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June 25, 2004





** Riyadh "occupies an ambiguous position" in the war on terror, according to global media.

** Saudi dailies declare their country is "determined to defeat" al-Qaida.

** Arab outlets bemoan how these terrorist acts "mar the image of Islam."

** The only "effective, long-term antidote" to terrorism is real reform.




'Not everyone' in the kingdom opposes al-Qaida-- Asian, Latin and Euro critics termed the "brutal, corrupt and retrograde" government in Saudi Arabia a "breeding ground for fundamentalism" and the world's "biggest exporter of Islamism." Argentina's left-of-center Pagina 12 concluded that "al-Qaida has the support...of an important portion of the Saudi Royal House." Kuwaiti and British dailies countered that "reports of the demise of the House of Saud are premature" and hailed the kingdom's "great efforts to eradicate terrorism." Other outlets stressed the need to combat the "real enemy--global Islamic terrorism," which Turkey's economic-political Dunya said "has returned stronger than ever."


A 'group of ignorant people...have threatened this society'-- Three themes predominated in the Saudi media. First, writers urged citizens to "unite our efforts in the war against terrorism"; moderate Okaz judged that a "coalition between citizens, residents and security forces is key." Second, they insisted that only a small number of "deviant criminals" were responsible for "killing people and spreading terror." Third, they repeated their determination to fight terrorism; moderate Al-Watan called for "no dialogue, mercy or leniency" for terrorists, adding that this is "no time for laziness or hesitation."


The 'tyrannical executioners' validate the U.S.' 'racist political vision'-- Muslim writers saw "wide public condemnation throughout the Arab world" of al-Qaida due to how their attacks are "damaging the image of Islam." Jordan's center-left Al-Dustour said the attacks are "instigating the largest level of hatred possible against Muslims." Lebanon's nationalist As-Safir worried that such acts "almost justify Iraq or Palestine." Other Arab observers blamed U.S. policies which "did not eliminate terrorism" but "rather contributed to its prosperity." Tunisia's independent Tunis-Hebdo assailed U.S. support of "all the current totalitarian regimes" in the region, where "repression combined with corruption has engendered terror."


The Saudis must 'reinvent and reform themselves'-- Commentators agreed "fundamental change" is necessary in Saudi Arabia, urging Riyadh to "move decisively on the political, economic and social reform fronts." Hong Kong's independent South China Morning Post stated that "ending the terrorist threat cannot be done without bringing reforms to the heart of the Arab world." France's left-of-center Liberation added that Saudi society "does aspire to some democracy and the regime cannot ignore its expectations." An Australian analyst bluntly warned that the only solution is "for the regime to reform and to reform fast."


EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 49 reports from 21 countries over 19 - 25 June 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN: "Major Blow"


The conservative Times editorialized (6/21): "The effort against al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia must now intensify.... The kingdom cannot afford the damage to its economy or the impact on its image overseas that the mass withdrawal of such labour would surely bring with it. Complacency is not an option.... Reports of the demise of the House of Saud are premature and al-Qaeda does not have the mass appeal that it claims to be able to mobilise. But it will not be defeated if its true character is not openly acknowledged."


FRANCE: "Target"


Jean-Michel Helvig wrote in left-of-center Liberation (6/21): "When war is raging, one accepts his allies as they are. When Saudi Arabia hits three top men allegedly responsible for the decapitation of a U.S. hostage, there is a shared feeling that a point has been scored against the enemy.... But the Saudi regime itself is one of the most brutal, corrupt and retrograde.... The Saudi society does aspire to some democracy and the regime cannot ignore its expectations. But what is at play in this region of the world is the fact that Al-Qaeda is looking to settle here, because of the difficulties it has been facing outside Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a prime target for Al-Qaeda's network, for economic, political and religious reasons. If Saudi Arabia has become a prime target for the terrorists, it is also because of President Bush's military tactics: having decided to deprive Al-Qaeda of its Iraqi bases--which never existed according to a recent report--what the U.S. has managed to do is offer Saudi Arabia to Al-Qaeda as its new rear base."


"Riyadh Scores With Washington"


Jean-Louis Turlin noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/21): "The assassination of the Saudi Al-Qaeda cell was perfectly timed to offer Saudi Arabia's regime an opportunity to look good in the eyes of Washington, even if the road to better relations between the two capitals still has a way to go. The decapitation of the U.S. hostage did not help to soften the feeling in Washington's political circlers that the Saudi regime was doing everything it could in the fight against terrorism.... Washington's official reactions to recent events in Saudi Arabia have remained cautious. President Bush, in commenting on the assassination of Paul Johnson, did not mention the status of U.S.- Saudi cooperation. The context is not favorable to the distribution of brownie points to reward the Saudis for their cooperation. U.S. public opinion is not easily accepting the shock of a third U.S. victim, one month after Nick Berg and two years after Daniel Pearl."


