Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 27, 2009

More Khobar Towers?

In 1996 a huge bomb exploded in front of the Khobar Towers complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The complex housed U.S. Air Force personnel and the attack killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounded 372.

The political right wing in the U.S. blamed Iran for being behind the attack. When some of the alleged culprits, Saudis and Lebanese 'Hizbollah', were indicted in 2001, the NYT wrote:

United States officials have said they have evidence of Iranian involvement, and at a news conference announcing the indictment, Attorney General John Ashcroft charged that Iranian officials ''inspired, supported and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah'' in the attack.

The F.B.I. investigated the attack with very reluctant assistance from the Saudis.

Ultimately, American officials said cooperation improved, and the Saudis are believed to have provided much of the evidence that led to the indictments.

The Saudis provided 'evidence' that Iran was involved, but the Clinton administration was not convinced. It asked Iran for help.

The letter was sent after the United States obtained convincing information that Iranian officials were behind the attack. The letter came in the midst of Mr. Clinton's broader efforts to reach out to Mr. Khatami and engage the reformist forces in Iran.

[F.B.I. director Louis] Freeh reportedly concluded that the Clinton administration was not serious about solving the case, and he is said to have waited until Mr. Clinton left office in order to try to bring charges in the matter. The indictment came in Mr. Freeh's last week in office as F.B.I. director.

The main figure who promoted the Saudi 'evidence' was indeed then F.B.I. director Louis Freeh. In March 2009 Freeh was hired by the Saudi Prince Bandar, longterm Saudi ambassador to the U.S., as his legal representative in a bribe case in which Bandar is accused of.taking money for arranging a huge BAE arms deal.

Historian and IPS author Gareth Porter recently investigated the tale. Porter, convincingly to me, proves that the Khobar attack was done by al-Qaeda and the Saudis were pushing to make Iran the culprit as a cover-up of their own involvement and to prevent a U.S.-Iran detente.

Here is his series:

The Saudis provided 'evidence' for Iranian and Lebanese Hizbollah involvement in the Khobar attack on U.S. forces just as the Clinton administration was trying to get warmer with Iran. The attack was likely carried out by some Saudi group, al-Qaeda or something similar. Porter concludes:

The result of Freeh’s blatant pro-Saudi bias was that Osama bin Laden was allowed more years of unhindered freedom in which to plan terrorist actions against the United States. Had Freeh not become an advocate of the interests of the regime whose representative in Washington eventually put him on his payroll, U.S. policy would presumably have been focused like a laser on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda two years earlier.

And perhaps the disinterest of the George W. Bush administration’s national security team toward al Qaeda before 9/11 would have been impossible.

The Saudi motive for pointing to Iran as a culprit was to prevent a detente between the U.S. and Iran. Their own involvement and support for the attack is still unknown.

Can we expect some similar event as Obama tries to engage Iran?

Posted by b on June 27, 2009 at 19:48 UTC | Permalink


I am sure you are right, b, that it was an internal affair. The Saudis do want to conceal any evidence of internal dissension.

Whether it was al-Qa'ida or not is more open to question. It could have been any localist faction who wanted the US out of Saudi Arabia - very few were willing to tolerate the US there. It could even have been a black op by persons close to the regime, that is, members of the Saudi royal family.

It is not necessary to choose the current demon, al-Qa'ida, even if it is true that they are Saudi-based.

Posted by: Alex_no | Jun 27 2009 20:44 utc | 1

I have never understood the Louis Freeh appointment as FBI director by Clinton. Who made Clinton appoint him and why was he not fired?

Posted by: SimplyLurking | Jun 28 2009 0:35 utc | 2

Come on guys. Its not like we sent the Dallas cheerleaders there flinging their pompoms and jiggling their breasts and wiggling their genitals. We sent a bunch of criminals, who think nothing of stomping on the locals as if they were ants, disparaging their clothing, skin colour, language, religion, women, children, parents and grandparents.

Posted by: noshit | Jun 28 2009 0:48 utc | 3

I am predisposed to believe this. The number one reason is the Osama's number one complaint was US forces on Saudi soil.

Number two. Hezbollah in Saudi Arabia? WTF.

Note that the Iraq invasion allowed us to get out of Dodge pronto, I mean Saudi Arabia.

One never mentioned fact is that Saudi and Israeli interests are mostly aligned. They were against Iraq and of course against Iran. The Saudis don't give a rats ass about the Palestinians, nor the Jordanians as if that matters. They don't care about anything but their family. If Osama really had some balls he would attack them. He never did, except indirectly with that bomb against our troops there.

Posted by: rapier | Jun 28 2009 1:40 utc | 4

Alex: What makes you think Al-Qaeda and Osama couldn't be backed by members of the royal family?

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jun 28 2009 2:08 utc | 5

Great thread, b. What a relief!


Posted by: Parviz | Jun 28 2009 5:36 utc | 6

@7 What makes you think Al-Qaeda and Osama couldn't be backed by members of the royal family?

Not denying it all. The Bin Ladens are a major family from northern Saudi, closely connected with the royal family. I was just pointing out that there's a wider range of possibilities.

All this is just scapegoating. First, it's the Iranians, because the Sunni Saudi regime is afraid of the large Shi'a population in the Eastern Province.

Now, it's the current US bête-noir, al-Qa'ida. A "discovery" by an American. Gareth Porter, although he's a good historian, is not particularly a specialist on the Middle East. Has he heard of other movements in Saudi? The fact is, Saudi is running over with Sunni extremists, going back to the Wahhabi movement, and Ibn Saud's policies in the 1920s. Not all of them can be in al-Qa'ida. An endless stream went over the border to fight in Iraq, and suicide bomb, often. The movement is much larger than al-Qa'ida.

Posted by: Alex_no | Jun 28 2009 9:00 utc | 7

The comments to this entry are closed.