Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #464 I Told You So—More About the Subversion of Operation Green Quest

Record­ed June 13, 2004
MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

Pre­sent­ing more infor­ma­tion about the sub­ver­sion of Oper­a­tion Green Quest (the inves­ti­ga­tion into ter­ror­ist financ­ing), this pro­gram high­lights the struc­tur­al eco­nom­ic rela­tion­ships that bind the Bush milieu to that of the Saud­is. These rela­tion­ships helped spawn the Islamist ele­ment in the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s eth­nic out­reach wing, which over­laps the milieu tar­get­ed in the 3/20/2002 Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids. Cen­tral to the devel­op­ment of the Bush/Saudi rela­tion­ship is the milieu of the BCCI inves­ti­ga­tion. Not only did key play­ers in BCCI invest in Bush’s unsuc­cess­ful ener­gy busi­ness­es, but that invest­ment almost cer­tain­ly was for the pur­pose of cur­ry­ing favor with “the House of Bush”—the Saud­is did not need to invest in unsuc­cess­ful oil drilling oper­a­tions! More­over, it appears that the Bush/Saudi/BCCI con­nec­tion is a cen­tral fac­tor moti­vat­ing those who are frus­trat­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion into Oper­a­tion Green Quest. Cen­tral to the theme of this pro­gram is FBI chief Robert Mueller’s role in cov­er­ing up the Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the BCCI case when he was the US attor­ney in charge of the inves­ti­ga­tion, as well as the role of the bureau in the frus­tra­tion of Oper­a­tion Green Quest.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The Sau­di invest­ment in Bush’s Harken Ener­gy; the con­nec­tions of BCCI play­ers such as Khalid bin Mah­fouz in the Sau­di financ­ing of Harken; the role of Abdul­lah Bakhsh of the BCCI in ele­vat­ing the posi­tion of Talat Oth­man to that of direc­tor of Harken Ener­gy; Oth­man’s even­tu­al suc­ces­sion to the posi­tion of advis­er to Bush, Sr.; review of the devel­op­ment of GOP oper­a­tive Grover Norquist’s Islam­ic Insti­tute and the con­nec­tions of the GOP/Islamist milieu to ter­ror­ism; Talat Oth­man’s deliv­ery of a Mus­lim bene­dic­tion at the GOP con­ven­tion in 2000; review of the con­nec­tions between the tar­gets of the Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids of 2002 and the Al Taqwa net­work; the rela­tion­ship between Sami al-Ari­an and the tar­gets of the 3/20/2002 raids; Talat Oth­man’s inter­ces­sion on behalf of the tar­gets of the Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids; fed­er­al employ­ees’ “acci­den­tal” destruc­tion of key doc­u­ments in the al-Ari­an inves­ti­ga­tion; review of the FBI’s alleged stonewalling of oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies involved in com­bat­ing ter­ror.

1. Trac­ing the his­to­ry of the Bush/Saudi rela­tion­ship, the broad­cast begins with dis­cus­sion of the role of rich Saud­is in the financ­ing of Harken Energy—one of W’s failed oil ven­tures. For the pur­pos­es of this pro­gram, do not fail to note the pres­ence in the Harken machi­na­tions of peo­ple close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the BCCI milieu. ” . . . And yet, with the Bush name now on its mar­quee, sud­den­ly all sorts of mar­velous things start­ed to hap­pen to Harken—new invest­ments, unex­pect­ed sources of financ­ing, serendip­i­tous drilling rights in far­away coun­tries. All thanks to peo­ple who now found Harken irresistible—many of them close to BCCI, the Sau­di-dom­i­nat­ed bank that had polit­i­cal con­nec­tions all over the world and whose biggest share­hold­er was Khalid bin Mah­fouz. It was a phan­tom courtship.”
(House of Bush/House of Saud; by Craig Unger; Scrib­n­er [HC]; Copy­right 2004 by Craig Unger; ISBN 0–7432-5337‑X; p. 118.)

2. The Saud­is’ back­ing of Harken makes no sense in terms of the petro­le­um business—it only makes sense in the con­text of the pur­chas­ing of polit­i­cal influ­ence. “Even if Harken had not had its lia­bil­i­ties, for Sau­di bil­lion­aires, whose wealth came from the biggest oil reserves in the world, invest­ing in Harken was at best tru­ly a case of sell­ing coals to New­cas­tle, ice to the Eski­mos. ‘Think about it,’ explains Bush’s friend and busi­ness part­ner James Bath. ‘It does­n’t make sense. What we would con­sid­er a big oil drill here [in Texas] would be laugh­able to them.’ ” (Idem.)

3. Through the BCCI, the Saud­is were able to gain a sig­nif­i­cant foothold in the U.S. ” ‘You had this ter­ri­bly com­pli­cat­ed dance,’ recalls a for­mer senior Sen­ate inves­ti­ga­tor into BCCI. ‘It was not just that the Saud­is used BCCI to buy pow­er. There were peo­ple in the Unit­ed States who saw the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make scads of mon­ey. They weren’t exact­ly rap­ing the sys­tem. It was more like con­sen­su­al sex.’ ” (Ibid.; p. 119.)

4. “Nei­ther George W. Bush nor Harken, it should be said, had any direct con­tact of any kind with bin Mah­fouz or BCCI. Bin Mah­fouz pro­fessed no knowl­edge of any inten­tion to cre­ate a spe­cial rela­tion­ship with Bush or Harken and, accord­ing to his attor­ney, ‘does not recall that the mat­ter of BCCI’s rela­tion­ship with Harken’ was brought up at BCCI board meet­ings or ‘in any oth­er fash­ion.’ Like­wise, Harken offi­cials, includ­ing George W. Bush, said they were unaware of their new investors’ links to BCCI. On paper, there was no rela­tion­ship what­so­ev­er between the two insti­tu­tions or their prin­ci­pals.” (Idem.)

5. “But like so much of what went on with BCCI, this elab­o­rate dance often took place through con­vo­lut­ed finan­cial trans­ac­tions and third par­ties. It was not essen­tial for the key play­ers in this aspect of the Sau­di-Bush dra­ma even to know each oth­er to have pro­duc­tive rela­tion­ships. In fact, for many of the par­tic­i­pants, the less they knew the bet­ter.” (Idem.)

6. Exam­in­ing the his­to­ry of the evo­lu­tion of the Harken/Saudi/BCCI milieu and its influ­ence on Bush and events that took place dur­ing his pres­i­den­cy, the broad­cast high­lights Abdul­lah Taha Bakhsh. It was as Bakhsh’s pro­tégé that Talat Oth­man made his entrée into the Bush camp. Oth­man is a key play­er in the sce­nario we are exam­in­ing in this pro­gram. “Before the deal could be final­ized, how­ev­er, the financ­ing from UBS ran into unre­lat­ed dif­fi­cul­ties and fell apart. As a result, still anoth­er financier was need­ed to res­cue Harken. This time, Stephens intro­duced Harken to a new investor, Abdul­lah Taha Bakhsh, a real estate mag­nate from Jed­dah, whose sub­se­quent injec­tion of cap­i­tal result­ed in his own­er­ship of 17.6 per­cent of Harken’s stock.” (Ibid.; p. 121.)

7. “A well-known Sau­di investor, Bakhsh had been a found­ing mem­ber of the board of Invest­corp, the enor­mous glob­al invest­ment group. Bakhsh had had busi­ness deal­ings with the most promi­nent peo­ple in Sau­di Ara­bia, includ­ing mem­bers of the Sau­di roy­al fam­i­ly. He also had at least two ties to BCCI. Accord­ing to the [Wall Street] Jour­nal, he had been chair­man of the Sau­di Finance Co., a hold­ing com­pa­ny part­ly con­trolled by BCCI share­hold­ers. In addi­tion, he was well acquaint­ed with bin Mah­fouz.” (Idem.)

8. There were denials all around con­cern­ing a causal rela­tion­ship between Bakhsh’s role on Harken’s board and the BCCI rela­tion­ship. Note that bin Mah­fouz’s lawyer is Cherif Sed­ky, whom we will view lat­er on in con­nec­tion with the 3/20/2002 Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids. “All par­ties concerned—bin Mah­fouz, Bakhsh, and Harken—have denied that Bakhsh’s role in Harken had any­thing to do with BCCI or his rela­tion­ship to bin Mah­fouz. ‘Mr. Bakhsh was not in any way rep­re­sent­ing Khalid bin Mah­fouz’s inter­ests in any invest­ment by Mr. Bakhsh in Harken Ener­gy,’ says Cherif Sed­ky. . . .” (Idem.)

9. More about the Bakhsh/Harken/Bush/Othman rela­tion­ship: ” . . . Yet there is evi­dence that Sau­di favors to Bush inter­ests had begun to pay off. In August 1990, Talat Oth­man, a Chica­go investor of Arab descent who rep­re­sent­ed the inter­ests of Abdul­lah Taha Bakhsh on the board of Harken Ener­gy, was grant­ed unusu­al access to the pres­i­dent and attend­ed White House meet­ings with him to dis­cuss Mid­dle East policy—at a time of cri­sis dur­ing which the Gulf War was brew­ing. [Empha­sis added.] The White House, George W. Bush, and Harken all denied that Oth­man’s pres­ence was relat­ed to Bakhsh’s invest­ment.” (Ibid.; p. 125.)

10. Next, the pro­gram high­lights the role of then US Attor­ney Robert Mueller in help­ing to derail the BCCI inves­ti­ga­tion. Mueller is now head of the FBI. ” . . . In addi­tion, accord­ing to the 1992 Sen­ate BCCI inves­ti­ga­tion, the Bush Jus­tice Depart­ment went to great lengths to block pros­e­cu­tion of BCCI. The Sen­ate probe deter­mined that fed­er­al offi­cials repeat­ed­ly obstruct­ed con­gres­sion­al and local inves­ti­ga­tions into BCCI, and for three years thwart­ed attempts by Man­hat­tan dis­trict attor­ney Robert Mor­gen­thau to obtain crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion about the bank.” (Ibid.; p. 126.)