GERMANY: "Al Qaida's Bloody Year"


Michael Thumann said in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (6/24): "The Al Qaida section on the Arab peninsula is not so nave as to directly attack the family of the Saudi king. Al Qaida does not want to turn the 'corrupt princes' into martyrs. And the protection of the oil installations along the Persian Gulf is too good and does not allow a successful attack. The tactic is as follows: hit the foreigners, and this hits the Saudi monarchy. This is why there was the attack on the residential area Chobar at the end of May, that is why a BBC cameraman was killed at the beginning of June, that is why Paul Johnson was decapitated. With every foreigner killed, Al Qaida wants to demonstrate the Saudi Monarchy's dependency on the West. And the more members of the family flee voluntarily from the Arab peninsula, the more isolated will be the princes in their own country.... It is striking that the U.S. government has now changed the recommendations for the stay of foreigners in Saudi Arabia. Only a while ago, the motto was: 'Get out of the country as quickly as possible.' But in the meantime, Secretary Powell explains in detail why it is not good when all U.S. nationals leave the country. The U.S. government has realized the dilemma in the Gulf: It is a risk to stay, but those who leave will help Al Qaida achieve a victory."


"Dangerous Pact"


Markus Ziener argued in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (6/23): "Saudi Arabia faces the deepest crisis in its history. Never has the largest country on the Arab peninsula been so shaken, as by the recent spate of terror attacks and hostage-taking. Despite the fragile state of the Saud kingdom, it is too early to believe in its decline. It is not easy to topple a system of privileges that nurtures thousands.... But the crisis could result in a shift within the house, since there are two camps in the leadership.... Terror is now testing the country. At the end there will be a decision between the two schools of thought: Reforms in a western sense of a market economy or the strengthening of the religious-conservative camp.... The cause for the rift is not so much the Wahhabite orthodoxy, which also inspired Osama bin Laden and his kind. Bad government and an enormous birth rate are splitting the society. The government failed to invest in education, the social system and infrastructure. The young rich are bored and the poor feel an increasing hatred towards the glamorous facades of the system. This is a breeding ground for fundamentalism. It does not help that Saudis cooperate with Americans. It means more ammunition for fundamentalists and jihadists, who were once sent against the Russians to Afghanistan with the blessing of the regime."




Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine argued (6/21): "It is correct that European politicians described Paul Johnson's decapitation in Saudi an abhorrent act of barbarity. The debate here has had an undertone that made the Americans appear as monsters in the fight against terrorism, and made President Bush's policy the reason for Al Qaida's atrocities. Despite all the mistakes that were made in Iraq, this would be a reversal of the situation in which not even Germany could have an interest.... But what is worrying is that Saudi authorities again shot alleged criminals. From terrorist leaders like al-Mukrin, investigators could get information if they were caught alive. It is not conducive to the establishment of a democratic culture either if police tends to makes short work of terrorists. The issues the West should address in the framework of the "Broader Middle East" includes the question what is appropriate in operations of security forces."


"Attack At The Third Front"


Heiko Flottau opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/21): "Paul Johnson's killing and the death of murderer al-Mukrin again make clear that the Middle East, following the Israeli-Palestinian and Iraqi theater, has a third war theater: the one in Saudi Arabia.... But as much as Al Qaida has now been weakened by al-Mukrin's death, Al Qaida's long-term goals remain unchanged.... All ruling castes on the Arab peninsula with the exception of the one in Yemen have joined forces with the U.S. The core of this alliance is the Saudi monarchy. If the family rule is weakened, other monarchies will be threatened, too.... The period of calm, the claim to be the sole legitimate representative for the production of oil, and the life in luxury are now obviously coming to an end. Osama bin Laden thinks he has already initiated the ouster of the Saudi monarchy. But time will tell whether this analysis corresponds with reality. The Saud clan will not accept its ousting that easily"


ITALY: "Al-Qaeda Chief Killed"


Anna Guaita commented in Rome's center-left Il Messaggero (6/21): "This is a decisive moment for the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis know that well and they are doing everything in their power to show their determination in their fight against al-Qaeda. And Washington has shown its appreciation for their attempt to save the life of Paul Johnson. But behind the words of condolence and solidarity, in the U.S. there is a growing feeling that the Saudis went into action too late and that not everyone in the government and institutions is against Osama bin Laden and his followers."


"The Terrorists' Global War"


Vittorio Zucconi declared in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/19): "The message that Al-Qaeda wanted to convey once again to the the symmetrical and a mirror answer to the war that was unleashed by the attacks against the Twin Towers.... The secondary actors like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam's former regime were easily swept away, but America is now facing what has always been its, and our, real enemy--'global Islamic terrorism'.... Since we are now at a loss for words to describe the suffering of the Iraqis and we must look beyond what is happening to understand that the enemy is following its own rational plan--and that Bush should admit to this by dropping his rhetoric that 'without Saddam this is a safer world'--for a 'change in regime' in Saudia Arabia."


RUSSIA: "Belated Victory"


Andrey Vetvinskiy concluded in reformist Gazeta (6/21): "The Saudis are celebrating a victory. They have delivered a telling blow to Al-Qaeda's branch in Saudi Arabia by killing three of its leaders and arresting 12 people on suspicion of terrorist activities. But the celebrations have been darkened by the fact that before the Saudi security forces carried out their operation, the terrorists executed U.S. hostage Paul Johnson."


