Jim Hoagland wrote a great op-ed in today’s WaPo. In it, he brings up several of troubling facts about our ‘friends’ the Saudis. Among them:
The rulers see an urgent need to reform the perception of Islam in the United States and the West, but none to reform the Saudi-based religious practices and propagation that influenced Osama bin Laden and the other zealots of al Qaeda. The Saudis treat bin Laden’s band as criminal deviants — not the products of religious, social or other root causes.
[The May bombings in Riyadh by al-Qaeda] demonstrated conclusively that the 20-year-old Saudi policy of keeping bin Laden’s nihilistic violence outside his native land had failed. Instead, strong domestic counterterrorist and police actions have become the kingdom’s first line of defense.
The Bush administration also reports a new Saudi willingness to curb financial support for terrorism and to let the FBI operate in the kingdom. But neither the experts nor Washington should get carried away. There is still evidence that the Saudis will try to have it at least both ways for as long as they can, even in the war on terror.
U.S. authorities in Baghdad have provided the Saudis with a list of more than 12,000 religious extremists they would like prevented from infiltrating Iraq, I am told by non-conference sources. They add that the Saudis have done nothing about the list or about the continuing steady flow of jihadis across the border.
Flypaper theories aside for a moment, we need to help establish a working Iraqi nation as quickly as we can. We’ve restored order in most of the country, but the attacks and sabotage just don’t stop. We don’t have a lot of time. The Iraqis are glad to see Saddam gone, but if we drag this out too long, they’ll be ready to see us gone, too. Saudi Arabia, as well as the other countries bordering Iraq, needs to secure the border. Why don’t we step up the pressure? Why don’t we call them out on it? Why don’t we rattle the old saber?
In this case, it probably is about the oil.
I’m not advocating invasion of Saudi Arabia. At least not this year. But we need to lean on them. Lean hard. And damn the oil prices. But our apparent lack of pressure on these folks, and “sanctions” like this against those nations who supply our enemies with weaponry make me wonder how serious we really are. Friends don’t treat friends like our friends treat us.
As bizzare as it seems, I’m beginning to wonder if Bush maybe isn’t acting tough enough.