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Opinion: Ghost of September 11 Attacks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The second tower of the World Trade Center explodes into flames after being hit by an airplane, New York September 11, 2001 with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground. Reuters

When it turned out that 15 out of the terrorists who participated in the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudis, we realized at that time that we will be facing a long-term crisis in relations between the two countries, which have always been friends and allies.

Years have passed since 2001, the investigation committee confirmed Saudi Arabia’s innocence, and the file was closed.

However, recent weeks have witnessed great tension between Riyadh and Washington after the Senate has passed a bill unanimously, thus allowing the victims of the attacks to sue Saudi Arabia if they prove in court that it was involved.

Despite American investigators not finding any evidence of the Kingdom’s involvement, all evidences pointed to al-Qaeda, number-one enemy for Saudi Arabia’s, which has been fighting the terrorist organization since the 1990s.

There is no possible way that any U.S. political, who is well-informed about Middle Eastern affairs, or any security or intelligence expert could link the attacks, which were carried out by al-Qaeda militants, to Saudi Arabia; especially that the terrorist organization has carried out various other attacks in New York, Washington, and in other areas around the world.

In fact, this silly accusation has only become a serious political affair recently, when relations cooled due to several issues, and as Iran opened up to the West.

Even the final 28 pages of the Congressional report on the Sept. 11 attacks were hidden by former President George W. Bush’s government, which was keen to avoid harming relations with Saudi Arabia at a time when anger failed to discriminate between mistakes and intentional actions.

Back then, I asked a Saudi official about these 28 pages, and he said Saudi Arabia had not requested Washington to classify them and did not mind publishing them as all the facts were clearly known by the investigation committee.

The classified pages have now been published and they will be used by Saudi Arabia’s rivals in the ongoing political controversy, yet they are not a condemnation document.

Riyadh has never had any relation with al-Qaeda for the whole 20 years since its establishment though it has been confirmed that Tehran has dealt with the organization and sheltered dozens of its leaders who escaped U.S. bombings in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Washington Post has earlier published documents that the Americans found in Osama bin Laden’s safe in his hideout, where they killed him.

They revealed how he gave instructions to his men not to harm Iran or Iraqi Shiites because Tehran is an ally of al-Qaeda that supplies it with funds, men, arms and communication equipment.

Not to forget the role of Iran’s ally, the Syrian regime, which hosted thousands of al-Qaeda militants who entered Iraq and carried out most of the operations against U.S. troops; killing around 4,000 of them. Most of these operations were carried out under the name of the Iraqi resistance.

On the other hand, the dispute issues between Riyadh and Washington are not significant. In the past, the most serious ones were related to extremists’ activities, including radical preachers, funders and media outlets that used to release programs in favor of al-Qaeda.

These issues were also overcome after the Saudi Ministry of Interior succeeded in destroying the pillars, which ideologically supported terrorism, and arrested thousands of those who recruited jihadists. In addition to that, the Kingdom allowed U.S. federal investigators to examine all suspicions that have occurred during the investigation process.

Tehran, which adopted a hostile policy against Washington, realized after 30 years that it was the only one harmed by this rivalry; therefore, it decided to reconcile and make concessions.

Nevertheless, the nature of the Iranian regime will prevent it from achieving a real transformation toward the West and from maintaining permanent relations with it.

United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda, September 11 attacks, investigation committee