Follow us on social

New evidence of Saudi role in 9/11 should close off security pact talks

New evidence of Saudi role in 9/11 should close off security pact talks

Yet the Biden administration is for some unknown reason moving full steam ahead

Analysis | Middle East

There is new evidence that shows that some Saudi government officials were more involved in the 9/11 attacks than previously known. According to a new filing in a lawsuit brought by the families of the 9/11 victims, al-Qaida operatives received significant support from members of the Saudi government in their preparations for the attacks.

As Daniel Benjamin, president of the American Academy in Berlin, and Quincy Institute senior fellow Steven Simon explain in a new article for The Atlantic, the plaintiffs allege that Saudi officials “were not rogue operators but rather the front end of a conspiracy that included the Saudi embassy in Washington and senior government officials in Riyadh.” If the allegations are true, that has important implications for our understanding of the attacks and how international terrorist groups operate, and it also gives Americans another reason to question the wisdom of a security pact with Saudi Arabia today.

There had already been some proof of collusion between Saudi officials and 9/11 hijackers revealed in the past, but as Benjamin and Simon point out, the new evidence suggests that the actions taken by two Saudi officials working in the U.S. to support the hijackers were “deliberate, sustained, and carefully coordinated with other Saudi officials.” If true, the failure of our government to hold the Saudis accountable for the role of their officials in the attacks is inexcusable. It makes the continued indulgence of Saudi Arabia by successive administrations over the last two decades even more repugnant.

The Saudi government predictably denies the allegations, but that is what Riyadh always does when there are credible accusations of wrongdoing against it. In the weeks following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, the Saudi government claimed that it had done nothing to him and even used a poorly disguised double to promote a false story that he had voluntarily left the consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government routinely denied responsibility for airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen when their forces were the only ones that could have launched them. Saudi denials don’t count for much, and I wouldn’t bet on their veracity in this case, either.

Benjamin and Simon make a strong case that evidence of deeper Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks discredits Washington’s militarized “war on terror” response. Imagining that al-Qaida had pulled off such spectacular attacks without state support and a support network inside the U.S. encouraged policymakers to indulge in threat hyperinflation that turned terrorism from a real but manageable problem into the defining menace of the age. Had the U.S. better understood how the attacks happened, Benjamin and Simon suggest that “we might well have had the confidence to leave Afghanistan quickly, instead of lingering for 20 years.” The U.S. would have also had no reason to embroil itself in conflicts in Africa in the name of counterterrorism.

While it is true that the “Saudi Arabia of 2001 no longer exists,” as Benjamin and Simon say, evidence of significant official Saudi complicity in the worst terrorist attacks in American history must be taken into account when considering what the future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship should be. If elements of some other government were implicated in a major attack on the United States, it is doubtful that our political leaders would now be entertaining the idea of giving them a security guarantee and nuclear technology, as is being suggested as part of a new U.S. arrangement with Saudi Arabia. There are already many reasons why the Biden administration’s proposed security pact and nuclear deal with Riyadh are undesirable for the United States, but evidence of deeper Saudi involvement in 9/11 ought to make the idea so politically radioactive that no one will want to have anything to do with it.

Despite the war in Gaza, the Biden administration is still determined to pursue a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia and Israel. There has been a flurry of recent reports that negotiations for the U.S.-Saudi portion of the “mega-deal” are nearing completion. The Saudis have been happy to agree to an arrangement where the U.S. gives them lots of expensive gifts and they are expected to do almost nothing in return. As it has been from the start, Israeli unwillingness to make real concessions to the Palestinians on anything is the main obstacle to concluding the larger deal. The U.S. should want no part of an agreement where it assumes additional burdens but gains nothing.

The president’s fixation on this deal has baffled many regional and foreign policy experts, who can’t fathom why the U.S. is spending so much time and energy on an initiative that isn’t going to solve any of the region’s problems. One explanation is that the administration believes that this will lock the Saudis into closer alignment with the U.S. as part of rivalry with China, but that doesn’t make much sense. The Saudis will continue increasing their business ties with China no matter what the U.S. gives them. Another is that the president’s view of a Saudi-Israeli agreement is as outdated as his approach to the region as a whole and he thinks it will be on par with the Camp David Accords. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Biden wishes to outdo Trump in doing favors for Israel.

Whatever the reason for it, the U.S. stands to pay an unacceptably high price for any agreement. Our government shouldn’t be looking to tie itself more closely to the Saudis in any case. The latest revelations of possibly greater Saudi complicity in 9/11 should be the final straw that puts an end to any more talk of a security pact with Riyadh.

Keith Burke via shutterstock.com

Analysis | Middle East
Russian warships are in Cuba, try not to overreact

People watch Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov as it enters Havana’s bay, Cuba, June 12, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

Russian warships are in Cuba, try not to overreact

Latin America

The news that four Russian warships are in Havana for naval exercises brings to mind the old mariner’s aphorism, “Any port in a storm.”

Cuba is in desperate need of economic help, and Russia has been providing it. The result is a deepening partnership that has geopolitical echoes of the Cold War, although the Cubans are now drawn to Moscow less by ideological affinity than economic necessity.

keep readingShow less
That stinks: Global opinion of US goes down the toilet

Vilnius, Lithuania. 12th July 2023. Joe Biden, President of United States of America. Nato Summit 2023. (ArChe1993 / shutterstock)

That stinks: Global opinion of US goes down the toilet

Global Crises

Dragged down in important part by disapproval over the U.S. position on the Gaza war, the popular image of the United States abroad has declined over the past year, according to a new poll of public opinion in 34 countries released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, the latest in an annual series that dates back more than two decades, also found that international confidence in U.S. democracy has fallen. A median of four in ten of the more than 40,000 respondents said U.S. democracy used to be a good model for other countries to follow but no longer is. That view was most pronounced in the ten European countries covered by the poll.

keep readingShow less
US lifts ban on Neo-Nazi linked Azov Brigade in Ukraine

The Idea of the Nation symbol used by the 12th Azov Assault Brigade of Ukraines National Guard is pictured during a rally held in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the units foundation, Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine. Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 05, 2024. Photo by Dmytro Smolienko/Ukrinform/ABACAPRESS.COM

US lifts ban on Neo-Nazi linked Azov Brigade in Ukraine

QiOSK

The State Department announced that it has lifted its ban on the use of American weapons by the notorious Azov Brigade in Ukraine, an ultra-nationalist outfit widely described as “neo-fascist," even "neo-Nazi."

The group was initially formed in 2014 as a volunteer militia to fight against Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists in the eastern Donbas region, and later incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine, under the purview of the Interior Ministry.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest