 families seeking $1 trillion from alleged financiers of Al Qaeda. The lawsuit notes that the testimony of a senior Taliban official who defected, Mullah Kakshar, “implicates Prince Turki as the facilitator” of money transfers from wealthy Saudis, “in support of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and international terrorism.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the prince was party to a 1998 agreement between the Saudis and the Taliban. In the alleged deal, the Saudis promised not to seek Mr. bin Laden’s extradition or the closing of his terrorist training camps and would provide the Taliban with oil and financial assistance, in exchange for Mr. bin Laden promising not to try to overthrow the Saudi monarchy.
The prince, in his role as head of intelligence, the lawsuit suggests, “was in a position to know the threat posed by bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the extremist and violent perversion of jihad and hatred that the Saudi religious schools were fomenting in young people.”

According to the editorial, Prince Turki’s defense in the lawsuit was that his actions were undertaken on behfalf of the Saudi government and therefore subject to sovereign immunity. The Sun’s editorial seems to understate the grounds for offense in the Kingdom’s undiplomatic diplomatic shuffle.


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