May 26, 2003
On May 12, a few hours before Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Saudi Arabia, a triple explosion took place inside a Western residential compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital. Twenty-four were killed, including seven Americans and one British citizen; many more were wounded as the explosion ripped through the buildings.
The regime in Saudi Arabia has for a long period been one of the main U.S. allies in the region. But its absolute allegiance has been questioned lately by U.S. authorities. Not only did bin Laden come from a rich family in this country, but 15 of the 19 suicide bombers of September 11th were also Saudi. Now, those who carried out the bombing in Riyadh undoubtedly had accomplices from within the Saudi state apparatus, if not protection from a level higher up in the regime. They had a lot of specialized equipment and nine of the bombers were able to penetrate into this supposedly well-guarded compound.
The Bush administration undoubtedly knows that there is increasing hostility to the presence of U.S. troops, which have been stationed on bases in Saudi Arabia since 1991. The U.S. had already planned to transfer them to Qatar. And distrust of the possible evolution of their Saudi ally was probably one of the reasons for the war in Iraq. The U.S. has long wanted a second ally in the region, as rich in oil as the Saudis.
But as can already be seen, there's a big difference between conquering Iraq, which was relatively easy for the American troops, and installing a regime in the country that will prove to be loyal to the United States. Moreover, this war has already made other Arab regimes in the area less stable, beginning with that of the Saudi royalty. So instead of finding more solid allies, the U.S. government may only have created a situation where all of its allies are less secure and less loyal.
The methods used by the organizers of these attacks are disgusting. But these attacks demonstrate that their organizers are looked on with sympathy from a large part of the public, notably within Saudi Arabia itself, where bin Laden has become a kind of hero because he dared to stand up to the United States. And this approval from a part of the Arab populations signifies, too, that Al Qaeda or other terrorists will likely have no problem in recruiting more candidates for future suicide bombings. For a significant part of the population in the Middle East, the latest bombing in Riyadh seems like revenge for the massive bombings of the Iraqi civilian population.
Bush promised to carry out his "war on terrorism" to the bitter end. This may well be a war without end because the very same policies carried out by American imperialism – together with its aggressiveness, its arrogance and its clear desire to control the riches of the whole Middle East – are exactly what is nourishing terrorism.