11. Note that the Sen­ate probe into BCCI (which was head­ed by John Ker­ry) was high­ly crit­i­cal of the Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s con­duct of the inves­ti­ga­tion. “The Sen­ate inves­ti­ga­tion con­clud­ed that in 1990 and 1991 the Bush Jus­tice Depart­ment, with Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al Robert Mueller lead­ing the way, con­sis­tent­ly put forth the pub­lic impres­sion that it ws aggres­sive­ly mov­ing against BCCI. But, in fact, the Sen­ate probe said the Jus­tice Depart­ment was actu­al­ly imped­ing ‘the inves­ti­ga­tions of oth­ers through a vari­ety of mech­a­nisms, rang­ing from not mak­ing wit­ness­es avail­able, to not return­ing tele­phone calls, to claim­ing that every aspect of the case was under inves­ti­ga­tion in a peri­od when lit­tle, if any­thing, was being done.’ ” (Idem.)

12. “Specif­i­cal­ly, among oth­er charges, the Sen­ate report alleged that a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor lied to Mor­gen­thau’s office about impor­tant mate­r­i­al; that fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors failed to inves­ti­gate seri­ous alle­ga­tions that BCCI laun­dered drug mon­ey; and that Jus­tice Depart­ment per­son­nel in Wash­ing­ton, Mia­mi, and Tam­pa active­ly obstruct­ed and imped­ed con­gres­sion­al attempts to inves­ti­gate BCCI in 1990 . . .” (Idem.)

13. Much of the rest of the first side of the pro­gram is review of an excerpt from FTR#310 (record­ed on 7/8/2001.) The excerpt focus­es on Robert Mueller’s appoint­ment as head of the FBI, and notes Mueller’s less than enthu­si­as­tic inves­ti­ga­tion of the BCCI case. Mr. Emory notes that, had the BCCI case been thor­ough­ly and prop­er­ly inves­ti­gat­ed, it would have impli­cat­ed the elder Bush in the Iran/Contra and Iraq­gate scan­dals, both of which involved BCCI. Mr. Emory also notes that a prop­er inves­ti­ga­tion of the case might have led to the James R. Bath/George W. Bush/Harken Energy/ Sau­di rela­tion­ship. That rela­tion­ship involved the busi­ness con­nec­tions between George W. Bush and James R. Bath. Bath was an ear­ly investor in Arbus­to Ener­gy, the first of W’s failed oil com­pa­ny ven­tures. He was also the busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Bin Mah­fouz and Bin Laden fam­i­lies in Texas. Those fam­i­lies may well have put up some of the ini­tial cap­i­tal for Arbus­to. With Mueller rul­ing the roost at the FBI, it appeared (on 7/8/2001) that an inves­ti­ga­tion uncov­er­ing the Bush fam­i­ly’s busi­ness deal­ings with the Bin Ladens was unlike­ly. As we saw in FTR#‘s 454, 462, the bureau appears to be derail­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion into Oper­a­tion Green Quest. Bush select­ed Robert Mueller, a mem­ber of his father’s Jus­tice Depart­ment, to be FBI direc­tor.
(“S.F. Pros­e­cu­tor Mueller Picked to Lead FBI, Mend Its Image” by Zachary Coile and Bob Egelko; San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 7/6/2001; pp. A1-A12.)

14. In his work for the Bush Jus­tice Depart­ment, Mueller was less than vig­or­ous in his role over­see­ing the pros­e­cu­tion of Gen­er­al Nor­ie­ga of Pana­ma and the BCCI case. (“In the Run­ning for FBI Direc­tor” by Sta­cy Finz; San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 7/1/2001; pp. A1-A6.) Both the BCCI case and the Nor­ie­ga case over­lap the Iran-Con­tra inves­ti­ga­tion.) The elder Bush was prin­ci­pal­ly involved in the Iran-Con­tra imbroglio. Full dis­clo­sure con­cern­ing the BCCI case would have led to inves­ti­ga­tion of James R. Bath, the Texas busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Bin Laden fam­i­ly and one of the financiers of George W.‘s first oil ven­ture. Was Mueller appoint­ed to fore­stall any inves­ti­ga­tion of these links, thus safe­guard­ing the Georges Bush?.)

15. The GOP recruit­ed Islamists to its cause for the 2000 cam­paign. A num­ber of the indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions recruit­ed by Norquist are impli­cat­ed in the events in, and around, 9/11. Many of them were also focal points of Oper­a­tion Green Quest. The Norquist/Islamist milieu also over­laps the Harken/Bush/BCCI milieu. “As a result, Norquist’s Mus­lim strat­e­gy was some­times criticized—usually from the right—for giv­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty to Mus­lim groups that seemed harm­less, but were in fact sup­port­ing extrem­ist inter­ests. . . . Nev­er­the­less, with Norquist work­ing behind the scenes, Bush aggres­sive­ly pur­sued the Islamists in hopes of win­ning their endorse­ments. In appear­ances on TV, Bush and fel­low cam­paign staffers referred not just to church­es and syn­a­gogues as places of wor­ship, but to mosques as well. Again and again, Gov­er­nor Bush sought out meet­ings with Mus­lim leaders—often with­out look­ing into their back­grounds. He invit­ed the founder of the Amer­i­can Mus­lim Coun­cil, Abdu­rah­man Alam­ou­di, to the gov­er­nor’s man­sion in Austin. In the mid-1990’s, Alam­ou­di had played an impor­tant role in recruit­ing as many as a hun­dred ‘Islam­ic lay lead­ers’ for the U.S. mil­i­tary. The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed that he had arranged for ‘an arm of the Sau­di gov­ern­ment’ called the Insti­tute of Islam­ic and Ara­bic Sci­ences to train ‘sol­diers and civil­ians to pro­vide spir­i­tu­al guid­ance when paid Mus­lim chap­lains aren’t avail­able.’ The Jour­nal added that there were indi­ca­tions that there were indi­ca­tions that ‘the school . . . dis­sem­i­nates the intol­er­ant and anti-West­ern strain of Islam espoused by the [Sau­di] king­dom’s reli­gious estab­lish­ment.’ A self-pro­claimed sup­port­er of Hamas and Hezbol­lah, Alam­ou­di report­ed­ly attend­ed a ter­ror­ist sum­mit in Beirut lat­er in 2000 with lead­ers of Hamas, Hezbol­lah, and Al Qae­da. But such a mil­i­tant back­ground did not keep Alam­ou­di away from Norquist and Bush. Accord­ing to an arti­cle by Frank Gaffney, Alam­ou­di wrote two checks for $10,000 each, one an appar­ent loan, to help found Norquist’s Islam­ic Insti­tute.”

(House of Bush/House of Saud; by Craig Unger; Scrib­n­er [HC]; Copy­right 2004 by Craig Unger; ISBN 0–7432-5337‑X; pp. 205–206.)

16. “On March 12, 2000, Bush and his wife, Lau­ra, met with more Mus­lim lead­ers at a local mosque in Tam­pa, Flori­da. Among them was Sami Al-Ari­an, a Kuwaiti-born Pales­tin­ian who was an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da. . . . But Al-Ari­an had unusu­al cre­den­tials for a Bush cam­paign­er. Since 1995, as the founder and chair­man of the board of World and Islam enter­prise (WISE), a Mus­lim think tank, Al-Ari­an had been under inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI for his asso­ci­a­tions with Islam­ic Jihad, the Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist group. Al-Ari­an brought in Ramadan Abdul­lah Shal­lah, the num­ber-two leader in Islam­ic Jihad, to be the direc­tor of WISE. A strong advo­cate of sui­cide bomb­ings against Israel, Shal­lah was alleged­ly respon­si­ble for killing scores of Israelis in such attacks.” (Ibid.; pp. 206–207.)

17. “Al-Ari­an also brought to Tam­pa as a guest speak­er for WISE none oth­er than Has­san Tura­bi, the pow­er­ful Islam­ic ruler of Sudan who had wel­comed Osama bin Laden and helped nur­ture al Qae­da in the ear­ly nineties. . . .Nor were those Al-Ari­an’s only ties to ter­ror­ists Accord­ing to Amer­i­can Jihad by Steven Emer­son, in may 1998 a WISE board mem­ber named Tarik Ham­di per­son­al­ly trav­eled to Afghanistan to deliv­er a satel­lite tele­phone and bat­tery to Osama bin Laden. In addi­tion, Newsweek report­ed that Al-Ari­an had ties to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Cen­ter. Among his claims to fame, the mag­a­zine said, Al-Ari­an had ‘made many phone calls to two New York-area Arabs who fig­ured in the World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing inves­ti­ga­tion.’ ” (Ibid.; p. 207.)

18. “There were also Al-Ari­an’s own state­ments. In 1998, he appeared as a guest speak­er before the Amer­i­can Mus­lim Coun­cil. Accord­ing to con­ser­v­a­tive author Ken­neth Tim­mer­man, Al-Ari­an referred to Jews as ‘mon­keys and pigs’ and added, ‘Jihad is our path. Vic­to­ry to Islam. Death to Israel. Rev­o­lu­tion! Rev­o­lu­tion! Until vic­to­ry! Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem!’ That speech was part of a dossier com­piled on al-Ari­an by fed­er­al agents who have had him under sur­veil­lance for many years because of sus­pect­ed ties to ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. In a video­tape in that file, al-Ari­an was more explic­it. When he appeared at a fund-rais­ing event, Tim­mer­man says, he’ begged for $500 to kill a Jew.’ ” (Idem.)

19. “Al-Ari­an would be arrest­ed in Flori­da in Feb­ru­ary 2003 on dozens of charges, among them con­spir­a­cy to finance ter­ror­ist attacks that killed more than one hun­dred people—including two Amer­i­cans. The indict­ment alleged that ‘he direct­ed the audit of all mon­eys and prop­er­ty of the PIJ [Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad] through­out the world and was the leader of the PIJ in the Unit­ed States.’ The charges refer to the Islam­ic Jihad as ‘a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion whose mem­bers and asso­ciates engaged in acts of vio­lence includ­ing mur­der, extor­tion, mon­ey laun­der­ing, fraud, and mis­use of visas, and oper­at­ed world­wide includ­ing in the Mid­dle Dis­trict of Flori­da.’ Al-Ari­an was still fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion in Decem­ber 2003.” (Ibid.; p. 208.)

