Accessibility links

Arabs React to Congressional 9-11 Report - 2003-07-31

A congressional report issued last week on the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States continues to reverberate throughout the Arab world, especially the section that suggests to some the Saudi government may have had indirect links with two of the hijackers.

Whatever differences other Arab countries may have with Saudi Arabia, the opinion of the Arab world fully supports the insistence by Saudi leaders that their government had no links with the September 11 hijackers.

The report, in the section that has gotten most attention, says two of the hijackers received financial help from a student in Los Angeles who had links with officials at the Saudi consulate there.

The student, according to the report, had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.

But the report, at least the part of it that has been made public, does not go much further than that. The Bush administration, citing national security concerns, has refused to declassify 28 pages dealing with Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has vehemently denied any governmental connection to the attacks and has since dispatched envoys to Washington in an effort to have the 28 pages made public. However, President Bush Tuesday rejected the Saudi appeal on security grounds.

Reaction throughout the Arab world to the congressional report has been negative, but not toward Saudi Arabia. According to Arab media analyst Said Sadek Amin, Arab newspapers and broadcast networks have rallied behind Riyadh.

"The Arab media, in general, took the side of the Saudis and they said that those who wrote the report are part of a Zionist conspiracy to defame the kingdom and defame Islam and the Muslim world," he said. " What happened is that because the Saudis have great financial influence in the area and political influence all Arab states will take the side of Saudi Arabia."

Abdullah al-Ashaal, an expert on Arab relations who lectures at several universities in the region, says while it may be possible that some Saudis had connections with the hijackers, he believes the government denials.

"If some Saudis are involved in these acts, Saudi Arabia as a government has nothing to do with this and this has been very clear in the statements of the minister of interior, the minister of defense and also the minister of foreign affairs," he said.

And, Mr. al-Ashaal adds, even if it is eventually proven that some individuals within the Saudi government played a role in the September 11 attacks, he says few, if any, Arab states would take a public stand against the kingdom.

A senior official with the Arab League told VOA that no Arab state has expressed anger toward Saudi Arabia or any intention of re-evaluating its ties with Riyadh as a result of the U.S. congressional report.