Here is a WSJ story on the Saudi double game: “Host of Conflicting Forces Has Saudis on a Tightrope: Regime Spurs Dialogue As Way to Contain Risk Of Religious Extremism,” by Karen Elliott House (thanks to JP). A few intriguing segments:
A young imam from a large Riyadh mosque illustrates this mindset. “We are waiting for the time to attack,” the imam says, in the course of a long interview. “Youth feel happy when the Taliban takes a town or when a helicopter comes down, killing Americans in Iraq. It is a very dangerous situation for the U.S. in the whole Muslim world.”
He hints that it’s dangerous for the Saudi government, too. “Our government is afraid of the United States for political and material reasons, so it won’t declare jihad,” the imam says. “Muslims have a right to self-defense, so we don’t need to wait for the government to declare jihad.”
The attitudes of two Saudis, the young Riyadh imam and Mr. al Saif, well illustrate the divergent pressures the regime must balance. The imam, a man in his 30s with six children, wears the uncut beard and shortened thobe of the religious community. “The pressure is growing” for Saudis to assert themselves on behalf of other Muslims, he says.
“Suppose at home in the U.S. thieves were coming. You call the police but they are corrupt. You have a relative down the road so you call him.” In a like manner, he says, “Arabic regimes are corrupted and can’t fight the U.S. So Arab people have to help their brothers. I tell you, the U.S. could not stand one day in Iraq if the Saudi rulers called for jihad there.”
As for American ideals, the imam is dismissive. “Your leaders want to bring your freedom to Islamic society,” he says. “We don’t want freedom. The difference between Muslims and the West is we are controlled by God’s laws, which don’t change for 1,400 years. Your laws change with your leaders.”
What the al Saif family, whose son recently studied in the United Kingdom, expects from the government is very different, and changing through the generations. “My father wanted only freedom to practice his religion,” Mr. al Saif says. “I want religious freedom and political rights. And my son wants the kind of life he has lived as a student in Britain.”