20. Note that Harken direc­tor and polit­i­cal ally of George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. Talat Oth­man gave a Mus­lim bene­dic­tion at the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion. Be sure to review the dis­cus­sion of Oth­man above, and note Oth­man’s role in inter­ced­ing with then Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Paul O’Neill on behalf of the tar­gets of the 3/20/2002 Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids. ” . . . ‘The Al-Ari­an case was not a soli­tary lapse. . . . That out­reach cam­paign opened rela­tion­ships between the Bush cam­paign and some very dis­turb­ing per­sons in the Mus­lim-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty.’ Nev­er­the­less, Norquist con­tin­ued to build a coali­tion of Islamist groups to sup­port Bush. On July 31, 2000, the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion opened in Philadel­phia with a prayer by a Mus­lim, Talat Oth­man, in which Oth­man offered a duaa, a Mus­lim bene­dic­tion. It was the first time a Mus­lim had addressed any major U.S. polit­i­cal gath­er­ing. A third-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can and a busi­ness­man from Chica­go of Mus­lim-Arab descent, Oth­man was chair­man of the Islam­ic Insti­tute. He had also been the board mem­ber of Harken Ener­gy rep­re­sent­ing the inter­ests of Abdul­lah Taha Bakhsh, the Sau­di investor who had helped Bush make his for­tune by bail­ing out Harken in the late eight­ies. [Empha­sis added] When the con­ven­tion end­ed on August 3, after George W. Bush had for­mal­ly been nom­i­nat­ed for pres­i­dent, between his fam­i­ly’s extend­ed per­son­al and finan­cial ties to the House of Saud and his cam­paign’s ties to Islamists, it could be said that he was tru­ly the Ara­bi­an Can­di­date. . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 208–209.)

21. Norquist’s Islam­ic Insti­tute sig­nif­i­cant­ly over­lapped indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions tar­get­ed in the Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids of 3/20/2002. A sum­ma­ry account of those raids and the inves­ti­ga­tion into the SAAR foun­da­tion and the Safa trust fol­lows: ” . . . In the ear­ly morn­ing hours of Wednes­day, March 20, 2002, 150 fed­er­al agents—many with their guns drawn—raided four­teen offices and homes in the sub­urbs of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. FBI and Cus­toms agents loaded sev­en pan­el trucks with more than five hun­dred box­es of doc­u­ments, com­put­ers, and finan­cial records of more than one hun­dred char­i­ties, think tanks, and busi­ness­es affil­i­at­ed with the Hern­don, Virginia—based SAAR Foun­da­tion. Most of the inter­re­lat­ed busi­ness­es and char­i­ties were run out of a sin­gle office at 555 Grove Street, a brown brick and glass three-sto­ry office com­plex on a qui­et street.”
(Blood from Stones: The Secret Finan­cial Net­work of Ter­ror; by Dou­glas Farah; Broad­way Books [HC] {sub­sidiary of Ran­dom House}; Copy­right 2004 by Dou­glas Farah; ISBN 0–7679-15262–3; p. 152.)

22. “The SAAR Foun­da­tion, the back­bone of the clus­ter, takes its name from Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al Rajhi, head of one of Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies, who fun­neled mil­lions of dol­lars through the clus­ter of busi­ness­es and char­i­ties. The al Rajhi name was on the Gold­en Chain list of ear­ly al Qae­da sup­port­ers that was found in the Benev­o­lence files in Sara­je­vo.” (Ibid.; pp. 152–153.)

23. “The SAAR Foun­da­tion was incor­po­rat­ed in Hern­don, Vir­ginia, on July 29, 1983, and for­mal­ly dis­solved on Decem­ber 28, 2000. How­ev­er, many of the foun­da­tion’s func­tions were tak­en over by the Safa Trust, an orga­ni­za­tion reg­is­tered at the same address and run by sev­er­al of the same board mem­bers. Law enforce­ment offi­cials dubbed the maze of the over­lap­ping com­pa­nies, with shared direc­tors, the Safa Group. The groups often financed each oth­er, send­ing the mon­ey in cir­cles. The scores of Safa orga­ni­za­tions are con­trolled by about fif­teen Mid­dle East­ern and Pak­istani men who serve with each oth­er on a host of insti­tu­tion­al boards. Four senior lead­ers of the net­work are Iraqis who had lived in Sau­di Ara­bia, and have been mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.” (Ibid.; p. 153.)

24. Note the role of Yaqub Mirza in the gen­e­sis of the orga­ni­za­tions asso­ci­at­ed with SAAR and Safa Trust. “In the Unit­ed States, the men used Sau­di mon­ey to launch some of the nation’s lead­ing Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tions. In 1983, with mon­ey from the al Rajhi fam­i­ly, the SAAR Foun­da­tion was born. The direc­tor was Yaqub Mirza, a Pak­istani native with a Ph.D. in physics from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas. Oth­er groups were formed short­ly after­ward. Five of the top Safa exec­u­tives live in spa­cious homes on adjoin­ing lots in Safa Court in Hern­don, a twen­ty-two-acre par­cel of land bought by one of the SAAR-affil­i­at­ed firms in 1987.” (Idem.)

25. “In time, the Safa net­work owned or invest­ed in scores of busi­ness­es world­wide: dairy farms in Zim­bab­we; schools in Ivory Coast; a huge poul­try busi­ness in the state of Geor­gia; an Islam­ic mutu­al fund in Wash­ing­ton state; an invest­ment com­pa­ny in Malaysia; shell com­pa­nies in Pana­ma; and com­mer­cial apple orchards in Chile. By the late 1980’s, the SAAR Foun­da­tion had become one of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., region’s biggest land­lords. ‘The funds came very eas­i­ly,’ said a busi­ness­man who dealt with SAAR. ‘If they want­ed a few mil­lion dol­lars, they called the al Rajhis, who would send it along.’ At the same time, the lead­ers of the SAAR Foun­da­tion incor­po­rat­ed and sat on the boards of char­i­ties and non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions. Many were branch­es of Sau­di char­i­ties that oper­ate world­wide. . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 153–154.)

26. The pro­gram notes the sig­nif­i­cant over­laps between the SAAR net­work and the Al Taqwa net­work. ” . . . Oper­a­tion Green Quest was launched in Octo­ber 2001 as part of the Cus­toms Ser­vice ini­tia­tive to track bin Laden’s finan­cial empire. In a small, win­dow­less con­fer­ence room Green Quest agents chart­ed the Byzan­tine rela­tion­ships among the more than one hun­dred Safa net­work enti­ties, a spi­der­web of over­lap­ping names and orga­ni­za­tions. Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tors also chart­ed the rela­tion­ship among the Safa net­work enti­ties and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood through the Al Taqwa Man­age­ment empire of Yousef Nada. U.S. offi­cials said they had tracked about $20 mil­lion from Safa enti­ties flow­ing through Nada’s Bank al Taqwa, but said the total could be much high­er.” (Ibid.; pp. 154–155.)

27. “The ties between Nada and Safa lead­ers were many and long-stand­ing, as were their ties to oth­er Broth­er­hood lead­ers. Two mem­bers of the Safa Group helped set up Bank al Taqwa in the Bahamas and sev­er­al Safa lead­ers loaned Nada mon­ey. In 1976, two oth­er men who lat­er became promi­nent in the Safa Group found­ed Nada Inter­na­tion­al, a Broth­er­hood bank in Liecht­en­stein. For a time, Sulaiman Abdul al Rajhi, the SAAR Foun­da­tion founder, worked for Nada at that bank. Nada Inter­na­tion­al was des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist financier by the Trea­sury Depart­ment after 9/11. . . .” (Ibid.; p. 155.)

28. Do not Fail to take note of the role in the SAAR/Safa Trust milieu of Cherif Sed­ky, the above-men­tioned lawyer for Khalid bin Mah­fouz. The milieu tar­get­ed by the 3/20/2002 Green Quest raids is the BCCI/Harken milieu. It should not be sur­pris­ing, there­fore, to see the FBI, under Mueller, cov­er­ing up Oper­a­tion Green Quest. ” . . . SAAR lawyers said the $1.8 bil­lion was report­ed because of a cler­i­cal error, despite the fact that the ten-dig­it num­ber, $1,783,545,883, was repeat­ed at least sev­en times on the form. Cherif Sed­ky, the foun­da­tion’s trea­sur­er, said that he ‘did not recall’ that amount of mon­ey flow­ing through the com­pa­ny. . . . There is anoth­er thread in the Safa net­work that has drawn scruti­ny from fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors, For the last five years of its exis­tence, the trea­sur­er of the SAAR Foun­da­tion, the group’s cen­tral enti­ty, was Cherif Sed­ky, an Amer­i­can lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the al Rajhi fam­i­ly. Sed­ky is also the rep­re­sen­ta­tive and busi­ness part­ner of Khalid bin Mah­fouz, one of the wealth­i­est men in the world and long­time banker to the Sau­di roy­al fam­i­ly. . . .” (Ibid.; p. 156.)

29. The Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids were trig­gered by a raid on the afore­men­tioned Sami al-Ari­an, the sup­port­er of Bush and asso­ciate of Grover Norquist. ” . . . The Safa Group might have escaped scruti­ny in 2001, if not for a raid that occurred sev­en years ear­li­er, lead­ing to anoth­er thread of inves­ti­ga­tion. In 1995, the FBI raid­ed the home and offices of Sami al-Ari­an, a Kuwaiti-Pales­tin­ian com­put­er sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da in Tam­pa. The feds sus­pect­ed al-Ari­an, a slight, beard­ed, and bald­ing man, was secret­ly fun­nel­ing mon­ey to ter­ror­ists. They believed he was a senior mem­ber of the Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad, a group that unleash­es sui­cide bombers against Israelis.” (Ibid.; p. 158.)

