The close relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia goes back decades. At the beginning, it was based on a simple deal: The Saudis kept the oil flowing, bought weapons from U.S. manufacturers, and opposed Communism, and we didn’t ask any questions about their domestic corruption and tyranny or about their financing the spread of the most uncompromising brand of radical Islam: Wahhabism. Even Saudi Arabia’s central role in OPEC’s open conspiracy to inflate the price of oil wasn’t allowed to get in the way.
Until the fall of the Soviet Union, that deal perhaps looked like a necessary bit of Cold War strategy. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And by the time the Wall fell, that deal had become a habit, and most people never bothered to re-examine it to see if it continued to make sense from our side of the table.
9-11, that day of infamy, should have been the occasion for a very rapid rethinking. With 15 of the 19 actual hijackers, and the mastermind behind the plot, all Saudi nationals, it should have been obvious that our supposed friends in Riyadh hadn’t really been acting in very friendly fashion, and that all those fanatical madrassas supported by Saudi “charities” represented a direct threat to the well-being of Americans.
What we have discovered since about the “charitable” flow of money from and through Saudi Arabia, the suspicious generosity of the Saudi Ambassador’s wife to friends of the hijackers, and the evidence about the Saudi/al Qaeda link in the suppressed 28 pages of the Intelligence Committee 9-11 report would make any reasonable person even more concerned.
So when it turns out that the Ambassador himself, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, withdrew $20 million in cash from his bank, which carefully didn’t file the required reports of suspicious activity, and moved tens of millions more abroad by wire, then it’s time for someone to put his foot down.
If I am inaugurated President next January 20, by next January 27 one of two things will have happened: either the Saudi Ambassador will have provided to the Government of the United States a detailed, auditable accounting of where that money went (whether it was nominally his, his wife’s or the embassy’s) and what it went for, or the United States will inform the Saudi Government, that Prince Bandar, having apparently engaged in conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status, is persona non grata and must leave the United States forthwith. If he paid, or helped to pay, directly or indirectly, with whatever winks and nods, for the murders of 3000 of our countrymen, PRINCE BANDAR MUST GO.
And Prince Bandar is more than a symbol. He has been a player on the Washington scene for two decades, and no one knows just how deep his tentacles extend into important American institutions, from law firms and universities to investment banks and government agencies. A Washington without Prince Bandar would be a Washington substantially less congenial to Saudi interests. And even if none of those tens of millions actually paid for 9-11, perhaps we’d better learn what — and who — they did pay for.
It is my judgment that, in the current situation, the Saudi Royal Family needs the cooperation of the United States considerably more than the United States needs the cooperation of the Saudi Royal Family. That will limit, I think, any potential “blowback” from demanding either a full accounting or a new ambassador.
There are times for quiet diplomacy, and there are times for bluntness. This Administration, it seems to me, has been excessively blunt with some of our friends, and excessively quiet in the face of completely unacceptable behavior by the Saudi government.