October 31st, 2013
08:34 AM ET

The Saudis are mad? Tough!

By Fareed Zakaria

If there were a prize for Most Irresponsible Foreign Policy it would surely be awarded to Saudi Arabia. It is the nation most responsible for the rise of Islamic radicalism and militancy around the world. Over the past four decades, the kingdom's immense oil wealth has been used to underwrite the export of an extreme, intolerant and violent version of Islam preached by its Wahhabi clerics.

Go anywhere in the world–from Germany to Indonesia–and you'll find Islamic centers flush with Saudi money, spouting intolerance and hate. In 2007, Stuart Levey, then a top Treasury official, told ABC News, "If I could snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia." When confronted with the evidence, Saudi officials often claim these funds flow from private individuals and foundations and the government has no control over them. But many of the foundations were set up by the government or key members of the royal family, and none could operate in defiance of national policy; the country is an absolute monarchy. In a December 2009 cable, leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that Saudi Arabia remained a "critical financial base" for terrorism and that Riyadh "has taken only limited action" to stop the flow of funds to the Taliban and other such groups.

Read the full TIME column

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Topics: Saudi Arabia

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    Saudi Arabia backing up the Wahhabi Islamic sect and supporting the Taliban? Somehow I don't think so. They're persecuting Al Qaeda and up until he was purportedly murdered on May 2, 2011, they had a price on Ussama bin Laden's head. Besides they, just like our crony NATO allies, carry out every order we issue to them.

    October 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • krivka

      You are joking, right?

      November 8, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • concerned

      Its common knowledge that Saudis fund dozens of anti-USA wahabi schools across Pakistan.

      November 10, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  2. rightospeak

    Syria lost ,so now Saudi Arabia is the bad guy , another bogeyman ? Can't we just live in peace for at least a few years. American people are getting tired of these endless wars, inflamed rhetoric, warmongering. Bring all troops home so we can save money and pay at least the debt to the Chinese.

    October 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      @rightospeak, The Era of Big Oil and Big Handshakes appears to be hitting a few bumps. The Israelis are also a bit edgy. Don't be entirely surprised to see further frustrations hyped in the media. I have also noted that Even CNN has slowly been shifting it's sentiment on some points. I don't think any of us knows how all this might play out. Most likely bad, if not worse.

      October 31, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • alanah ala ha aloajah


      November 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Disillusioned

      Saudi Arabia is the bad guy. When 911 happened, while bush was going around throwing innocent people in jail, he shipped off bin ladens family back with a kiss amd a wave. He attacked Iraq amd Afghanistan ,while 99rcemt of the actual terrorists were Saudi. They abuse their women amd treat them like 2 nd class citizens.

      November 26, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Disillusioned

      I agree with your commentary otherwise, but we need to be aware of where this extremism started amd that a lot more followers of it live there and are funded there.

      November 26, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  3. 100 % ETHIO

    I do not think their is any more room left for peace, between Arabs and swej caused troubles on Western World.

    The Saudis are forgot that they were beggars in my Country/back-home, before the discovered of Oil in Saudi.

    By the same token, Saudi soon ignored who their Oil Dady (America) is.

    Why we let them to build more Mosques in Western?

    October 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  4. sand

    bad or good its all the matter of opinion i can also say that people of Ghana are bad because if the case where many Chinese workers got beaten and killed in Ghana or that people from Ireland Dublin are bad because of the killing of the 2 innocent polish guys in Dublin or the killing of the Lithuanian women and her young girl also in Dublin or the killing of 100 children in Norway Oslo by anders berhring breivik or other people like the berber people of morocco many innocent turist has been killed there by the berbers so there are a lot of damaging evil persons and countrys all over the place so why pick Saudi out of all the country’s i personally believe that Saudi Arabia is the best country in the world and long live the greatest country every Saudi Arabia.

    October 31, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  5. EntoyDaDragoN

    Damn Islam.