30. “Al-Ari­an was a vocal activist on Pales­tin­ian caus­es, and he fre­quent­ly spoke at Islam­ic con­fer­ences. At one 1991 con­fer­ence, al-Ari­an, dressed in the flow­ing robes of an imam, was video­taped shout­ing in Ara­bic ‘Let us Damn Amer­i­ca, let us damn Israel. Let us damn their allies until death.’ In the ear­ly 1990s, al-Ari­an set up orga­ni­za­tions to raise mon­ey for orphans and wid­ows and the study of Islam. He used the orga­ni­za­tions to spon­sor Mus­lim con­fer­ences, includ­ing one that fea­tured Omar Abdul Rah­man, the blind Sheik who insti­gat­ed the 1993 World Trade Cen­ter attack.” (Idem.)

31. “Al-Ari­an also spon­sored the U.S. visa of Ramadan Abdul­lah Shal­lah, who joined al-Ari­an on the uni­ver­si­ty fac­ul­ty from 1992 to 1994. But Shal­lah sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared in Octo­ber 1995, imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the assas­si­na­tion of PIJ leader Fat’hi Ibrahim Shika­ki. Shal­lah resur­faced a few days lat­er at Shikak­i’s funer­al in Dam­as­cus, where the slain lead­er’s body was tak­en with full mil­i­tary hon­ors. Shal­lah, stand­ing by the cas­ket, had been named Shikak­i’s suc­ces­sor. Al-Ari­an said he was ‘shocked’ at Shal­lah’s ties to PIJ. But the FBI final­ly swooped in.” (Ibid.; pp. 158–159.)

32. “The raid on al-Ari­an led to the Safa Group. The FBI found let­ters doc­u­ment­ing Safa enti­ties’ finan­cial sup­port of al-Ari­an to the tune of tens of thou­sands of dol­lars a year. In a Sep­tem­ber 7, 1993, let­ter, Safa Group lead­ers told one al-Ari­an-led group: ‘We con­sid­er you a part of us and an exten­sion of us and we as a part of you,’ adding that their finan­cial dona­tion of tens of thou­sands of dol­lars was ‘for you as a group, regard­less of the par­ty or façade you use the dona­tion for.’ ” (Ibid.; p. 159.)

33. “But the al-Ari­an and Safa Group inves­ti­ga­tions lan­guished. In the 2000 elec­tions al-Ari­an sup­port­ed George W. Bush, urg­ing Mus­lims to vote Repub­li­can as the best hope of end­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against Arab-Amer­i­cans. Al-Ari­an and his fam­i­ly were pho­tographed with a beam­ing Bush and his wife, Lau­ra, dur­ing a Flori­da cam­paign stop. Al-Ari­an liked to boast that he had deliv­ered ‘con­sid­er­ably more’ than the 537 votes that gave Bush his vic­to­ry in Flori­da and allowed him to cap­ture the White House. On June 20, 2001, al-Ari­an was invit­ed to the White House as part of a large del­e­ga­tion of Mus­lims to be briefed by pres­i­den­tial advis­er Karl Rove.” (Idem.)

34. Bush asso­ciate Talat Oth­man, a direc­tor of Norquist’s Islam­ic Insti­tute, went to bat on behalf of the tar­gets of the Oper­a­tion Green Quest raids of 2002. “In 2002, dur­ing the pres­i­den­cy of George W. Bush, Oth­man again won access to the White House and met with Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury Paul O’Neill to dis­cuss U.S. gov­ern­ment raids on Mus­lim char­i­ties that were alleged­ly fund­ing ter­ror.”
(House of Bush/House of Saud; p. 125.)

35. Is it a “coin­ci­dence” that fed­er­al employ­ees in Tam­pa “acci­den­tal­ly” destroyed key paper­work in the al-Ari­an case?! ” . . . In Decem­ber 2003, clerks at a fed­er­al cour­t­house in Tam­pa acci­den­tal­ly destroyed search war­rants in the Al-Ari­an case. The doc­u­ments con­tained affi­davits from fed­er­al agents that sup­port­ed 1995 search­es of Al-Ari­an’s home and offices and were among thou­sands of doc­u­ments shred­ded some­time between 1998 and 2002. As this book went to press, there were seri­ous ques­tions as to whether the destruc­tion of the doc­u­ments might affect his pros­e­cu­tion.” (Ibid.; p. 208.)

36. Review­ing infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed in FTR#462, the pro­gram high­lights the FBI’s attempts at monop­o­liz­ing the Oper­a­tion Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tion. Oth­er agen­cies allege that the bureau is active­ly sub­vert­ing their efforts at pur­su­ing the case. ” . . . But as the Green Quest team made head­lines, its inves­ti­ga­tions trig­gered a bit­ter dis­pute with­in the gov­ern­ment. Inter­nal­ly, FBI offi­cials have derid­ed Green Quest agents as a bunch of ‘cow­boys’ whose actions have under­mined more impor­tant, long-range FBI inves­ti­ga­tions into ter­ror­ist financ­ing. Green Quest sources, in turn, accuse the FBI of jeal­ousy. Now that the Cus­toms-led Green Quest oper­a­tion has been fold­ed into the new Home­land Secu­ri­ty Depart­ment, Newsweek has learned, t

he FBI and its par­ent agency, the Jus­tice Depart­ment, have demand­ed that the White House instead give the FBI total con­trol over Green Quest.”
(“Whose War on Ter­ror?”; Newsweek; 12/10/2003; p. 1.)

37. “One senior law-enforce­ment offi­cial called the lack of coor­di­na­tion between the FBI and Green Quest ‘an intol­er­a­ble sit­u­a­tion’ and not­ed that the bureau–not Home­land Security—has been for­mal­ly des­ig­nat­ed by Pres­i­dent Bush as the ‘lead agency’ for ter­ror­ism inves­ti­ga­tions. ‘You can’t have two lead agen­cies’ con­duct­ing ter­ror cas­es, the offi­cial said.” (Idem.)

38. “The FBI-Jus­tice move, pushed by DOJ crim­i­nal Divi­sion chief Michael Chertoff and Deputy Attor­ney Gen­er­al Lar­ry Thomp­son, has enraged Home­land Secu­ri­ty offi­cials, how­ev­er. They accuse the bureau of sab­o­tag­ing Green Quest investigations—by fail­ing to turn over crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion to their agents—and try­ing to obscure a decade­long record of lethar­gy in which FBI offices failed to aggres­sive­ly pur­sue ter­ror-finance cas­es.” (Idem.)

39. “ ‘They [The FBI] won’t share any­thing with us,’ said a Home­land Secu­ri­ty offi­cial. ‘Then they go to the White House and they accuse us of not shar­ing . . . If they can’t take it over, they want to kill it.’ . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 1–2.)

40. Note that Yaqub Mirza, who set up the orga­ni­za­tions tar­get­ed in the inves­ti­ga­tions into SAAR and Safa Trust, is alleged to have influ­ence high inside the FBI. Mirza has not been charged by the Oper­a­tion Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tors. ” . . . Fur­ther­more, the FBI was aware that Ptech pro­vid­ed com­put­er soft­ware for sev­er­al gov­ern­ment agen­cies, includ­ing the FBI itself, the FAA, the U.S. Trea­sury, the Depart­ment of Defense, the IRS, and the White House, prov­ing a vis­i­ble and viable threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty. The FBI ignored the repeat­ed requests of con­cerned employ­ees. Fright­en­ing­ly, when an employ­ee told the Pres­i­dent of Ptech he felt he had to con­tact the FBI regard­ing Qadi’s involve­ment in the com­pa­ny, the pres­i­dent alleged­ly told him not to wor­ry because Yaqub Mirza, who was on the board of direc­tors of the com­pa­ny and was him­self a tar­get of a ter­ror­ist financ­ing raid in March 2002, had con­tacts high with­in the FBI. [Empha­sis added.]”
(“Per­ilous Pow­er Play: FBI vs. Home­land Secu­ri­ty” by Rita Katz & Josh Devon; Nation­al Review; 5/27/2003; p. 2)

41. “Per­haps the FBI’s biggest blun­der was in ignor­ing the enor­mous alleged ter­ror­ist finan­cial net­work of com­pa­nies and non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions most­ly in Hern­don, Vir­ginia, named by inves­ti­ga­tors as the ‘SAAR Net­work.’ The FBI had been aware that the SAAR Net­work was fun­nel­ing mon­ey to al-Ari­an. The FBI chose to ignore the case for unknown rea­sons, though some have spec­u­lat­ed it was due to the SAAR Net­work’s close asso­ci­a­tion to wealthy Saud­is who fund­ed the net­work.” (Idem.)

42. “It was not until Oper­a­tion Green Quest, a joint task force head­ed by U.S. Cus­toms which sought to dis­rupt ter­ror­ist financ­ing, picked up the scent of the SAAR Net­work that a raid occurred. In March, 2002, Green Quest, in a vic­to­ry for Amer­i­cans every­where, raid­ed the SAAR Net­work in 15 loca­tions in the largest ter­ror­ist finan­cial bust in U.S. his­to­ry. . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 2–3.)

43. ” . . . Now, the FBI is attempt­ing to wrest the SAAR Net­work inves­ti­ga­tion from Green Quest and take all the cred­it for Green Quest’s ded­i­ca­tion and hard work. The agree­ment between Ashcroft and Ridge is a crush­ing blow to Green Quest, as it effec­tive­ly dis­solves the out­stand­ing task force. Accord­ing to the mem­o­ran­dum, ‘The sec­re­tary of [Home­land Secu­ri­ty] agrees that no lat­er than June 30, 2003, Oper­a­tion Green Quest (OGQ) will no longer exist as a pro­gram name.’ [Empha­sis added].” (Ibid.; p. 3.)


5 comments for “FTR #464 I Told You So—More About the Subversion of Operation Green Quest”

  1. How it’s going to go down:

    Sau­di Ara­bi­an Shares Drop Most in Two Years on Syr­ia Esca­la­tion
    By Deema Almashabi & Glen Carey — Jun 15, 2013 10:15 AM CT

    Shares on Sau­di Arabia’s stock exchange, the Arab world’s biggest, had the largest drop in almost two years, led by banks and tele­com com­pa­nies, amid con­cern that fight­ing in Syr­ia may esca­late.