"Terrorists Not To Lay Down Their Arms"


Aleksey Bausin asserted in reformist Izvestiya (6/21): "The liquidation of the leadership of Al-Qaeda's branch in Saudi Arabia does not mean that local Islamists will lay down their arms. Terrorist acts in the kingdom are part of a global jihad the radicals have been waging against the West. Their strategy is simple, as they are trying to destabilize the situation in Saudi Arabia, pushing up oil prices and upsetting the world's economy, as a result. The death of Al-Qaeda's chief in Saudi Arabia, far from being the end of the story, is just an episode."


TURKEY: "Al Qaeda Returns Home"


Haluk Ulman warned in economic-political Dunya (6/22): "The recent Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia indicate that Al-Qaeda's job is not yet finished. On the contrary, the terrorist organization has returned stronger than ever. Al-Qaeda has as its goal to eliminate the presence of its enemy--that is, the U.S.--in the Middle East. The terrorism against foreigners in Saudi Arabia seems to be targeting U.S. influence over Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda apparently believes that undermining the oil business will bring the Saudi dynasty to an end. Given the circumstances, not only the US but also the Saudi regime are considered enemies of Al-Qaeda."




ISRAEL: "Democratic Snowball"


Yoav Frummer held in popular, pluralist Maariv (6/20): "The liberation of Iraq is a vital step in the American plan to redesign the Middle East, but it certainly isn't the last one. That plan's very core isn't necessarily the liberation of Iraq. Actually, it is very likely to be Saudi Arabia's liberation. Thus, Saudi fanatics are watching in awe the existential peril that could destroy them: democracy--despite efforts by their partners in terror in Iraq to stop it, or at least to slow it down. Also, the hundreds of terrorist attacks that have been carried out so far haven't been able to stop, even minimally, the American-Iraqi snowball that is continuing to roll toward the establishment of a democratic regime in an Arab state, even if we are talking about a fragile, weak, and terror-soaked democracy. The Saudi extremists have apparently grasped the true dimensions of the snowball that is changing the aspect of Saudi Arabia's neighbor; thus, they have decided to do all they can in order to prevent him from heading south and coming their way."


WEST BANK: "Killing Of An American In Saudi: Something Worth Public Condemnation"


Tawfiq Abu Bakr opined in independent Al-Ayyam (6/23): "Beheading an innocent person who sincerely loved and served our country is unacceptable. I can't think of a reason why there has not been wide public condemnation throughout the Arab world against such cowardly acts that have nothing to do with Islam.... I can say, with some reluctance though, that print and audiovisual media in our country are responsible to a large extent [for this lack] and could be paving the way for extremism by their arrogant, extremist articles and guests who appear sweating on satellite channels as they call for struggle against the entire world.... It's true that the American bias toward Israel and the lack of a solution to the Palestinian cause are factors that add oil to the fire of extremism; however, these are not the only factors.... Class struggle and corruption in our countries are also sources of extremism."




Ahmad Dahbur maintained in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (6/20): "Al-Qa'ida gave the U.S. a priceless gift last Friday [with the execution of Paul Johnson].... The worst thing is that the Arab house is made of glass. We carry the heritage of eastern oppression, presidents and kings, political feudalism and removal of public justice from our daily life. When the American president calls for reform, we have everything that needs reforming, even though any realist can see that the U.S. of corruption does not wish any reform for us.... It is very important that we continuously reaffirm that [our] condemnation of the American hostage's execution springs not from the harm it will cause our image in the media, but from our belief that this crime is totally unacceptable.... Al-Qa'ida's crime will remain a mark of disgrace to us and will always be a point of embarrassment to [Saudi Arabia], which America will never forgive even though [Saudi Arabia] appears to be a victim. In the eyes of the American administration and its racist political vision, we're all nothing but tyrannical executioners."


SAUDI ARABIA: "Do Not Irritate Us"


Abdullah Al-Fouzan commented in Abha's moderate Al-Watan (6/23): "Whenever the U.S. officials warn against an imminent terrorist attack by Al-Qae'da inside the U.S.--or at least on many occasions--I am shocked to see a large terrorist attack inside the Islamic world, but not inside the U.S. Occasionally it takes place in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, the heart of the Islamic world.... For that reason, whenever I hear a warning from a U.S. official, I get irritated and put my hand on my heart in anticipation of a new [terrorist] operation inside the Islamic world."

"Who Is Really Fighting Terrorism We Or They?"


Jeddah's moderate Okaz declared (6/23): "The statements of some leaders of U.S. political and media institutions are in contradiction with reality. We wonder what have these leaders and their government done in the fight against terrorism. We still find that Bin Laden and his followers are wandering free in Tora Bora. They are even sending their videotapes to the U.S., using American technology. The tons of bombs and thousands of smart missiles have not yet hit members of the Al-Qaeda network. Al-Zarqawi and his snipers are hunting U.S. soldiers one after the other. But the U.S. force has not been able to do anything about it. These things make us suspicious about the intentions of those who claim that they are fighting terrorism."


