Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The latest excitement over September 11 is the allegation that the Saudi Arabian government, using Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi envoy in Washington, was involved in funding two of the 9-11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, while they lived in San Diego. The story goes that Princess Haifa sent a series of monthly cheques to Majida Ibrahim Ahmad, a woman who supposedly needed medical treatment (there was also a lump sum of $15,000 paid from the Ambassador). The husband of this woman, Osama Basnan, took this money and gave it to a friend of his, Omar al-Bayoumi, who then passed it on to the two hijackers (or alternatively, as the details are still in some doubt, Majida Ibrahim Ahmad may have signed the cheques over to al-Bayoumi's wife until al-Bayoumi left the country, at which point the money flowed through Basman). The husband, Osama Basnan, also knew the two hijackers. There are some obvious problems with this story:

  1. There is absolutely no indication that Princess Haifa knew anything about the flow of money (her statements).

  2. If the Saudis wanted to fund some terrorism, they wouldn't use the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of the Saudi Ambassador to do it.

  3. If the Saudis wanted to fund terrorism, they wouldn't do it by using traceable cheques and bank accounts (Prince Bandar noted that the two terrorists in question were on U. S. and Saudi "watch lists" during 2000 and 2001, making it especially illogical for this type of funding to have been attempted).

  4. The amounts involved are too small for the risk involved.

The crazed elements in the United States who seem to want to take over the whole of the Arab oil fields and are looking for an excuse to do so are all over this story. It is even being spun as an attack on Bush, who is supposedly protecting his Saudi oil friends (as if the lapdog press would ever attack King Bush unless they were specifically told to do so). All this seems to be an elaborate game played by the Bush Administration to put pressure on the Saudis. Using the wife of the Ambassador, who is himself the son of Prince Sultan, allows the pressure to reach deep into the Saudi Royal Family. This is probably part of an elaborate warning to the Saudi Royals that they will have to cooperate with the Bush Administration's plans for Iraq (and perhaps Iran, etc.) or they will face a similar fate as they can easily be framed in the eyes of the U. S. public for September 11, thus providing a perfect excuse for Saudi Arabia to follow Iraq's fate. The Bush Administration may want access to Saudi territory for its war plans, or at least permission to fly over Saudi territory, and may even want a less aggressive negotiating stance from the Saudis with respect to U. S. oil companies. The whole set of transactions doesn't look like terrorist funding. It looks like a set up by an intelligence agency to make sure that there was a paper trail back to Princess Haifa. If that agency knew that something like September 11 was going to happen, that paper trail could then be used to put pressure on the Saudis, much as we are seeing here. The money involved is sufficient to be noticeable, but not sufficient to put much of a dent in the requirements of the September 11 operation. The whole medical story may have been part of the set up, with the recipients fooling the Princess into the charity in order to get her name at the end of the paper trail (the parties involved are suspicious - both Majida Ibrahim Ahmad and the wife of al-Bayoumi were convicted of shoplifting, and Majida Ibrahim Ahmad was convicted of marriage fraud to obtain immigration papers). The U. S. government let both Basman (who was only deported in November!) and al-Bayoumi leave the United States after the FBI questioned them, and al-Bayoumi was allowed to leave Britain after being questioned again (although they now claim they couldn't hold al-Bayoumi as he was only charged with visa fraud), all of which should raise some flags. The story of al-Bayoumi is particularly suspicious, as he was traced to Britain a few days after September 11, the floorboards in his house were torn up revealing records of phone calls to two diplomats in the Saudi Embassy in Washington (I keep all my phone records hidden under the floorboards, but I don't imagine it is normal British police procedure to go looking there unless the FBI tells them to!), but he was eventually allowed to go. The crazed elements in the U. S. would have us believe that these two men are some sort of Wahabist agents, but their true allegiances may be more complicated than that. I have no doubt that much of the funding for Islamic fundamentalists comes from members of the Saudi Royal Family. Most of that funding is probably given to religious institutions and misdirected to terrorist operations, with the possibility that some Saudis are aware of this misdirected funding and are willing to turn a blind eye to it. Some of that funding is probably given in the possibly misplaced belief that paying off the fundamentalists will convince them to turn their attention away from the corrupt Saudi Royal Family, and some of it probably represents the true political convictions of some of the members of the family (there are thousands of Princes, and some of them probably have radical views). But it is a long way from the funding of fundamentalists by some obscure Saudi Princes to the ridiculous story that Princess Haifa would be funding some of the September 11 hijackers. It is much more likely that she has been set up to put pressure on the Saudi government. Someone who was aware of the upcoming terrorist attacks and the identities of the two terrorists in San Diego might have been clever enough to provide a link to the Saudi Royal Family in case such a link might later prove useful in putting pressure on the Saudis.