The release Friday of a long-classified congressional report on possible ties between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 terrorist plot has the potential to do lasting damage to the US relationship with the oil-rich Arab kingdom.
The so-called “28 pages” suggest a much larger web of connections between al-Qaida and the Saudi royal family than had previously been known.
Even as the White House – and the Saudi ambassador to the US – insisted that the 13-year-old report did not implicate senior Saudi officials in supporting al-Qaida, family members of the 9/11 victims who have long demanded the report’s release, as well as some of their congressional allies, said they believed the report demonstrated the need for a new investigation of a possible Saudi government role in the 2001 terror attacks.
The report – classified in December 2002 on orders of then president George W Bush – is almost certain to feed public suspicions that the government gave extensive support to Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and perhaps even directly to the 9/11 plotters themselves, as the US government looked the other way.
The report – classified in December 2002 on orders of then president George W Bush – is almost certain to feed public suspicions that the Saudi government gave extensive support to Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and perhaps even directly to the 9/11 plotters themselves, as the US government looked the other way.
Rethinking of relations with Saudis
Saudi Arabia’s current ambassador to the US, Abdullah al-Saud, welcomed the publication of the 28 pages, saying: “We hope the release of these pages will clear up, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s actions, intentions, or long-term friendship with the United States.”
John Lehman, navy secretary in the Reagan administration and a Republican member of the 9/11 commission, said in an interview on Friday that the 28 pages, which he had not read for several years, demonstrated why there needed to be additional investigation of the possible ties between Saudi government officials and the 9/11 plot.
He has said previously that he regretted that the 9/11 commission report, which was based in part on evidence gathered by the earlier congressional investigation, was read as an exoneration of the Saudis.
“The trail of evidence may be a little cold, but it’s time for a complete reappraisal of our relationship with the Saudis,” said Lehman, who said the Bush and Obama administrations had both failed to pressure the Saudi government to cut its ties to a fanatical, violent branch of Islam known as Wahhabism. “This is going to be a matter for the next president.”