"Ignorance Is The Greatest Danger"


Jeddah's moderate Al-Bilad stated (6/23): "Nobody can deny that there is a group of ignorant people who have threatened this society with their lack of knowledge. They made those whom they trapped into bullets and killing machines that murdered and terrorized people at random. Those who falsely claim to be knowledgeable have not mastered the Shariah [Law of Islam], and they do not possess the spirit that prohibits killing and the shedding of blood. Those who deviated have accepted what is to become of them. They have witnessed what awaits them. Perhaps the punishment that some of them have received would deter others and encourage them to repent their sins. Those who insist on terrorizing this country will face painful punishment in their lifetime, and at the Day of Judgment. Killing people and spreading terror is the biggest of sins."


"It Is Time To Eliminate Militants, And For The Silent People To Speak"


Abha's moderate Al-Watan maintained (6/22): "Now after the Saudi Security Forces recorded a triumph, which is still the talk of the whole world, everyone has to do his role to the best of his ability to protect this country. Some of us have stagnated and others preferred to remain silent. But the time has come for the procrastinators to rise, and for the silent people to speak. There is no time for laziness or hesitation. We must unite our efforts in the war against terrorism."


"The Fight Against Terrorism Is Everybody's Fight"


Jeddah's moderate Al-Bilad declared (6/21): "The decisive war against terrorism is the fight of every citizen. While this country is fighting a war to combat terrorism, we face another battle on another front. We have to deal with the militant thoughts and destructive ideas that have infiltrated the minds of our youths. Increasing a national awareness of the destructive nature of these ideas is necessary to protect our youth, and prevent them from sliding into the abyss of vice. Every citizen is responsible for the safety and security of this country. Our society is responsible for providing awareness and educational programs for its people."


"International Endeavors Against Terrorism"


Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (6/21): "Terrorism caused dreadful loses in taking innocent life, damaging property, in addition to its political and economic consequences. These incidents will not go unpunished. They have taught us how to take preventive measures to avert repetition of similar terrible acts in the future. Society must protect youths from deviant ideas and extremist thoughts. This requires adopting programs to enlighten youth about the misguided interpretation of religion, in order to immunize them from extremist thoughts, and to implant the spirit of tolerance, which is an essential part of Islamic doctrine."


"Fair And Wise"


Former editor Qenan al-Ghamdi held in Abha's moderate Al-Watan (6/21): "For the first time since Saudi Arabia began its war on terrorism, U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell made a fair and wise statement. Powell said that the departure of westerners, including Americans, would be considered as a victory for the terrorists. He was honest this time.... But I would like to point out that Saudis understand that there is a similar terrorism, perhaps worse than in this country, and that is what's going on in Iraq...and the Saudis have not heard that the American administration has warned its citizens in Iraq or urged them to leave. Although the Saudis are well aware of this fact, I don't remember that anybody criticized the U.S. administration on its warnings or its requests for its citizens to leave [Saudi Arabia]... Since the U.S. has acknowledged its mistake today, there is no need for anyone here to thank her for its late acknowledgement."


"An Achievement And Heroism"


Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (6/20): "It was a great achievement for Saudi security to kill and capture leaders of Al-Qaedah, especially after the slaying of the American hostage Paul Johnson. We have said that terrorism cannot defeat countries or prevail, because wide-open eyes and continued efforts can beat terrorists.... Those who underestimated the capability of the Saudi security forces in reaching terrorists' nests realize now that killing the most vicious member of Al-Qaeda [Al-Moqren] is a great achievement.... What has been accomplished is not only an important security achievement, it is actually an achievement for Saudi Arabia's political reputation.... Anyway, we are happy with this victory, as we were shocked by the killing of the American hostage."


"The Fall Of Terrorism's Symbols"


Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina observed (6/20): "The Kingdom's refusal to negotiate with the terrorists after the abduction of an innocent civilian is proof that Saudi Arabia is determined to eradicate this group of criminals and to save this land and the whole world from their evil. This position is also proof that the terrorists are fighting a lost battle. They [the terrorists] are a group of deviant criminals who allowed themselves to fall into the trap of ignorance and follow their evil tendencies."


"Security Men"


Jeddah's moderate Okaz commented (6/20): "The torn remnants of the terrorist network will not achieve their objectives in any desperate reaction. We are living through a state of high awareness and an unsurpassed cooperation among citizens, residents, and the various security agencies. If there were anything else that we need to address here, it is the fact that the war on terrorism requires a steadfast position and united efforts. The coalition between citizens, residents, and security forces is key in closing all the gaps and getting rid of the ill minds that terrorized our peace."


"This Country Is Getting Stronger"


Abha's moderate Al-Watan stated (6/20): "The people, government, and security forces are getting stronger after each battle with the terrorists. These criminals, if they were Muslims as they claim, had better change their minds. Even criminals sometimes feel some sort of remorse for their crimes against innocents. But this group of murderers does not have any sort of mercy in their hearts, because they have taken killing as a way of life to satisfy their bloodthirsty souls. That is why every citizen and resident in this country is required to complement security men in their efforts to eradicate criminals. There will be no dialogue, mercy or leniency with those who have removed compassion from their hearts."


ALGERIA: "Bush And The Saudi Equation"

Influential French-language El Watan remarked (6/20): "In its determination to strike America, and failing to target America on its own territories, like on September 11, Al-Qaida network attacks its strategic allies. Saudi Arabia is one of the privileged targets of the terrorist organization that aims, by multiplying its attacks in the Wahabite kingdom, to establish a climate of insecurity that would have negative impacts on economic and political levels. Could this upsurge of Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia lead to a U.S. direct involvement in the region? Will the war on terrorism declared by George Bush following the attacks of September 11 include the Saudi kingdom? Maybe this is what Al-Qaida is looking for."