    Al Rajhi Bank (RJHI), the biggest Sau­di lender by mar­ket val­ue, slid the most since August 2011, while Eti­had Eti­salat Co. (EEC), known as Mobi­ly, also tum­bled. Sau­di Basic Indus­tries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s biggest petro­chem­i­cal mak­er, known as Sabic, fell to the low­est lev­el since May 15.

    The Tadawul All-Share Index (SASEIDX) declined 4.3 per­cent to 7,294.38, the biggest slump since August 2011, at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh, the cap­i­tal. The gauge has gained 7.3 per­cent this year.

    “Today’s decline in the Sau­di stock index is main­ly linked to the geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions in Syr­ia and how it may impact the region over­all,” Mohammed Al-Omran, pres­i­dent of the Gulf Cen­ter for Finan­cial Con­sul­tan­cy in Riyadh, said today in a phone inter­view. “There are diplo­mat­ic move­ments by inter­na­tion­al lead­ers to arm Syr­i­an rebels, and the sud­den return of King Abdul­lah fol­low­ing such news alarmed peo­ple.”

    King Abdul­lah inter­rupt­ed his vaca­tion in Moroc­co yes­ter­day and returned to Jed­dah because of “esca­lat­ing con­cerns relat­ing to events in the region,” the state-owned Sau­di Press Agency said. The same day, Sau­di Sheikh Saud al-Shu­raim, an Imam at the Grand Mosque in Mec­ca, denounced in a ser­mon what he referred to as “tyran­ny” in Syr­ia under Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad.

    Proxy War

    The con­flict in Syr­ia, which has killed at least 93,000 peo­ple based on a Unit­ed Nations’ study, is threat­en­ing to become a larg­er region­al proxy war as the U.S. steps up its involve­ment in the con­flict.

    Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma decid­ed to send light weapons to the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion as the Assad regime made mil­i­tary gains on the bat­tle­field. Regime forces sup­port­ed by fight­ers from the Iran­ian-backed Hezbol­lah have moved north after defeat­ing rebels in al-Qusair, a set­back that trig­gered con­cern in Wash­ing­ton that Iran and its Lebanese ally are tip­ping the bal­ance in favor of Assad.

    The U.S. has locat­ed 300 Marines in north­ern Jor­dan near the bor­der with Syr­ia along with a Patri­ot anti-air­craft mis­sile sys­tem, the Lon­don-based Times report­ed. The deploy­ment north of Al-Mafraq is being described as a mil­i­tary train­ing exer­cise but it will remain in place for sev­er­al months, the news­pa­per said.

    “The king returned to Sau­di Ara­bia per­haps because of what is com­ing up in Jor­dan regard­ing the Syr­i­an civ­il war,” Ted Karasik, direc­tor of research at the Insti­tute for Near East and Gulf Mil­i­tary Analy­sis in Dubai, said in a phone inter­view. “What is going to hap­pen is that some Arab nations, par­tic­u­lar­ly Sau­di Ara­bia, are going to ask the Free Syr­i­an Army to move to the south in safe haven that per­haps may con­tain a no-fly zone.”

    Al Rajhi slid 4.5 per­cent to 68.75 riyals, while Mobi­ly lost 4.1 per­cent to 77 riyals. Sabic dropped 2.1 per­cent to 91.75 riyals.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2013, 8:49 pm
  2. @Pterrafractyl–

    It will be inter­est­ing to see what hap­pens to the price of oil, and the glob­al econ­o­my as a result of this imbroglio.

    As I’ve stat­ed so many times–watch what war in the Mid­dle East does to petro­le­um indus­try prof­its.

    The cost of drilling and refin­ing oil remains the same.

    But the price of oil “soars with war.”

    It does­n’t mat­ter, past a point, who is zoom­ing whom.

    As one Arab investor not­ed “It’s always good for us.”

    Maybe not for the Sau­di stock mar­ket how­ev­er.



    Posted by Dave Emory | June 17, 2013, 3:38 pm
  3. So 9/11 Com­mis­sion co-chair­man Bob Gra­ham wants the 28 pages released because it would demon­strate elite Sau­di com­plic­i­ty in the 9/11 attacks. The Sau­di gov­ern­ment also wants the pages released because they claim it will refute the alle­ga­tions. And 9/11 Com­mis­sion co-chair­man Philip Zelikow and the Repub­li­cans on the House and Sen­ate intel­li­gence com­mit­tees would pre­fer that we all just for­get about what’s in those 28 pages. That’s all part of why it’s been so hard not to be a lit­tle curi­ous about what’s in those doc­u­ments, and it not get­ting any eas­i­er:

    The New York Times
    Claims Against Saud­is Cast New Light on Secret Pages of 9/11 Report

    By CARL HULSEFEB. 4, 2015

    WASHINGTON — A still-clas­si­fied sec­tion of the inves­ti­ga­tion by con­gres­sion­al intel­li­gence com­mit­tees into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has tak­en on an almost myth­ic qual­i­ty over the past 13 years — 28 pages that exam­ine cru­cial sup­port giv­en the hijack­ers and that by all accounts impli­cate promi­nent Saud­is in financ­ing ter­ror­ism.

    Now new claims by Zacarias Mous­saoui, a con­vict­ed for­mer mem­ber of Al Qae­da, that he had high-lev­el con­tact with offi­cials of the Sau­di Ara­bi­an gov­ern­ment in the pre­lude to Sept. 11 have brought renewed atten­tion to the inquiry’s with­held find­ings, which law­mak­ers and rel­a­tives of those killed in the attacks have tried unsuc­cess­ful­ly to declas­si­fy.

    “I think it is the right thing to do,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Stephen F. Lynch, Demo­c­rat of Mass­a­chu­setts and an author of a bipar­ti­san res­o­lu­tion encour­ag­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to declas­si­fy the sec­tion. “Let’s put it out there.”

    White House offi­cials say the admin­is­tra­tion has under­tak­en a review on whether to release the pages but has no timetable for when they might be made pub­lic.

    Mr. Lynch and his allies have been joined by for­mer Sen­a­tor Bob Gra­ham of Flori­da, who as chair­man of the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee was a leader of the inquiry. He has called for the release of the report’s Part 4, which dealt with Sau­di Ara­bia, since Pres­i­dent George W. Bush ordered it clas­si­fied when the rest of the report was released in Decem­ber 2002.

    Mr. Gra­ham has repeat­ed­ly said it shows that Sau­di Ara­bia was com­plic­it in the Sept. 11 attacks. “The 28 pages pri­mar­i­ly relate to who financed 9/11, and they point a very strong fin­ger at Sau­di Ara­bia as being the prin­ci­pal financier,” Mr. Gra­ham said last month as he pressed for the pages to be made pub­lic.

    Rel­a­tives of those killed on Sept. 11 as well as plain­tiffs in a fed­er­al law­suit against Sau­di Ara­bia have also demand­ed that the pages be made pub­lic, see­ing them as the vital link that they believe con­nects an impor­tant ally of the Unit­ed States to the dead­ly attacks. They say the pages, Part 4 of the report, could also help in deter­min­ing the source of cur­rent fund­ing for ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties.

    “If we stop fund­ing of ter­ror­ism and hold those peo­ple account­able, wouldn’t it make a dent in the financ­ing of ter­ror­ism today?” asked William Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the World Trade Cen­ter. Mr. Doyle said that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma per­son­al­ly assured him after the death of Osama bin Laden that he would declas­si­fy that sec­tion of the report.

    Pro­po­nents of releas­ing Part 4, titled “Find­ing, Dis­cus­sion and Nar­ra­tive Regard­ing Cer­tain Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Mat­ters,” have sug­gest­ed that the Bush and Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tions have held it back for fear of alien­at­ing an influ­en­tial mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic part­ner rather than for any nation­al secu­ri­ty con­sid­er­a­tion.

    Oth­ers famil­iar with that sec­tion of the report say that while it might impli­cate Sau­di Ara­bia, the sus­pi­cions, inves­ti­ga­to­ry leads and oth­er find­ings it con­tains did not with­stand deep­er scruti­ny. Philip D. Zelikow, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the nation­al com­mis­sion that inves­ti­gat­ed the Sept. 11 attacks after the con­gres­sion­al pan­els, said the com­mis­sion fol­lowed up on the alle­ga­tions, using some of the same per­son­nel who wrote them ini­tial­ly, but reached a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion.

    “Sau­di Ara­bia has long been con­sid­ered the pri­ma­ry source of Al Qae­da fund­ing, but we have found no evi­dence that the Sau­di gov­ern­ment as an insti­tu­tion or senior Sau­di offi­cials indi­vid­u­al­ly fund­ed the orga­ni­za­tion,” the com­mis­sion said in its July 2004 report. It did note, how­ev­er, the “like­li­hood that char­i­ties with sig­nif­i­cant Sau­di gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship divert­ed funds to Al Qae­da.”

    Mr. Zelikow point­ed to the more thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion under­tak­en by the com­mis­sion.

    “Those involved in the prepa­ra­tion of the famous 28 pages joined the staff of the 9/11 Com­mis­sion and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fol­low-up inves­ti­ga­tion of all the leads that had been devel­oped ear­li­er,” he said Wednes­day. “In doing so, they were aid­ed by a larg­er team with more mem­bers, more pow­ers and for the first time actu­al­ly con­duct­ed inter­views of rel­e­vant peo­ple both in this coun­try and in Sau­di Ara­bia.”

    “And what we found is reflect­ed in the com­mis­sion report,” he said.

    Demands for the release of the 28 pages began soon after the intel­li­gence com­mit­tees fin­ished their work. In 2003, more than 40 sen­a­tors called on Mr. Bush to order the material’s dis­clo­sure. He refused, say­ing “we won’t reveal sources and meth­ods that will com­pro­mise our efforts to suc­ceed” in fight­ing ter­ror­ism.

