Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Gulf, US Wants the Oil but Not the Responsibility Some Arabs See a 'Double Standard' in American Foreign Policy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Gulf, US Wants the Oil but Not the Responsibility Some Arabs See a 'Double Standard' in American Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

FBI director Louis J. Freeh went to Saudi Arabia to take a close look at the recently completed Saudi investigation of the Dhahran bombing. Nineteen Americans were killed in that June 25 terrorist blast. When he returned, he would not tell Americans what he had learned. Significantly, Freeh would not confirm the investigators' conclusion - which the Saudis said was based on "confessions and other evidence" - that Iran had engineered that dastardly deed.

FBI officials knew that in Saudi Arabia, as in many other Arab states, suspects are routinely tortured into confessing. The FBI wanted to talk with those who had "confessed" to the crime. The Saudis did not allow it.

Hence Mr. Freeh's discussions in Riyadh centered on "other evidence" which, according to informed sources, is not much evidence at all. Apparently the FBI can't trace the blast to Iran; if it could, it would announce it at the top of its voice and use the information to tighten the global economic squeeze on that country. The FBI also does not want to talk about the trail it saw, which discredits the friendly Saudi monarchy sitting on the world's largest oil reserve. The suspects in the Dhahran blast, like those who killed five Americans in Riyadh earlier, are Saudis. They belong to the hard edge of a fast-growing antiregime movement, some of whose members I interviewed during trips to Saudi Arabia and Europe. They are working underground overseas and inside Saudi Arabia. Even if the Dhahran terrorists had Iran's blessing, they did not kill those Americans for Iran's sake. They did it because they resent the US military presence in their country which, they say, shields their repressive monarchy against pressures for reforms. But Iran and Islamic revivalism are the only sources of Middle Eastern violence that seem to interest the American government and news media. Recently, at a seminar on information technology at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a Pentagon official sounded the alarm that "Iran is putting out the Quran and other provocative materials on the Internet" in an effort to incite terrorism. I hope this official's views about the Muslim holy book don't reflect the Pentagon's, but unfortunately he was not the first US official to link Islam to terrorism. Meanwhile, the US news media are looking for clues to the Dhahran blast in the Lebanese hideouts of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, showing little interest in the activities of the myriad Saudi dissident groups in Saudi Arabia and abroad or in the political suppression radicalizing some of them. The specter of Iran and Islamic revivalism has become so pervasive in America that any serious public discourse about volatile Arab politics has become nearly impossible. …

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