CIA Chief Hayden: Yemen Terror Tip No Surprise

Tuesday, 02 Nov 2010 09:36 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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To those who think of Saudi Arabia as the home of Osama bin Laden, the fact that the Saudis provided the tip that led to the roll-up of a plot to send two package bombs to the United States from Yemen may have come as a surprise.

But to former CIA Director Michael Hayden and other intelligence professionals, it was no surprise.

Saudi cooperation in the war on terror began after al-Qaida attacked a compound in Riyadh on May 12, 2003, resulting in the deaths of 35 people, including Americans who helped manage the oil fields.

That was followed by a Nov. 8 car bombing that killed at least 17 in Laban Valley, west of Riyadh. Most of the victims were Muslims.

At the time, experts suggested that al-Qaida’s ultimate target was Saudi Arabia’s ruling royal family. The terror network aims “to bring down the Saudi government as well as to create fear and spread terror,” Richard Armitage, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, said after the November bombing.

Those attacks, in turn, made the Saudis realize that they were as much targets of the terrorist group as was the United States. As a result, Hayden tells Newsmax, Saudi Arabia — which expelled bin Laden — became one of America’s staunchest allies in the war on terror.

“After al-Qaida began the terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, there was no hesitation,” Hayden says. “They said okay, we got it, and they’ve been very aggressive. The Saudis realized these people were as much a threat to them as to us.”

The fact that Prince Mohammed bin Nay Mohammed Nayef, the Saudi interior minister who is in charge of domestic intelligence, provided the tip that led to the discovery of the two bombs that apparently were to go off in flight was no surprise, Hayden says.

“They have good intelligence, and I’m not surprised they shared it with us,” he says. “The prince is one of the most intelligent and professional partners we have. As we say in the CIA, he is someone we have a lot of time for. We have no better partner than Saudi Arabia.”

Nayef was himself the target of a bomb constructed by Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who is believed to have built the two package bombs for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. That assassination attempt failed.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is also suspected in the attempted bombing of a commercial airliner approaching Detroit last Christmas.

As noted in the Newsmax story U.S. Faces Good News, Bad News in War on Terror, al-Qaida has metastasized, making it harder for U.S. intelligence to pick up leads because the target is more diffuse. That makes Saudi Arabia’s help even more important.

Charles Allen, a former CIA official who was chief of intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, says that as a result of the 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia, “The Saudis have been extraordinarily close and capable allies in the war against al-Qaida. The Saudis are willing to take risks and destroy the cells and networks.”

Thus, al-Qaida attacks against Saudi Arabia backfired, helping America. If criminals were smart, they wouldn’t be criminals.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go Here Now.




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