    The Sau­di gov­ern­ment has also said it favored mak­ing the 28 pages pub­lic because that would make it eas­i­er to refute what it said were unfound­ed alle­ga­tions. The embassy said Wednes­day that it stood by that posi­tion.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Wal­ter B. Jones, a North Car­oli­na Repub­li­can push­ing for the release of Part 4, said the Mous­saoui claims might give momen­tum to the declas­si­fi­ca­tion effort. He said he was approached Wednes­day on the House floor by law­mak­ers inquir­ing how to view the 28 pages.

    But there seemed to be lit­tle appetite for declas­si­fi­ca­tion among the Repub­li­can lead­ers of the intel­li­gence pan­els. Sen­a­tor Richard M. Burr, the North Car­oli­na Repub­li­can who heads the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said he was skep­ti­cal of the val­ue of releas­ing the pages, call­ing them more of a his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment in a fight against ter­ror­ism that has shift­ed sub­stan­tial­ly since 2002.

    “There may have been a lev­el of par­tic­i­pa­tion by some Mus­lim coun­try that is not com­men­su­rate with today,” he said.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Devin Nunes, Repub­li­can of Cal­i­for­nia and the chair­man of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said “the author­i­ty to declas­si­fy this doc­u­ment lies with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma.”

    Advo­cates of releas­ing the doc­u­ment have been frus­trat­ed by Mr. Oba­ma, not­ing that Democ­rats were much more aggres­sive in push­ing for its dis­clo­sure when Mr. Bush was pres­i­dent.

    Mr. Doyle and Kris­ten Bre­itweis­er, whose hus­band, Ronald, was killed on Sept. 11 in the World Trade Cen­ter, say the pres­i­dent assured them dur­ing sep­a­rate meet­ings with fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of the attack that he saw no rea­son the doc­u­ment should be with­held.

    Mr. Doyle said he encour­aged Mr. Oba­ma at a meet­ing in May 2011 with sur­viv­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers to fol­low through on a pledge he made two years ear­li­er to Ms. Bre­itweis­er. “He said: ‘Bill, I know about the pages. I promise I am going to get them released,’ ” Mr. Doyle recount­ed.

    The White House said it was respond­ing to the calls to con­sid­er releas­ing the mate­r­i­al.


    While the cir­cum­stances that will final­ly result in the release of those 28 pages have been open ques­tion for years, and the rep­re­sen­ta­tives GOP would clear­ly pre­fer the pages are nev­er released, it’s worth not­ing that we might be see­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly strong push to declas­si­fy those doc­u­ments specif­i­cal­ly over the next year with the fac­tions of the GOP push­ing the strongest. It sort of depends on how the 2016 GOP pri­maries go:

    9/11 report could sink pos­si­ble GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date
    Law­mak­er: ‘It would be dev­as­tat­ing to some Repub­li­cans’
    Pub­lished: 09/08/2014 at 9:32 PM

    Garth Kant

    WASHINGTON – Inno­cent peo­ple jump­ing out of win­dows hun­dreds of feet to their cer­tain deaths on live tele­vi­sion. Sky­scrap­ers falling. The nation’s cap­i­tal and its biggest city under attack. Amer­i­ca had nev­er seen any­thing like Sept. 11, 2001.

    When Pearl Har­bor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, there was no doubt as to who was the cul­prit. Amer­i­ca declared war on Japan the next day. And, after the Sept. 11 attacks, the world quick­ly learned 19 hijack­ers had turned four com­mer­cial air­lin­ers into mis­siles and 15 of the gang were cit­i­zens of Sau­di Ara­bia.

    But 13 years after that fate­ful autumn day, there are still ques­tions about who planned and financed the attacks on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­ta­gon. Ques­tions, espe­cial­ly, about the role of the Saud­is.

    Actu­al­ly, for­mer Sen. Bob Gra­ham, D‑Fla., who co-chaired the joint Sen­ate-House inves­ti­ga­tion into the Sept. 11 attacks, has no doubt, hav­ing told a court, “I am con­vinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the ter­ror­ists who car­ried out the Sep­tem­ber 11th attacks and the gov­ern­ment of Sau­di Ara­bia.”

    Gra­ham made the remarks in an affi­davit filed in a law­suit brought by fam­i­lies of 9/11 vic­tims against the gov­ern­ment of Sau­di Ara­bia.

    But the details haven’t been made pub­lic yet, because of the exten­sive redac­tions in the offi­cial 9/11 report that was released, a move dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush that Gra­ham calls a “cov­er-up.”

    For what it called rea­sons of “nation­al secu­ri­ty,” the Bush admin­is­tra­tion removed 28 pages of the bipar­ti­san “Joint Inquiry into Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty Activ­i­ties Before and After the Ter­ror­ist Attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001? that was pub­lished in 2002.

    That move could boomerang.

    “If it (the 28 pages) came out it would be dev­as­tat­ing to some Repub­li­cans who are think­ing about run­ning for pres­i­dent. I think that’s one rea­son there’s been a dri­ve not release it,” Rep. Steve Stock­man, R‑Texas, told WND.

    Although Stock­man declined to iden­ti­fy which poten­tial can­di­dates he was refer­ring to, a well-placed source in the Repub­li­can par­ty told WND it undoubt­ed­ly includ­ed Jeb Bush, the for­mer president’s broth­er and for­mer gov­er­nor of Flori­da.

    Stock­man did add that he thought the deci­sion to keep the pages clas­si­fied was due more to pol­i­tics than secu­ri­ty.

    And a deep­er look shows if the Bush­es did have rea­sons for want­i­ng to keep some details secret, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma may also have his own rea­sons to keep the pages under wraps.

    A bill spon­sored by Wal­ter Jones, R‑N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D‑Mass., urg­ing the pres­i­dent to release the 28 redact­ed pages to the pub­lic is gain­ing new momen­tum as the 13th anniver­sary of the attacks approach­es.

    Stock­man, who co-spon­sored the bill, told WND, “It is impor­tant peo­ple see it. It is a bipar­ti­san push release those doc­u­ments.”

    He also found a prac­ti­cal rea­son to release the clas­si­fied sec­tion of the report: to avoid repeat­ing the mis­takes of the past, some of which, he said, were out­lined in the doc­u­ments.

    “And cit­i­zens have a right to know what the mis­takes were,” he added. “Law enforce­ment also deserves to know what mis­takes not to repeat. Ignor­ing facts nev­er is help­ful.”

    Although the 28 pages are clas­si­fied, much of their con­tents has been report­ed over the years, and some have found the infor­ma­tion shock­ing.

    In 2003,New York Times report­ed the inves­ti­ga­tion found Sau­di offi­cials may have giv­en mon­ey to the hijack­ers. Sources told the Times the report sug­gests Sau­di nation­al Omar al-Bay­ou­mi, osten­si­bly employed as a civ­il avi­a­tion con­trac­tor in San Diego, was actu­al­ly work­ing with Sau­di intel­li­gence.

    Gra­ham said he was cer­tain Bay­ou­mi ““was an agent of the gov­ern­ment of Sau­di Ara­bia.” And, accord­ing to the Times, an FBI agent in San Diego also thought the Bay­ou­mi was a Sau­di intel­li­gence offi­cer.

    The paper said the report found “despite the fact that he was a stu­dent, Bay­ou­mi had access to seem­ing­ly unlim­it­ed fund­ing from Sau­di Ara­bia.”

    The Times also said the report urged fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion of whether he and anoth­er Sau­di nation­al had any involve­ment in the Sept. 11 plot.

    When asked if he was con­cerned the Saud­is may have financed the hijack­ers or the plan­ners, Stock­man replied, “I think what’s been pub­licly writ­ten shows there is some con­cern that was the case.”

    If mem­bers of the Sau­di gov­ern­ment did in fact assist the hijack­ers, would that not be an act of war on the U.S.?

    The con­gress­man, who declined to say whether he had read the redact­ed pages, also declined to address that ques­tion direct­ly, telling WND, “I can talk about what’s going on right now.”

    “The admin­is­tra­tion is meet­ing with the Saud­is regard­ing the cur­rent financ­ing of ISIS and oth­er groups whose actions, quite frankly, are as detri­men­tal to the Sau­di gov­ern­ment as they are to the Unit­ed States,” said the con­gress­man. “And that has, appar­ent­ly, been going on for many years.”


    “If it (the 28 pages) came out it would be dev­as­tat­ing to some Repub­li­cans who are think­ing about run­ning for pres­i­dent. I think that’s one rea­son there’s been a dri­ve not release it,” Rep. Steve Stock­man, R‑Texas, told WND.

    Will the WND crowd pounce and find a way to release this info if it looks like Jeb is might take the 2016 nom­i­na­tion? Keep in mind that con­gress­man Stock­man pri­maried John Cornyn because Cornyn was­n’t far right enough, so to some extent this is a ques­tion of whether or not Jeb Bush insane enough to paci­fy the Stock­man-wing of the GOP should he get the nom­i­na­tion. It seems like he is, but we’ll see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 5, 2015, 2:54 pm
  4. The White House is look­ing set to release the infa­mous “28 pages” from the Sen­ate’s 9/11 inves­ti­ga­tion that are assumed to demon­strate high-lev­el assis­tance to the 9/11 hijack­ers from either Sau­di gov­ern­ment or wealth pri­vate cit­i­zens. While the evi­dence for high-lev­el Sau­di involve­ment is pret­ty over­whelm­ing at this point, it would cer­tain­ly be nice to see those 28 pages. And if the con­tent of those 28 pages is provoca­tive enough, it’s very pos­si­ble that the pro­posed bill that would allow the fam­i­lies of the 9/11 vic­tims to sue Sau­di Ara­bia is a lot more like­ly to pass con­gress. And that would mean we get to find out just how far the Sau­di gov­ern­ment would go in retal­i­a­tion. Might they car­ry through on their threat to divest a tril­lion dol­lars in US assets if the con­gress pass­es the 9/11 bill? We’ll pre­sum­ably find out. But if it does come to that, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that Sau­di threats of finan­cial retal­i­a­tion aren’t as threat­en­ing as they used to be:


    Sau­di Threat to Dump U.S. Assets Is Very Exag­ger­at­ed
    It’s not the ’80s any­more. Sau­di Arabia’s finan­cial clout is sink­ing as plung­ing oil prices force it into hock.