JORDAN: "The Decapitators"


Yaqoub Jaber opined in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (6/22): "As if it was not enough for Al-Qaeda to defame the image of the tolerant Islam with its attacks against the U.S. and a number of Asian and European cities. They have created a new disgusting way of dealing with their victims, namely beheading them, thus instigating the largest level of hatred possible against Muslims.... The painful result of this provocation is the infliction of more offense against Islam and Muslim, and it is a result that the Zionists will surely use to justify their crimes in Palestine.... We in the Muslim world, who are riddled with the likes of these terrorists, must differentiate between the regular citizen of a western country, which supports Israel and occupies Iraq, and that citizen's government. There are millions of Americans who do not approve of their policies of their government and are sympathetic with the Palestinian cause and who oppose the occupation of Iraq. An important part of our battle with our enemies is dependent on winning public opinion in western countries, and that definitely cannot be achieved by beheading innocent citizens who find themselves in our countries."


"Time To Take A Stand"


The elite English-language Jordan Times stated (6/21): "His Majesty King Abdullah spoke on behalf of all true Muslims when he expressed shock and revolt at the savage beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Riyadh.... Such tragic episodes do not only mar the image of Islam; more importantly, they raise questions as to the direction radical, fanatical Muslims lead the Muslim nation on.... If Al-Qaeda believes that it can continue to take the life of innocent people in the name of God and Islam with impunity, then the struggle against it must intensify. King Abdullah showed in the clearest possible terms where we stand on this issue. What remains to be done is the expression of a similar position by the rest of the Arab and Muslim leaders. This is no time to waiver; it is time to make a principled stand against terrorism falsely carried out in the name of religion."


"Prospering Terrorism In Bush's Era"


Fahd Fanek contended in semi-official, influential Arabic-language Al-Rai (6/21): "After the attacks of 9/11, U.S. President Bush declared a war against terrorism and sent his troops to Afghanistan and then to Iraq. So did Bush's war succeed? Did it achieve its declared objectives? Probably the opposite is correct. Local and international terrorism prospered in the Bush era and the world has become a less safe place, because Al-Qaeda is now bigger and stronger that ever before. Afghanistan has become a stage for warlords, the production and export of drugs and oppression of women.... Iraq, after the American occupation, has become a stage for terrorists of all sorts and the Iraqi people lost their security without gaining any democracy.... The terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia, which, before the Bush wars, used to express itself once every couple of years is now expressing itself on daily basis.... Pakistan, which was a stable and secure state, is now, thanks to the U.S. policy, a stage for local terrorism.... Europe did not go unscathed by these terrorist operations.... America's policies and measures did not eliminate terrorism. They rather contributed to its prosperity by, for instance: describing the war on terrorism as a crusade; bypassing international law and legitimacy; killing civilians in numbers that are much higher than the number of victims of the 9/11 attacks; overlooking Israel's terrorism against the Palestinian people; the principle of the pre-emptive war; arrogance in dealing even with the allies; the maltreatment of prisoners; the abrupt intervention in other countries' internal affairs; and the imperial ambition of trying to dominate the world."


"Madness Faced With Madness!"


Yaser Za'atreh contended in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (6/21): "I start by saying that I am providing an explanation and not a justification. Our stand vis--vis violence that harms the security of Arab and Muslim countries is very clear.... This phenomenon however requires an explanation.... This is a prelude for the story of the beheading of the first American hostage in Iraq and the second one in Saudi Arabia. These are two events that were marked by extended media coverage and large-scale condemnation in the Arab world.... It is madness without a doubt. Yet, let us wonder which is more ugly: the killing and dismemberment of tens of innocent people at a wedding in a city in Iraq or the beheading of two hostages? What is the difference between the killing of two hostages by beheading and the killing of the residents of a building in Gaza for the purpose of assassinating the martyr Salah Shihadeh? Which is more ugly: the beheading of two hostages or the killing of more than twenty people in the city of Fallujah on the pretext of pursuing terrorists? Which is more ugly: the beheading of two hostages or the releasing of viscous dogs against prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison? It is ugliness that provokes the same ugliness.... It is madness that provokes madness. What the U.S. is doing with Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine is the humiliation beyond which lies more, particularly when it comes to a nation founded on dignity and pride.... We said that we are explaining and not justifying, because those who are doing this are not looking for justifications. They have already gone past that and are now implementing. Unfortunately, they did not retaliate well, because there is a huge difference between retaliations that serve the enemy's objectives and those that hit it where it hurts."


KUWAIT: "Terrorism"


Rashed Al-Rada'an concluded in independent Al-Watan (6/21): "We want from the American press, which has been vilifying the Saudis for years as a society that keeps hatching terrorists, to carefully observe events in the Kingdom. The Saudis are making a great effort to eradicate terrorism. Since terrorism occurs in every country, it is incorrect to describe one half of a society, such as the Saudis, as exporters of terrorism. Because, if that were the case, then most of the terrorists are Europeans, as modern and ancient history can attest, beginning with Hitler, and ending with Castro and others who have committed genocide against their peoples."


