King Salman’s shady past – Rafia Zakaria


It has been a month dominated by Saudi Arabia.

Last week, I wrote about the beheading of a Burmese woman in the Holy City of Makkah. The Saudi King was not dead then, but he died a few days after the incident.

King Abdullah’s passing, was a world event, with all the eager leaders of the free world rushing to pay their respects to the 90-year-old dead monarch and to curry favour with his new 80-year-old successor.

The Americans sent President Obama, whose visit to India was cut short to enable his attendance. For peeved Pakistanis, sick of consuming the details of the love fest from across the border; reprieve comes from strange places.

Indeed, Pakistan’s present is inextricably tied to Saudi Arabia’s past.

The newest king in the world, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, was the man the House of Saud had put in charge of raising money for the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. According to Bruce Reidel, an analyst writing in The Daily Beast, then Prince Salman, was at one point instrumental in funneling almost 25 million dollars a month to the Afghan Mujahideen.

According to a former CIA officer quoted in the Foreign Policy magazine, who was stationed in Pakistan at that time, Prince Salman was responsible for a similar amount coming into that country for purposes of recruitment for jihad.

Prince Salman, labeled the “family sheriff” by Bruce Reidel, was responsible for keeping order in the House of Saud, owing to the close ties between him and the clerical establishment of the Kingdom.

More recently, as Rachel Bronson says in her book, Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership With Saudi Arabia, Salman also helped recruit fighters for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan fighter who served as a mentor to both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

This then is the story of the new king.

Even while America continues to fight its perpetual war on terror, a man with a history as the one above has been feted as a “reformer” well prepared for the task at hand. There are few details as to what the Americans imagine that task to be, but then superpowers can afford such deceptions and digressions.

On the side of penury, where Pakistan is located, it is useful to note that many of the seeds of extremism bearing such plentiful fruit in the country today, germinated and took root during the same era as the charitable King Salman was funneling money to defeat the Soviets.

At the helm of this endeavor, our own Prime Minister has long been a beneficiary of King Salman’s largesse and benevolence.

With superpowers like the United States and foot-soldier producers like Pakistan, both in Saudi Arabia’s figurative pocket, the new Saudi king is set not simply to rule his kingdom, but likely much of the world.

How can the major producer and funder of the extremist ideology that everyone from Pakistanis mourning Peshawar, to even Americans mourning 9/11, profess to detest with such passion, be anointed to such a position of power in the world?

Herein lies the circularity of the mess that is the war against terror; in it lies the answer of why no effort to “clean-up” extremism, to drone it and bomb it and defuse it will ever be successful in accomplishing the eradication that it aims for.

With one hand clasped closely with the United States and the other throwing pennies at Pakistan; Saudi Arabia represents this obscured circle of inanity, the chain of hypocrisy that soaks up the blood of terror’s innocent victims like it was never shed at all.


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