    November 1, 2013 at 5:04 am |
  6. j. von hettlingen

    Fareed, the ruling al Saud dynasty is said to be composed of 15,000 members, but the majority of the power and wealth is possessed by a group of only about 2,000. No doubt there is schism and power struggle among the many princes. Some embrace Wahhabism, while others – like King Abdullah – are reform-minded. If some Saudi officials claimed that the government had no control over the funds that few to the Taliban and jihadists, it's possible that they came from private individuals and foundations within the House of Saud. The dynasty has interests in preserving stability in the region and to clamp down on extremist elements. Yet it refused to tolerate any kind of opposition, which encouraged the growth of dissident groups such as Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda, which benefited from popular resentment against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, backed by the US. The Arab Spring re-ignited the Saudi antagonism towards Iran, as members of the large Shia minority, who form a majority in oil-rich Eastern Province, have become increasingly vocal in their demands for civil rights.

    November 1, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  7. kevin daly

    I worked with a man from Pakistan & he gave me a book written by an American Jewish Lawyer who had worked with Muslims in Bosnia. The Muslims told him we need to get this information to the public please let us work together as we worked together in Bosnia. Basically the book said that SA was a terrorist criminal state. I read the book in December 2005 that's 8 years ago & NOW you are sounding the ALARM you are 10 years too late!!

    November 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Trudie Bryant

      SOooo, what's the name of this book so I can make my own observation?

      November 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  8. Dr Tod Policandriotes

    As fossil fuels slowly fossilize, the countries that solely live on oil income will become more and more unstable due to a loss of control of the direction their undeserved wealth moves. The big oil countries like Saudi Arabia have become weak in terms of resilience due to becoming soft from the easy money provided by the industrialized and civilized world. Keep in mind the Saudi's were not civilized by means of intellectual growth, but from financial growth that they did not deserve. So, when that easy money dries up, so will their illusion of pride and arrogance.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  9. tamim

    I am 100% agree with you Fareed , The most terrorist funded by Saudi and the most violator of human right is the Saudi , the only country in the world that women can't go out with out a man . if people say they don't have control over the people it is ignorant, how they sent forces to crack down on uprising of people in Bahrain . And now enjoying fight in Syria. it is all double standard that Saudi is playing.

    November 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  10. AYMAN

    Good article thank you very much. I think Saud family are very afraid of the big changes that happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

    November 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  11. asif

    100%agree with the article this is the truth that eveil Saudi ruler and their wahabi in tolerant doctrine is behind every terrorism incident in the world. they are responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims and non Muslims alike for the betterment of man kind this evil wahabi dynasty must be thrown and punished at the earliest

    November 3, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  12. Arun

    Thank you, Fareed, for this article in Time magazine. You are one of the few who have shown the courage to write this. As an immigrant from India and of Muslim faith, you have shown more loyalty towards your adopted country than some Senators, bureaucrats in the State Dept. and may be even some Presidents of the US.

    November 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • observer

      This above article and people supporting it are completely biased. The article simplify the analysis based on known information and hiding others to only criticize Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi.
      I will challenge the writter and his supporter to confirm reading Wahabi doctrine, which is in my opinion a bad interpretation of Islam, but at the time didn't have nothing to do with terrorism. Another two essential facts omitted for the paper are, al kaida was created against the Saudi monarchy (Which i believe time is coming to ousted and replaced by a democratic regime, it is just a question of time), than after that used by USA and Saudi against communism. Those are facts and as an analyst such as Zakaria, they should be mentioned. Terrorism is a reaction of unorganized population in a random manner, to defend its interest. Its origin is dictatorship and regime that don't represents its population. The second factor factor is the uses of terrorism by dictator and some secrets service around the world to enforce national interest. Islam within it is the big victim.

      November 9, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  13. jamal

    Why you ignored the Ayatolah regime of Tehran plan?
    They have hundreds of military guards in the Syria and Bahrain and Egypt and Iraq and Afghanistan.

    November 4, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  14. Uwanna M'Deek

    We don't care, they're animals.

    November 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  15. Combat Joe

    I never know of a bigger fool Obama for pandering to the Saudis Lets get out of their homeland and bring our troops home.

    November 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  16. Brett Champion

    Saudi Arabia may not be the biggest threat to the security of the American people, but it's certainly in the top three along with Pakistan and North Korea.

    November 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
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