"Terrorism Serves Zionism"


Faisal Abdel Aziz Al-Zamel declared in independent Al-Anba (6/20): "To justify the beheading of the American hostage in Saudi as a message intended to target foreigners is totally rejected. Despite our strong condemnation of such crimes, that does not mean we cannot denounce American support toward Zionism.... To combine these two issues only serves the enemies of our nation, and validates the West's unlimited support toward Israel. The criminal elements committing such atrocities in Iraq and Saudi are linked. They are guided by an evil plan carried out by criminals, and executed by nave persons who have caused damage to their religion and lives."


"Democracy...Not Murder"


Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh wrote in independent Al-Qabas (6/20): "There is popular Arab opposition toward the policies of the American administration in Palestine, opposition toward the occupation of Iraq and opposition toward establishing American military bases in Arab countries. This opposition is legitimate, because every citizen has a right to express himself as part of the democratic process. However, such opposition must not turn into murder. Killing innocent civilians, such as the American hostage Paul Johnson, who has been living in Saudi for the past ten years, is illegal and will not solve any problems. The terrorists who committed his murder must ask themselves if this would change the U.S.' policy. The killers should have called for justice, freedom and democracy, instead of killing innocent people and damaging the way the world looks at us."


"Killing Is The Answer"


Khaled Al-Adwa maintained in independent Al-Watan (6/19): "The way Al-Zarqawi's group exclaimed the name of God while at the same time beheading the American captive was horrifying. Where was this group when the tyrant Saddam annihilated thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons? Yet another American hostage humiliatingly blindfolded and threatened with death within seventy-two hours. Can there be anything more distorting to Islam and to the culture of Muslims?"


LEBANON: "From Iraq To Saudi Arabia And Palestine: Acquitting Occupation Of Nations By Unilateral Assassination"


Talal Salman held in Arab nationalist As-Safir (6/21): "Where was Abou-Masaab and Al-Makran and Bin Laden when Saddam was ruling Iraq? What have they done regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which is eating its meat and its fields of olive trees and is isolating each village from the other? Arenas for Jihad are open for all who really want to go to Jihad! However, those like Bin Laden are giving the Israeli occupation a priceless service. The Israeli crimes which include killing a whole nation and confiscating its lands are being obliterated by the butchering of one unarmed civilian who was detained by coincidence...and butchered intentionally before cameras.... People like those (Bin Laden and the others) distort the image of Arab(ism) and Islam excessively. Their crimes almost justify occupation or at least provide it with extenuating circumstances whether in Iraq or Palestine."


"Rapid Reforms Make The Best Anti-terrorism Strategy"


The moderate, English-language Daily Star declared (6/21): "The spate of recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia has resulted in the deaths of Saudi citizens, other Arabs, Americans and British, and third-country nationals. The attacks have also evolved--from Saudi military targets, to housing compounds, oil-related installations and individual Westerners--and they may continue to do so if they persist. The Saudi Arabian government, with considerable American and other international technical assistance, has launched counterterrorism operations, with some significant successes. This is clearly a turning point in some aspects of the Saudi government's attitude to its internal--and homegrown--security challenges. No longer is the state dismissing terror attacks as the isolated manifestation of external hands. The frequency, gravity and barbarity of some of the attacks indicate that Saudi Arabia has a major problem, one that has developed over decades of inattention to key social, political, economic and foreign policy issues.... The factors that spawned the current generation of terrorists remain widespread in the entire Arab world, not just in Saudi Arabia or its greater peninsula, and if they persist these factors will give birth to new cohorts of killers as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. The only effective, long-term antidote to such terror is political, social and economic reform that wipes away the false allure of killing as a tool and civilizational warfare as a goal.... The inescapable conclusion is that Saudi Arabia and the Arab states must move as decisively on the political, economic and social reform fronts as they are now moving on the security front."


OMAN: "Terrorism Indivisible"


Semi-independent Al Watan asserted (6/21): "We, meaning Arabs and Muslims, believe that the actions of terrorists are against every human being throughout the world. There is every reason to condemn terrorism for what it has done to Arab identity since September 11, 2001. But the situation is very different for the American and European governments and their peoples who do not condemn violence universally and practice a double standard. They do not pay attention when Arabs, Muslims, and other peoples are sacrificed."


"We Must Resist This Method"


Semi-independent Arabic-language Al Watan contended (6/20): "The Sultanate has on many occasions expressed its position calling for peace, dialogue and respect for human rights. It has also condemned all that defiles life in both general and specific ways. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning the brutal killing of the American hostage in Saudi Arabia. The ministry said that such acts are inexcusable according to Islam. We believe the act damages the image of Islam and Muslims. We must support the security of foreign workers in the Gulf region who are important for our economy and livelihood."