    By Ran­dall W. Forsyth
    April 21, 2016

    Back in the ear­ly 1980s, long before The Big Short, there was a fic­tion­al finan­cial thriller called Rollover. Star­ring Jane Fon­da, before she hawked exer­cise videos, and Kris Kristof­fer­son, who won a Worst Actor Razz­ie Award for his per­for­mance, the flick por­trayed the sup­posed glob­al eco­nom­ic chaos that would ensue if Arab oil exporters were to refuse to roll over their petrodol­lar deposits.

    Fast-for­ward to 2016. “Sau­di Ara­bia Warns of Eco­nom­ic Fall­out if Con­gress Pass­es 9/11 Bill,” declares the lead sto­ry in last Saturday’s New York Times. The Sau­di for­eign min­is­ter told the White House the king­dom “would be forced to sell up to $750 bil­lion in Trea­sury secu­ri­ties and oth­er assets in the Unit­ed States before they could be in dan­ger of being frozen by Amer­i­can courts,” the Times report­ed.

    That sup­pos­ed­ly would hap­pen should Con­gress pass leg­is­la­tion that would allow the Sau­di gov­ern­ment to be sued for dam­ages result­ing from the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks. The 9/11 Com­mis­sion report found “no evi­dence that the Sau­di gov­ern­ment as an insti­tu­tion or senior Sau­di offi­cials indi­vid­u­al­ly fund­ed the orga­ni­za­tion” respon­si­ble for the attacks. But sus­pi­cions of Sau­di involvement—contained in 28 clas­si­fied pages of a 2002 Con­gres­sion­al report—remain. And fam­i­lies of 9/11 vic­tims have pressed their case against the Sau­di gov­ern­ment for its alleged sup­port for ter­ror­ism, but have been thwart­ed by a law shield­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments from some suits in U.S. courts.

    The leg­is­la­tion under con­sid­er­a­tion would remove that immu­ni­ty from gov­ern­ments deter­mined to have killed Amer­i­can cit­i­zens on U.S. soil. The Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion oppos­es the mea­sure because it could expose U.S. troops and cit­i­zens to retal­ia­to­ry actions.

    What­ev­er the legal mer­its of the argu­ment over the leg­is­la­tion, the finan­cial threats appear far less than adver­tised. With the plunge in the price of oil, not only are the Saud­is’ assets far less than adver­tised, the king­dom is hav­ing to go into hock to cov­er its mount­ing bills.

    Bian­co Research points out that, as of the lat­est Feb­ru­ary data from the U.S. Trea­sury, all mem­bers of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Petro­le­um Export­ing Coun­tries togeth­er hold a total of $281 billion—“a far cry from $750 bil­lion.” Total offi­cial Sau­di for­eign exchange hold­ings totaled $592 bil­lion, also well short of the pur­port­ed $750 bil­lion in U.S. assets.


    The Finan­cial Times Wednes­day report­ed the Saud­is were rais­ing $10 bil­lion in a syn­di­cat­ed bank loan, the first time the king­dom has had to bor­row since 1991. That comes after a $120 bil­lion plunge in reserves since late 2014 and a bal­loon­ing of its fis­cal deficit to 19% of gross domes­tic product—a short­fall that would make Greece shudder—all result­ing from the col­lapse in crude.

    The bank loan opens the way for Sau­di Ara­bia to float a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar bond issue to cov­er its fis­cal gap, the FT says. Mean­while, Sau­di Aram­co is prepar­ing an ini­tial pub­lic offer­ing that would raise about $106 bil­lion, Bloomberg report­ed, which would give the state-owned oil com­pa­ny a mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion of $2 tril­lion.

    That the Saud­is are issu­ing bil­lions in debt and sell­ing off a por­tion of their crown jew­el pro­vides ineluctable evi­dence that they need the dough. While Sau­di Ara­bia may be the low-cost oil pro­duc­er, the oil rev­enues sim­ply don’t cov­er their spend­ing.

    That sug­gests the Sau­di threat to dump Trea­suries is less daunt­ing. As the Times notes, for­eign offi­cial hold­ers have liq­ui­dat­ed $225 bil­lion of Trea­suries in the past year—and their yields remain near his­toric lows nonethe­less. And giv­en the Saud­is’ cash needs, they will like­ly con­tin­ue to sell off their for­eign assets regard­less.


    “That sug­gests the Sau­di threat to dump Trea­suries is less daunt­ing. As the Times notes, for­eign offi­cial hold­ers have liq­ui­dat­ed $225 bil­lion of Trea­suries in the past year—and their yields remain near his­toric lows nonethe­less. And giv­en the Saud­is’ cash needs, they will like­ly con­tin­ue to sell off their for­eign assets regard­less.
    So the Saud­is were basi­cal­ly threat­en­ing to do what they were going to have to do any­ways: sell assets to raise cash. And they’ve been doing it sig­nif­i­cant­ly already, and it has­n’t real­ly made a dent in the US Trea­sury mar­ket. That’s bad news for the Saud­is’ abil­i­ty to issue finan­cial threats, but it’s prob­a­bly good news for their finances. After all, if the threat of a Sau­di sell off real­ly was big enough cre­ate upheaval in the mar­ket for US Trea­suries, that val­ue of all those assets the Saud­is are threat­en­ing to sell would plum­met in the process. In oth­er words, by not being threat­en­ing, the val­ue of the assets used to issue the threat is at least going to be held steady while the Saud­is sell off the assets raise the cash they’re going to need with or with­out the threat.

    So in the short-run, it does­n’t appear that the Sau­di threat is all that mean­ing­ful. In the long-run, how­ev­er, it’s prob­a­bly worth ask­ing what hap­pens to the array of Sau­di inter­ests when the oil-rush final­ly comes to an end and there sim­ply is to giant trea­sure trove avail­able for wield the king­dom’s influ­ence across the globe. Sau­di Ara­bia is a mas­sive source of the financ­ing that backs mil­i­tant Sun­ni Islam, after all, so when that coun­try starts run­ning out of cash, won’t the broad array of mosques, reli­gious foun­da­tions, and pro­pa­gan­da net­works that rely on that fund­ing start run­ning out of cash too? What is this going to mean for both the region and Sun­ni Islam in gen­er­al over the next 50 years if a recog­ni­tion sets in that the end is near for all that oil-financed sug­ar? Will that have a mod­er­at­ing effect on Sun­ni fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam or will those strains of the reli­gion go even more nuts once the mon­ey spig­ot goes dry? Let’s hope it’s the for­mer and not the lat­ter, but at least one group of trou­ble-mak­ers would be unam­bigu­ous­ly mod­er­at­ed for the good if the Saud­is ran out of cash.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 25, 2016, 5:19 pm
  5. Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman laid out an ambi­tious goal for the nation to wean itself off of its “addic­tion” to oil...as soon as 2020. So, if every­thing goes as planned, the nation should have an over­hauled econ­o­my in a few short years. Obvi­ous­ly that’s going to take a lot longer, but it is pret­ty inevitable that the nation is going to have to tran­si­tion away from petro­le­um-based econ­o­my as soon as pos­si­ble, so the soon­er they get start­ed the bet­ter. So we should prob­a­bly all wish the Saud­is the best of luck in suc­cess­ful­ly car­ry­ing out this mod­ern­iza­tion process. They’re going to need it:


    Sau­di Ara­bia will strug­gle to kick its addic­tion to oil

    LONDON | By John Kemp
    Thu Apr 28, 2016 12:26am IST

    “King Abdu­laz­iz and the men who worked with him for the estab­lish­ment of the state did not depend on oil and they estab­lished the king­dom with­out oil, and they ran this state with­out oil, and they lived in this state with­out oil,” Sau­di Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an tele­vised inter­view on Mon­day.

    The deputy crown prince crit­i­cized the king­dom’s sub­se­quent “addic­tion” to oil which has “dis­rupt­ed the devel­op­ment of many sec­tors in the past years” imply­ing this was a rel­a­tive­ly recent prob­lem.

    The prince claimed his nation­al trans­for­ma­tion pro­gram would enable the king­dom to “live with­out oil” as ear­ly as 2020 (“Tran­script of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Inter­view”, Al Ara­biya, April 25).

    But if mod­ern Sau­di Ara­bia was found­ed by con­quest and the skil­ful states­man­ship of Abdu­laz­iz, it has been held togeth­er by the rev­enue from oil, even more than con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gion.

    Dis­tri­b­u­tion of oil rev­enue to client groups has formed the foun­da­tion of the state from its ear­li­est years and shaped the con­tours of the econ­o­my and soci­ety.

    Shar­ing oil wealth in exchange for pop­u­lar sub­mis­sion to absolute monar­chi­cal rule has always been cen­tral to the social con­tract between the rul­ing Al Saud and the king­dom’s pop­u­la­tion.

    Trans­form­ing that con­tract so that it does not cen­ter on oil is an enor­mous­ly ambi­tious under­tak­ing fraught with con­sid­er­able risks and with an uncer­tain chance of suc­cess.


    Before the dis­cov­ery of oil, Sau­di Ara­bia was a des­per­ate­ly poor coun­try, with a large­ly sub­sis­tence econ­o­my and depend­ing on the annu­al pil­grim­age to Mec­ca and Med­i­na.

    The mod­ern state was assem­bled through a series of con­quests between 1902 and 1926 and pro­claimed as the uni­fied King­dom of Sau­di Ara­bia in 1932.

    At the time, the only gov­ern­ment rev­enue came from cus­toms duties, pil­grim­age tax­es and tithes. From the start, the state was short of mon­ey and des­per­ate­ly look­ing for addi­tion­al sources of income.

    One rea­son the king­dom grant­ed a con­ces­sion in 1933 to prospect for oil to the U.S. com­pa­ny Socal rather than Britain’s Iraq Petro­le­um Com­pa­ny was that Socal was pre­pared to offer more cash up front and loans to be repaid from future pro­duc­tion (“A king and a con­ces­sion”, Aram­co, 1984).

