Online Viewpoints

Saudi Arabia: The Return of Al-Qaeda?

Comment and analysis from Jidda, Beirut, Jakarta, Paris, Munich, Rome, Warsaw, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Ruwi, Cairo, Doha, Karachi, Edinburgh, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Manila, Glasgow, Dhaka, Vancouver, Melbourne, Lahore, and Rio de Janeiro

Saudi firemen inspect damage caused by a suicide bombing at the Al-Hamra expatriate compound near Riyadh, May 13. The bombing was one of three in the kingdom that killed at least 36 people and wounded many others. (Photo: AFP)

Jidda Arab News (pro-government, English language), May 14: It’s about time we got our act together. The time of pretending that radicalism does not exist in Saudi Arabia is long past. The time for pretending that we are above errors and could not possibly commit terrorist attacks is no longer with us. It has got to stop. Change must come now. We as a nation cannot afford to leave it to its own slow pace. It’s either now or never….We needed to hear three questions that are never asked. Like dust, they are swept under the carpet: Why are more and more Saudi young men being fed with radical ideas? Who are the people brainwashing them? How are they being radicalized? And so it happens that so much dust is swept underneath the carpet that it finally bursts out in full view of everybody. At last, the truth that was hidden has come out.

Beirut As-Safir (left-wing, pro-Syria) May 14: If we believe...that the Riyadh blasts are the creation of [the] Al-Qaeda organization, then Osama bin-Laden would have added to his original sin, another hideous sin, confirming that he is suffering from a dangerous political blindness that stops him from seeing who his real enemy is....The blasts in Riyadh are a crime...a hideous political mistake, which will give the American administration the opportunity to show that it is only defending its citizens when it attacks other countries and even occupies them.
Talal Salman

Jakarta Koran Tempo (independent), May 14: The U.S. made a mistake by ignoring the world warning. The military attacks on Iraq have proven to not bring peace. The "War on Terrorism" in Afghanistan only triggered other terror.…The occupation of Iraq has become more explosive. There is a wide perception that the U.S. military adventure in Iraq was not merely motivated by oil, but also in the interest of protecting Israel.... Without any basic changes in policy, the road map toward independence in Palestine that Colin Powell is selling will lead the Middle East nowhere. The cycle of terrorism in that region will neatly bury it.

Paris La Croix L'Evénement (Catholic-oriented), May 14: The tragedy in Riyadh is like a message sent to Secretary Powell that can be summarized as follows: Neither the end of Afghanistan’s Taliban nor the end of Saddam’s regime in Iraq are enough to give you the final victory.... Except for the naive, we all knew that the end of Saddam Hussein would not mean the end of terrorism nor the beginning of security around the world. We knew that George W. Bush’s crusade, by forgetting to deal with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was concentrating on the non-essential.
Bruno Frappat

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), May 14: The terror attacks in Riyadh show us the core of Islamic terror: Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated from the outside. Militant Islamists will only disappear if Islamic societies manage to get rid of the problem themselves....The terror is coming from Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabi state religion, and it needs to be defeated there. The origin of the biggest threat against America is there, not in Iraq.
Stefan Kornelius

Rome La Repubblica (left/centrist), May 14: [Saudi Arabia] is an unbelievable factory of aspiring suicide terrorists who could spread death throughout the world. Bin Laden is at home here....The nine terrorists who sacrificed themselves as human bombs in Riyadh confirm that the reserve of Saudi "martyrs" is considerable indeed....The attacks in Riyadh hide an alarming new element and reflect a very ambitious goal: Osama bin Laden...believes that he can topple the Saudi resurrect the Umma, the Islamic Nation, to become its new caliph, and the vicar of Mohammad.... [And] the Saudi monarchy is paying for the serious mistakes stemming from age-old religious and ideological politics characterized by risks and ambiguity.
Magdi Allam

Warsaw Gazeta Wyborcza (liberal), May 14: The attack happened only a month after Americans announced they would withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia, something Al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist organizations demanded....Apparently, it is a futile hope that terrorists will stop killing if their demands are met—quite the opposite [is true].
Dawid Warszawski

Madrid El Mundo (centrist), May 14: The war against Iraq not only has not served to weaken Al-Qaeda, but it has produced exactly the opposite effect: It has strengthened the terrorist organization, which has gained supporters in the Muslim world after the U.S. offensive against a paper tiger called Saddam. The attacks of yesterday show that Baghdad was not the great threat Bush said and that the true enemies of the United States are in other countries, which are much closer to Washington politically.