TUNISIA: "It Is First And Foremost A Political Conflict"


Tahar Selmi observed in independent French-language weekly Tunis-Hebdo (6/21): "Some obtuse minds compare Islam to a 'Terrorist Religion'.... The U.S. bears the greatest responsibility because it is this government that pushed the humiliation of the Muslim and Arab people to such an extent. Successive U.S. administrations have backed the Muslim world's despotic and corrupt regimes, which have muzzled all kind of freedom of thought. They (the Americans) have themselves generated this violent extremism that currently fights against them and against their 'strategic allies'.... Was it not the Americans that supported and prepared the field for Afghan extremism in its war against the Soviet Union by providing--in particular--money and logistic military to Bin Laden? Some pretend that the conflict is due to a violent clash of civilizations, which is not true, at least from the Muslim point of view. The conflict is first of all political and not religious or cultural. It comes from the American policy that supported all the current totalitarian regimes in the third world countries, where repression combined with corruption has engendered terror."




AUSTRALIA: "For All Our Sakes, Saudi Arabia Needs Regime Change"


Amin Saikal noted in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (6/22): "The beheading of the American engineer Paul Johnson and the killing of the local al-Qaeda leader, Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, at the weekend have refocused world attention on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is indeed in the grip of a serious legitimacy crisis. The main cause is not al-Qaeda and its associated violent activities. It is rather a stubborn reluctance by the ruling Ibn Saud create a viable, institutionalized system of governance.... Its intensified campaign against terrorism will yield little unless it is accompanied by structural reforms to enable many Saudis not to feel alienated and threatened with a loss of their Islamic identity through the association of their rulers with the U.S.... A combination of potential domestic instability and exogenous pressure has left the Ibn Saud rule in a state of limbo and in a weaker position than at any time in the post-World War II period.... The only way that the situation can be remedied is for the regime to reform and to reform fast."


"Fine Equations In Saudi Arabia"


An editorial in the national conservative Australian read (6/21): "Of all the world's nations, Saudi Arabia occupies the most ambiguous position in the war on terror. It is at once a key part of the solution, and a big part of the problem. That delicate equation tipped slightly towards the positive on the weekend, with the gunning down by Saudi security forces of four of the terrorists responsible for the murder of US hostage Paul Johnson.... The killing of Muqrin and his henchmen suggests the Saudi leadership may finally be ready to deal with extremism. This is important, not only because Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest exporter of oil, but the biggest exporter of Islamism.... Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, recognizes the need for reform.... The question nobody can answer is whether, if the stopper is pulled out of the bottle in Saudi Arabia, the genie released will be liberalism, or an even more repressive fundamentalism. One of the ways to tip the balance towards the former is to do everything in our power to help establish a functioning Islamic democracy in neighboring Iraq."


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Arab World Needs Reforms To Tackle The Terrorists"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (6/21): "The al-Qaeda network's intensifying campaign to bring down the House of Saud demonstrates how the terrorist threat stemming from militant Islam cannot be defeated unless there is also a fundamental change in how this and other Middle Eastern states operate. While it is not clear how much direct control Osama bin Laden has over the various movements that claim to be inspired by him since the September 11 attacks, what is clear is that the targets include the governments of Arab countries, which the groups invariably view as corrupt, undemocratic and weak in the face of western influence.... Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to adopt zero-tolerance policies towards violent extremists and their organizations, while at the same time moving ahead on reforms, such as returning half of municipal council seats by election, a plan that some fear could be stalled indefinitely as militants step up their attacks. The recently concluded U.S. probe on September 11 offers a striking lesson as well. In the years leading up to the attack, it was money raised in the Middle East that sustained al-Qaeda, not bin Laden's personal wealth. Cutting off the source of recruits, as well as funding, for such groups and ending the terrorist threat cannot be done without bringing reforms to the heart of the Arab world."


INDONESIA: "Killing Of American Indicates Threats Of Al Qaeda Do Not Abate"


Leading independent Kompas contended (6/21): "The hostage taking and killing of American citizen Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia over the weekend once again strengthened the belief that the threats by Al Qaeda networks have not subsided. In fact, the killing was seen as only a minor explosion on the surface, which did not represent the whole dangerous threats from Al Qaeda.... No less impressive is how hard the Saudi government is trying to unravel the Al Qaeda movement. Only hours after the report that Johnson had been beheaded, Saudi's security forces killed Al Qaeda leader Abdulazis Al Muqrin and three of his assistants.... The deaths of Muqrin and others will expectedly become a strong slap on the terrorist organization. Saudi authorities believe that their deaths will substantially weaken Al Qaeda.... Given the brutality of Al Qaeda, many have worried that the Saudi monarchy might collapse without support from the U.S. and the West. But it was such an exaggerated kind of worry because Saudi security forces were able to demonstrate their seriousness in dealing with Al Qaeda's threats."


SINGAPORE: "Saudi Arabia Feeling The Heat"

The pro-government Business Times opined (6/23): "Governments and oil consumers will be on tenterhooks in the coming weeks and months as Saudi Arabia rises on the list of security worries.... Despite elaborate counter-terrorism measures and crackdowns, it has been powerless to check militant attacks which have intensified in the past two months.... The fact that the militants have spared oil infrastructure, unlike in neighboring Iraq, is hardly evidence that its oil network is not threatened.... The frequent attacks have alarmed some Western countries, which have issued travel advisories to its citizens, but an exodus risks strengthening the militants' hand.... Few expect the Saudi government, not new to such challenges, to totter.... But Saudi Arabia functions like a central bank of oil, with the largest reserves and a surplus output capacity to tide over market shortfalls. While it's tough to fathom the goings-on in that closed society, the kingdom unambiguously faces a long and bloody fight against Al-Qaeda. A successful outcome will depend on how the authorities carry the fight without creating deep divisions among the princes and the religious establishment. Foreign governments must nudge the Saudis to reinvent and reform themselves so that the current troubles do not snowball into a revolution or, worse, a war over oil resources involving its neighbors and the U.S."


