Murphy's Law: Naif "The Knife" Cuts Both Ways


February 1, 2009: Some disturbing and contradictory international actors directly and indirectly affect US homeland security considerations and foreign policy. Ahmad Chalabi, who provided fraudulent information encouraging the US Iraq invasion springs to mind. Another slippery character is Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz al Saud. Prince Naif, or, “ The Knife”, as he is sometimes called by expats working in the kingdom, controls the formidable Saudi security and police apparatus from his office as Minister of the Interior. 

As the third most powerful royal in the kingdom, Prince Naif chairs five important oversight committees and holds influence over four other ministers. It was Naif, not the Saudi king, who traveled to Tehran to re-establish relations with Iran in 2001. Prince Naif also famously asserted, and later retracted, accusation that Israel’s Mossad was behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001. But following terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Riyadh and Khobar, the House of Saud needed to firmly demonstrate Saudi Arabia to be a safe haven for western investment and business development.

The Knife cracked down harshly. Successes included the 2004 slaying of Abdel Aziz al Muqrin, leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Muqrin was responsible for the murder and beheading of American contractor Paul Johnson and the murder of my co-worker Robert C. Jacobs, a U.S. civilian trainer to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. In retaliation to the security crackdowns, Al Qaeda suicide bombers attempted to assassinate Prince Naif’s son, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, bringing further reprisals. The subsequent pursuit and killing of several al Muqrin successors severely crippled Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The organization is only recently resurging, this time out of neighboring Yemen.

Prince Naif, half-brother to King Abdullah, has been financially supportive of Islamic radical causes to the tune of over 300 million dollars. He claims to have cut off his support in recent years. In disturbing contradiction, he is the Supervisor General of the Saudi Committee for the Al Quds Intifada. This organization financially supports and compensates the families of Palestinian Intifada, including the families of suicide bombers. Reportedly, Naif has personally contributed over 33 million dollars. His justification is that it is a “charity”. Palestinian Authority intelligence chief, Tawfiq Tirawi, charged that Iran equipped and oversaw Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip. He claims that Tehran was responsible for training hundreds of Hamas fighters. Presumably, some of these fighters were “martyred”, and their families are receiving Prince Naif’s “charitable compensation”. The Saudis are believed to be funding other Hamas activities in Gaza, as are the Iranians.

In November 2007, Prince Naif released 1,500 prisoners suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda after they completed what was described as a “counseling program”. It was only necessary for the prisoners to pledge not to wage jihad within the kingdom, for the Saudi royals to free the imprisoned Al Qaeda members, declaring they had been "reformed." Prince Naif announced within the same month that Saudi Arabia has carried out one of the kingdom's largest terror sweeps, arresting more than 200 Al Qaeda-linked suspects whom the Saudis believed were plotting various attacks, including attacks on oil production facilities. Presumably, this new crop of suspects will occupy the jail cells vacated by the just-released group of Al Qaeda suspects. The new prisoners can then begin their own “counseling program”. 

After terrorists conducted deadly attacks in the city of Yanbu on May 1, 2004, Crown Prince Abdullah announced on Saudi television that “Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the Kingdom... I am 95 percent sure of that.” At the same time, Prince Naif blamed Al Qaeda for the attacks. Asked about this apparent inconsistency with Abdullah’s statements, Prince Naif explained, “I don’t see any contradiction in the two statements, because Al Qaeda is backed by Israel and Zionism.”

The Saudis are feeding the crocodile of Islamic extremism, hoping it will eat them last. US tolerance of such a philosophy by an avowed “ally” will not serve us well. Prince Naif is dancing with the devil. He undoubtedly realizes Shiite Iran is backing their proxies, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas to undermine the rule of the hated Sunni Saudi royals. The demise of the royals is a primary goal of Al Qaeda. How Naif and the House of Saud will avoid falling prey to the radical’s plan to create a “purified” Islamic Middle East is the question. The contradictions evidenced by Prince Naif in dealing with Islamic radical elements within the kingdom today are a reflection of the royal family's near-schizophrenic state. Prince Naif and the royals know they must change to survive, yet they're afraid to sever ties with the radicals. “Nothing is as it seems”, is the catch-phrase when dealing with the convoluted, internecine factions within the kingdom. Somehow, I’ll bet the devious “Knife” will manage to cut himself a deal. -- Larry E. Harris


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