Tel Aviv Ha'aretz (liberal), May 14: The fact that the attacks took place shortly after Washington and Riyadh announced plans to reduce the U.S. military presence in the kingdom strengthens the assessment that the terrorists' real target might have been the Saudi regime. The attacks in Saudi Arabia once again cast doubt on whether total war against a state suspected of sheltering terrorists is an effective means of liquidating terrorist organizations whose aims are not localized.
Zvi Bar'el

Ruwi Times of Oman (English daily newspaper), May 14: Acts of such a horrific nature were expected in the wake of the Iraq war, which was waged without the approval of the United Nations. In this context, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s words before the Iraq war proved prophetic. He had then warned the United States that the war could spawn many Bin Ladens…. Even so, it is rank immoral to kill innocent people even if it is to avenge injustices. The criminals who were behind the dastardly acts in Riyadh have to be reeled in and brought to justice. After all, you cannot right a wrong by paying back in kind.

Cairo Al-Ahram (semi-official), May 14: It is obvious Al-Qaeda is still able to strike at any time.... The explosions in Riyadh, although they are criminal acts, mean American policy is reaping what it sowed. Before the war on terror ended, [the U.S.] opened the Iraqi front, and before the situation settles in Iraq, the Riyadh explosions occurred. Chancellor Schroeder warned precisely about this when he said war on Iraq might have a negative impact on the war against terror and on Mideast stability.
Hazem Abdel Rahman

Doha Al-Watan (Arabic), May 14: If the terrorists of Saudi Arabia believe that raising slogans against the Americans will gain them sympathy, then they are hallucinating….The goals of terrorism in Saudi Arabia are to impose an extremist ideology instead of adopting the sensible Islamic teachings, and to force the Saudi leadership to abandon its reform policies.
Dr. Ayed Al-Manna

Karachi Dawn (centrist), May 14: The suicide bombings seem to confirm the fears expressed by most independent analysts that the United States' unilateralist approach to combating terrorism and its emerging Middle East policy will likely bring more violence and terrorism to the region....Arabs have long seen the Americans' failure to pressure the Israelis sufficiently as a lack of will on the part of Washington more than anything else....The latest suicide bombings in Riyadh show that the United States might have won the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, but these "victories" have moved it further away from winning the war on terror. And Washington only has its arrogant unilateralism to thank for it.

Edinburgh The Scotsman (independent, moderate), May 14: All roads in the crisis of the Arab and Muslim world eventually lead back to Riyadh. There the roadblock to Arab modernity is situated and it is that lack of modernity that ultimately imperils the international peace, not Palestinian-Israeli relations. The Saudi ruling families, de facto owners of the world’s largest oil reserves, are caught in a cruel historical vise. To buttress their hold on power, internally and externally, they have encouraged and funded the extremist Wahabbi Islamic sect for decades. It is this religious current that has fomented anti-Western feelings from Afghanistan to Bradford….But after Monday night’s massacre, the Saudi government can no longer hide from reality. It will have to choose:…Give up personal control over it—or see unemployment radicalize Saudi youth.

New Delhi Hindustan Times (centrist), May 14: For the United States, the grim reminder that Al-Qaeda hasn’t lost its sting may be all the more worrisome in the context of, first, its failure to nab Saddam Hussein and, secondly, its inability to restore any semblance of order in Baghdad. Like Osama, Saddam can remain a potent source of inspiration for the jihads. Besides, the unsettled conditions in Iraq will be a reminder to the terrorists that the war may be over, but the conflict isn’t....Clearly, the world continues to remain a dangerous place.