"Peril In Arabia"

The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (6/22): "Terror attacks in Saudi Arabia aimed at foreigners are making the country the hottest crucible, after Iraq, of militant Islam's self-declared cause of righteousness.... Anybody can see that efforts to secure order in Iraq to give indigenous civilian governance a chance are not going well. Saudi Arabia faces an obverse problem: the ruling House of Saud, which has long relied on discreet religiosity and unconditional American support for its entrenchment, is looking at risk in the face of militant assaults. The more successful the strikes, the less secure the regime's legitimacy becomes. This is the danger. Secretary of State Colin Powell conceded last week the stability of the leadership was being made a target by terrorists.... This was a damning confession. Mr Powell said the U.S. would help the Saudis defeat terrorism. This was pro forma. The tough question to face is how much more U.S. security and intelligence support would it take to prevent Saudi Arabia from slipping into the unimaginable.... Such pessimism can be self-fulfilling. If the militants succeed in opening up Saudi Arabia as a second front after Iraq in the region's deadly religious struggle, the world's ideological map could come in for profound change."




INDIA: "The Terror Slick"


The centrist Indian Express declared (6/25): "The strike at Al Khobar last month and the beheading of an American hostage this month are just the most alarming manifestation of a simmering threat to both the desert kingdom's oil installations as well as the thousands of foreigners who work in key sectors of its economy. This has finally stirred the Saudi authorities to crack down on Al-Qaeda and its kindred organizations.... The speed with which Saudi security forces were able to hit the top Al-Qaeda leader in the country within hours of an American hostage being killed clearly indicates that Saudi intelligence (on)...Al-Qaeda members was obviously good. The important point is that the kingdom is finally taking action. Obviously it must do more, much more, if for no other reason than that the country had supported the rise of the Taliban who nurtured Al-Qaeda and gave refuge to hijackers and terrorists. It is good that the Saudi government has followed up its last week's successes against Al-Qaeda with an offer of amnesty which is obviously directed at lower level operators and sympathizers to surrender voluntarily within one month or face the oil kingdom's 'unflinching power and unshakable determination' to eradicate terrorist groups from Saudi soil. A stick and carrot approach would be useful. At the same time, Saudi focus should not be narrowed down to Al-Qaeda only, but rather should address the use of terror in the name of Islam. In any case, the very viability of its oil infrastructure depends on the efficacy with which it faces the terrorist challenge."


"Unholy War"


An editorial in the centrist Asian Age read (6/22): "The shocking beheading of the American engineer working in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaeda militants is undoubtedly the most despicable act of terrorism which must be condemned in the strongest words. Paul M. Johnson Jr was sympathetic to Islam. His cold-blooded murder has understandably sent shock waves through the U.S. and the West. But what is more significant is the revulsion it has created in the Islamic world. From Iran to Indonesia, every Muslim country has deplored Johnson's assassination. Perhaps for the first time there were scenes of jubilation in the streets when the Saudi police killed the most important Qaeda leader in the kingdom, Abdulaziz al-Mugrin who was the alleged mastermind behind Johnson's murder. In a bid to justify their unjustifiable act, the terrorists claimed that Johnson was killed to avenge the deaths of thousands of innocent Palestinians, Afghans and Iraqis by the Americans and Israelis. But no amount of rhetoric and pontification or chest-beating can justify their brutal and barbaric act. What is essentially a religion of peace is being projected by its detractors as a religion which sanctions hatred and bloodshed. Al Qaeda has earned the opprobrium of the whole world by senselessly killing a hapless person in their captivity. Had they imbibed the true spirit of Islam which strongly advocates forgiveness and mercy, they would have set him free."




ARGENTINA: "Terror Lies Ahead"


Claudio Uriarte said in left-of-center Pagina 12 (6/19): "Is the Islamic fundamentalist terrorism winning the war it is waging in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region against the US, the Seven Oil Sisters, fractions of Royal Houses and prevailing dictatorships, military bases and five-star super hotels? It is hard to avoid the suspicion that something like this is happening.... What really matters is that Al Qaeda has the support of--or perhaps it is itself--an important portion of the Saudi Royal House itself, and this sector has not stopped launching attacks against foreign targets since over a year ago.... This is more than a trend. It is an escalation of violence. And it is not a rebellion of the poor against the wealthy or a war of guerrillas: Osama bin Laden and his supporters, on the one hand, are not poor, and, on the other hand, it is hard to imagine that Saudi Arabia, one of the most ferocious regimes, would be so much on the defensive if its whole armed, security and intelligence forces were the strong bloc they would like to seem vis--vis a gang of ragged saboteurs.... Rather, this seems the beginning of a civil war. And this sole similarity manages the terrorists' victory: that foreigners fly away."



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