Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Is Osama Back Home?

There is an interesting story in Debka alleging that Osama bin Laden has returned to Saudi Arabia, and now lives near the Yemeni border (some of the driest and hence most forbidding terrain in the world). I think the idea that Bin Laden is back on home turf makes a lot of sense (whether the story is correct or not, who knows). He has a lot of support in the tribal areas along the indistinct border with Yemen - some of those villages sound like they are rife with Al Qaeda members and sympathizers. In addition, Yemen is the ancestral homeland of the very-rich bin Laden family. There are a lot of very rich people in Saudi Arabia, and some no doubt would aid Osama (there was a news story saying the FBI has tracked most of Al Qaeda's support to the finances of 12 people - 12 people who remain very much alive and very rich). The longtime U.S.-Saudi special relationship guarantees that the U.S. will not interfere in the area, no matter what, no matter how many Americans get slaughtered in New York, Washington, or elsewhere, or in the upcoming campaigns. The Saudis don't have much to lose by sheltering bin Laden - remember, Saudi Arabia has the oil and that means Saudi Arabia calls the shots, in particular whether and where the U.S. deploys its forces.

I don't think Iraq will link up with Al Qaeda - it would mean Saddam would have to concede some authority to bin Laden, and he won't want to do that.

Here's a comment from John:
Interesting idea, but I find it improbable. First, any nation that would allow Bin Laden entry--even unwittingly--knows it would face a ruinous onslaught by the US military. Saudi Arabia has everything to lose and little to gain by overlooking his presence. Iraq remains a wild card with Saddam willing to unleash any level of destruction on the rest of the world as he perishes in flames. Still, I find an alliance between him and Al Qaida on a large scale unlikely. Al Qaida wants to continue as a viable terrorist organization and its leaders must recognize that Saddam is a dead man and that any support of him at this point would be suicidal. I guess we'll know for certain in a few months...