    In 1938, the gov­ern­men­t’s rev­enue amount­ed to just $7 mil­lion, accord­ing to Arthur Young, the U.S. finan­cial expert sent out after World War Two to help set up the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Mon­e­tary Agency.

    The first com­mer­cial oil dis­cov­ery was made the same year and the king­dom received $340,000 in oil roy­al­ties (“Sau­di Ara­bia: the mak­ing of a finan­cial giant”, Young, 1983).

    Hopes of an imme­di­ate bonan­za were delayed by the world war, which led to the post­pone­ment of explo­ration and devel­op­ment work. But once the war end­ed, pro­duc­tion and oil rev­enue began to ramp up.

    The king­dom’s annu­al oil rev­enue surged from $340,000 in 1938 to $10 mil­lion in 1946, $57 mil­lion in 1950, $334 in 1960, $1.2 bil­lion in 1970 and $84 bil­lion in 1980.


    Even before oil, gift-giv­ing was an impor­tant ele­ment of the com­pact between the ruler and his sub­jects, and the need to demon­strate gen­eros­i­ty fre­quent­ly strained roy­al finances (“Two kings in Ara­bia”, Bullard, 1993).

    Once the gush­er of oil rev­enue arrived, it pro­vid­ed the scope to co-opt almost all social groups and make them clients of the state.

    Trib­al groups were grant­ed gen­er­ous state sub­si­dies and recruit­ed into the nation­al guard. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of oth­er cit­i­zens have been put on the pay­rolls of the armed forces and var­i­ous min­istries.

    Mon­ey could also be used to set­tle ten­sions with­in the roy­al fam­i­ly by allow­ing each senior prince to be giv­en their own vast and essen­tial­ly autonomous bureau­crat­ic fief­dom.

    Oil wealth enabled the state to avoid levy­ing income and oth­er tax­es and to sub­si­dize the pro­vi­sion of basic ser­vices includ­ing water, elec­tric­i­ty and gaso­line.

    Oil wealth enables Sau­di Ara­bia to main­tain more than 250,000 men under arms and run the world’s third-largest defense bud­get (“Princes, bro­kers and bureau­crats: oil and the state in Sau­di Ara­bia”, Her­tog, 2010).

    More or less every­thing in mod­ern Sau­di Ara­bia depends direct­ly or indi­rect­ly on oil.


    From the very begin­ning, how­ev­er, expen­di­ture tend­ed to run ahead of receipts. “When oil pro­duc­tion and spend­ing grew after the war, spend­ing grew even faster”, accord­ing to Young.


    The king­dom’s his­to­ry from the 1950s to the 2010s has been a series of oil-fueled booms fol­lowed by painful adjust­ments when oil prices fell and rev­enue shrank.


    Peri­od­ic crash­es in the oil price and state rev­enue have brought peri­od­ic calls to adjust the social com­pact between the state and its cit­i­zens.

    Prince Mohammed, effec­tive­ly the king­dom’s top eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy­mak­er, is not the first ruler to com­plain about the coun­try’s addic­tion to oil (“Sau­di reform efforts wax and wane with oil prices,” Reuters, Feb­ru­ary 2016).



    Prince Mohammed’s “SaudiVision2030”, adopt­ed by the cab­i­net and pub­lished on Mon­day, is essen­tial­ly a diver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­e­gy which aims to move the king­dom away from depen­dence on oil rev­enue (April 2016).

    It is close­ly mod­eled on an ear­li­er and even more com­pre­hen­sive study by the McK­in­sey Glob­al Insti­tute enti­tled “Sau­di Ara­bia beyond oil: the invest­ment and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty trans­for­ma­tion” (Decem­ber 2015).

    The aim is to shift the econ­o­my away from an almost exclu­sive reliance on oil (and the spend­ing of oil rev­enue) to devel­op oth­er sec­tors such as min­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, retail, tourism, pil­grim­age, and health­care.

    The strat­e­gy also envis­ages devel­op­ing the coun­try as a logis­tics hub for East-West trade, becom­ing a finan­cial ser­vices cen­ter, local­iz­ing defense man­u­fac­tur­ing, and devel­op­ment more small and medi­um-sized enter­pris­es.

    The prince has stressed that much of the trans­for­ma­tion can be achieved through improve­ments in gov­ern­ment effi­cien­cy and restruc­tur­ing (termed “qawam” in the vision doc­u­ment).

    There is no doubt Sau­di Ara­bia needs to under­take these changes, and a younger gen­er­a­tion of pol­i­cy­mak­ers has brought an increased sense of urgency to tack­ling the prob­lems.

    But describ­ing the king­dom’s prob­lem as an “addic­tion” to oil, as if it was inci­den­tal, rather than a fun­da­men­tal part of the polit­i­cal, social and eco­nom­ic struc­ture, risks under­stat­ing the chal­lenge involved.

    Exter­nal com­men­ta­tors have focused on the val­u­a­tion like­ly to be real­ized from a part-pri­vati­sa­tion of state-oil com­pa­ny Sau­di Aram­co but that is the least of the prob­lems.

    True diver­si­fi­ca­tion requires devel­op­ing indus­tries which have noth­ing to do with the extrac­tion of oil and spend­ing of oil-relat­ed rev­enue.

    Pil­grim­age is a nat­ur­al choice but the busi­ness envi­ron­ment for oth­er sec­tors such as finance, logis­tics and man­u­fac­tur­ing remains for­bid­ding­ly tough.

    Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s rulers must con­struct an attrac­tive place to do busi­ness when com­pa­nies cur­rent­ly have much sim­pler alter­na­tives such as the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates.

    “But describ­ing the king­dom’s prob­lem as an “addic­tion” to oil, as if it was inci­den­tal, rather than a fun­da­men­tal part of the polit­i­cal, social and eco­nom­ic struc­ture, risks under­stat­ing the chal­lenge involved.”
    Yep, when you have a sin­gle-sec­tor econ­o­my, break­ing your nation’s addic­tion to that sec­tor is kind of like break­ing your addic­tion to the only avail­able food source. You need some­thing to sus­tain your­self. Espe­cial­ly when the dis­tri­b­u­tion of that sole food source is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing the exist­ing pow­er struc­ture:

    Dis­tri­b­u­tion of oil rev­enue to client groups has formed the foun­da­tion of the state from its ear­li­est years and shaped the con­tours of the econ­o­my and soci­ety.

    Shar­ing oil wealth in exchange for pop­u­lar sub­mis­sion to absolute monar­chi­cal rule has always been cen­tral to the social con­tract between the rul­ing Al Saud and the king­dom’s pop­u­la­tion.

    It’s going to be a lot hard­er to jus­ti­fy the Sau­di Ara­bi­an peo­ple’s sta­tus as roy­al sub­jects if the King can’t afford to pro­vide basic ser­vices. At the same time, while most the talk is about wean­ing the coun­try away from the petro­le­um econ­o­my, that talk dou­bles as calls for wide­spread aus­ter­i­ty unless some new source of sig­nif­i­cant rev­enues sud­den­ly pops up. It’s basi­cal­ly inevitable, espe­cial­ly when the plans appear to focus around “improve­ments in gov­ern­ment effi­cien­cy and restruc­tur­ing”


    The prince has stressed that much of the trans­for­ma­tion can be achieved through improve­ments in gov­ern­ment effi­cien­cy and restruc­tur­ing (termed “qawam” in the vision doc­u­ment).

    That sure sounds like aus­ter­i­ty chat­ter! Sure, there’s no doubt some aus­ter­i­ty-free effi­cien­cies that could be real­ized sim­ply by reduc­ing things like roy­al graft (or cut­ting back on the third largest defense bud­get in the world). But it’s hard to see how a post-petro­le­um Sau­di econ­o­my isn’t going to involve immense aus­ter­i­ty for the mass­es and big cut backs in pub­lic ser­vices. At the same time, the worse things look, and the less sta­ble the future looks for the Sau­di roy­als, the greater the incen­tive for the roy­als to accel­er­ate the desta­bi­liza­tion process by loot­ing what wealth remains and get­ting out of there.

    In oth­er words, the bribes that keep the rab­ble com­pla­cent are com­ing to an end. What’s the rab­ble going to do when that hap­pens, espe­cial­ly if the roy­al fam­i­ly con­tin­ues to live in opu­lence? That seems like a pret­ty mas­sive sys­temic risk to the sta­bil­i­ty of the Sau­di sys­tem. And the riski­er it looks, the greater the incen­tives for the roy­al fam­i­ly to get as much wealth stashed away in off­shore accounts and oth­er wealth havens. So while turn­ing Sau­di Ara­bia into a glob­al finan­cial cen­ter appeared to be one of those plans for shoring up the Sau­di econ­o­my in a post-petro­le­um era, we prob­a­bly should­n’t be super sur­prised if one of the main ser­vices pro­vid­ed by that finan­cial sec­tor is the secret move­ment of the vast remain­ing wealth out of the coun­try. At least, that’s going to be some­thing to watch for as this ambi­tious plan takes hold.

    Of course, there are less desta­bi­liz­ing options, so we’ll see what path the roy­als choose. For instance, why not turn Sau­di Ara­bia into a green-ener­gy research hub and fig­ure out a clean, green way to pow­er the desalin­iza­tion process and turn Sau­di Ara­bia into a region fresh-water hub? The coun­try is already build­ing the world’s largest solar pow­ered desalin­iza­tion plant. That’s a pret­ty good start. So how about dou­bling and tripling down on that sec­tor of the econ­o­my? For a region of the world that lost a Dead Sea’s worth of fresh water between 2003 and 2009, fresh water seems like a great invest­ment. Blue Gold!

    So let’s hope that’s the direc­tion the Sau­di roy­als decide to take. Who knows, Blue Gold could be social glue that keeps the roy­als in pow­er for in the 21st cen­tu­ry. After all, while human­i­ty’s addic­tion to oil made the roy­als a big enough trea­sure trove to main­tain their grip on pow­er in decades past, the 21st cen­tu­ry addic­tive sub­stances of choice will prob­a­bly be dif­fer­ent .

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2016, 3:32 pm

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