Wednesday, June 23, 2004

King Fahd's War on Terra

Saudi Arabia has been in the news quite a bit over the past few weeks. There's been a lot of speculation on the future of the current monarchy and the House of Saud. Here's an interesting tidbit that came across the wire today:

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia announced an amnesty Wednesday for Muslim militants who surrender in the next month, saying they will not face the death penalty and will only be prosecuted if they committed acts that hurt others.
I'm not quite sure what to make of such an offer. My guess is that it's little more than a bit of P.R. window dressing. I mean, does anyone really expect al Qaida operatives to walk into a local Riyadh police precinct and turn themselves in?

This move doesn't even make the situation look better, much less actually make any sense. The cultural and social issues that directly led to the rise of al Qaida and anti-Western views in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to fester for many years, and have become largely unmanageable for the Saudi government (and by extension, the U.S. government). The Saudis created the problem. Any window there might have been to solve the problem closed long ago. The upshot becomes that the House of Saud must coexist with the radical clerics and groups like al Qaida simply to stay in power.

The mixed messages from both governments show neither the ability or will to effectively end the reign of al Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia. If we can't fight Dubya's "war on terra" with a "cooperating" government, how the heck can we expect it to be fought elsewhere in the absence of cooperation?

Update, 7:15PM: Driving home tonight, two thoughts occurred to me:

1. Why 30 days? Why not the next 48 hours? The wording of the statement from King Fahd boiled down to, "Turn yourself over in the next 30 days, or we're going to get tough. Really really. We mean it this time. Not like the other 20 times we said we really mean it. We really really mean it this time. Grrr." ABC News reported tonight that 'amnesty' has actually been in effect for over a year now. Not one jihadist has repudiated his/her evil ways and reported to the local constable.

2. What the hell do the jihadists care anyway if King Fahd promises not to execute them? The jihadists (by definition) are just waiting for the opportunity for martyrdom and to have their shot at their own 72 virgins. Or whatever the lucky number is this week.

All in all, it looks like the amnesty announcement today was simply a staged event by the Saudi government, calculated to take some heat off of Prince Bandar (and our own boy king) back here in the good old USA.