Hong Kong  South China Morning Post (centrist), May 14: Human and civil-rights groups frequently criticize the [Saudi] government for ignoring basic freedoms, such as democracy, free speech, and the rights of women. Saudi Arabia was also vehemently opposed to the war on Iraq.…Yet American criticism has remained muted….The reasons for apparent American inaction are only partly tied to oil….Less obvious are the close personal friendships that have developed between the royals and senior administration officials, including Mr. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney…. The United States and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to part diplomatic and economic ways any time soon, although Monday's bombings will likely ensure a further demise of the relationship.

Manila Manila Standard (independent), May 14: The bombings in Riyadh may well be the opening salvo of the counterattacks of Al-Qaeda to remind the world that it is not yet a spent force. Moreover, they tend to show that the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of the Saddam regime in Iraq has not made the world safe from terrorist attacks....The bombings in Riyadh prove that terrorists are able to stage attacks even if their supposed “host” regimes had been toppled. These attacks undermine “regime change” as a rationale in pursuing the war on terrorism.

Glasgow The Herald (independent, moderate), May 14: This was a well-orchestrated assault on heavily guarded compounds housing westerners; it was timed to coincide with Mr. Powell’s visit; and it took place weeks after the United States announced it would withdraw its troops from the country. It was a clear message from Al-Qaeda to the United States and its allies, letting them know that the men of terror were back in the business of mass killing....Yesterday's attacks were not just a warning to the United States and Britain that Al-Qaeda had not gone away. They were a message to the house of Saud that it, too, must get its house in order and root out the corruption and injustice, which allow terrorism to fester.

Dhaka Daily Star (independent), May 15: The assaults were well orchestrated and carried out according to plan without the slightest resistance. The dare-devilry of such incidents has turned out to be the fearful factor of the deadly game of terrorism…. We condemn such attacks, not only because innocent people become victims of such crude, unpredictable acts, but also because such attacks will only expand the cycle of violence. Terrorism can get nobody anywhere.

Vancouver The Vancouver Sun (conservative), May 14: The fear now must be that the situation in Saudi Arabia is past redemption; that the country cannot work toward a stable, moderate, inclusive and accountable administration without first experiencing disastrous upheaval and perhaps its own version of Afghanistan’s Taliban. Washington has taken on a grand design to reshape the Middle East, first in Iraq and now, once again, with Israel and the Palestinians. But the warning of Monday’s attack is that there can be no victory in the global war on terrorism until there is a political resolution in Saudi Arabia.

Melbourne The Age (centrist), May 15: The [Saudi] rulers have not helped their own cause, promoting a society that has become progressively less equitable. The nation’s immense wealth is far from evenly spread. Corruption is endemic. There is no democracy in Saudi Arabia, few opportunities for young Saudis and growing cause for discontent. Such are the conditions for political and religious radicalism. What Saudi Arabia needs—and this is a point upon which secular and religious moderates agree—is political, economic, and social reform.

Lahore The Nation (conservative), May 14: So where does that place the U.S. progress in the War against Terror? Obviously Washington's success in achieving regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq through sheer military force had created the illusion that terrorist rage symbolized by 9/11 had been tackled at its roots....The Osama phenomenon, however repugnant its operation, gains strength from two main features of U.S. foreign policy. One, the perception that the United States with its 10,000-strong military presence is in control of Saudi policies and therefore in charge of the land of Islam's most sacred sites....The other factor is Washington's carte blanche to Tel Aviv to trample over the lives, rights, and territory of Palestinians.

Rio de Janeiro O Globo (centrist), May 14: In view of yesterday's multiple suicidal attacks in Saudi Arabia, it may seem inopportune to ask when the Middle East will stop being a burning fuse. But the question is less inopportune than it seems. Despite the Riaydh's possible, even likely, that the explosive region will become stabilized in the near future. It all depends on Bush's political skill, or his hegemonic project for the United States that still hasn't been revealed.

Jidda Okaz (pro-government), May 14: The target is not buildings, foreigners or residences of foreigners, but…Arab and Islamic security. Any other argument is invalid and incorrect.

Some of the above excerpts were drawn from the U.S. Department of State International Information Program's Foreign Media Reaction.

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