May 14, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN America Morning – Saudi Arabia

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Saudi Arabia has its critics. We know that. Here’s one of them. He’s the author of “The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud, From Tradition to Terror.”

Steven Schwartz is my guest now from D.C.

Steven, good morning to you.


HEMMER: You believe the kingdom could have stopped this, how so?

SCHWARTZ: Well, it’s a complicated situation. The bottom line is that the stream of hateful incitement has continued in the kingdom throughout the Iraq war. I’m beginning to look at possibility, informed by my own network of Saudi informants, that this reflects the internal crisis in the kingdom, that crowned Prince Abdullah may have been the target, because one of the companies was training members of his national guard.

And the fact is that the Saudi regime, the government is divided. You have crowned Prince Abdullah who favors a reform policy. On the other hand, you have the prince of Sultan and Nayef (ph), who are supporting the Wahabi extremists.

It’s interesting to me that Prince Nayef (ph), who is supposedly the head of internal security, last week said that Al Qaeda had been destroyed and doesn’t exist anymore.

So it looks to me that this is very likely a situation where this intensive police state situation, where a bombing conspiracy like this cannot take place without somebody in the government knowing about it. It’s possible it reflects the internal crisis of the government.

HEMMER: Steve, let me stop you for a moment. You mentioned this company. That’s the Venell (ph) Corporation, right, out of Fairfax, Virginia?


HEMMER: And apparently they had 70 employees on the ground, 50 of whom were in a different part of Saudi Arabia when these attacks took place, could be a complete stroke of luck for the company.

Two hours ago, talked with a member of the Saudi Arabian government down in D.C. He says, look, this stuff takes time, we’re working on it, we are in it for the long run in order to crack down on terrorism. Do you buy that?

SCHWARTZ: No, I don’t buy it at all.

HEMMER: Why not?

SCHWARTZ: Look, if they wanted to crack down on terrorism, the first thing they should stop the state clerics from getting up on every Friday, during every Friday’s sermon and inciting the murder of Americans, inciting a jihad against the West. During the Iraqi war, inciting people to go up to Iraq and die for Saddam, which a number of people did.

Look, it’s been 19 months now since September 11th, and all we hear from Saudis they are going to make financial reforms, they’ve arrested people who were never named. There is this going on, that going on. They are in it for the long haul. These are all — this is all just cliches that they’re handing us to paper over the problems.

HEMMER: Steven, you believe this is a police state, Saudi Arabia. How so? Defend that?

SCHWARTZ: Look, it’s the most repressive state in the world. It’s the most repressive police regime in the world. It’s a regime — first of all, on the social basis, women aren’t allowed to drive. The media is completely controlled. There are no political parties. There are public floggings of Shia Muslims. The Saudi police apparatus, the Saudi religious apparatus, it’s the most repressive state in a world. In a country like that, a massive bombing conspiracy doesn’t take place without somebody in the government knowing about it.

Furthermore, this idea that Al Qaeda is some gigantically secret operation in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is based on the ideology of Wahabism, which is an ideology of terrorism and hatred. There’s no secret here. This is what is being preached in every Friday sermon.

HEMMER: So you buy into the debate, then, and the argument then the reason the royal family does not crack down on Al Qaeda and the Wahabi sect is that it could have backlash against its own rule, right?

SCHWARTZ: No, my theory is that the royal family is divided. Crowned Prince Abdullah wants to crack down on the Wahabis and Al Qaeda, but that the other faction supports the Al Qaeda, depends on them for support. It’s not fear of backlash. It’s the fact that they don’t want to break with their base. That’s in the ultrareactionary wing of the royal family.

HEMMER: So do events like these, broadcast around the world, reflecting very poorly on the country, does that change the argument in favor of the crackdown?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I think it’s necessary for them to crack down on extremism. I question whether they’re going to be able to do it. The bottom line is, this is a reactionary monarchic regime in deep crisis. I don’t think they can resolve the crisis. I think we have to help them try to resolve the crisis, but they can’t do it on their own.

HEMMER: Do you think they want our help?

SCHWARTZ: I think Crowned Prince Abdullah wants our help. I certainly don’t Nayef (ph) and Sultan want us sticking our noses in there. That’s what part of the whole debate over our troops being there. I think that part of the whole thing about trying to get our troops to leave is the Nayef (ph) and Sultan on the one hand need us protect them, but on the other hand, they would like us to stay out of their business. See, this is the way they work. They want us support them and protect them, but they don’t want us to ask too many questions.

HEMMER: Steven Schwartz, author of “The Two Faces of Islam,” live in D.C. Thank you, Steven. Nice to talk to you.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.