Riyadh Attacked

A massive bomb struck Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, killing 25 and wounding over 100. Al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible for the car bombing.

The Saudis are quickly learning that their support of terrorism is coming back to haunt them as al-Qaeda turns against them. al-Qaeda has always rhetorically attacked the Saudi Royal Family, now it appears that those words have turned into actions. al-Qaeda isn’t just targeting Americans – they’re targeting anyone who doesn’t match their extreme fundamentalist view of Islam.

Perhaps the Saudis will now realize that trying to pay off terrorists does not insulate them from attack.

UPDATE: Dan Darling at Winds of Change has a comprensive and informative backgrounder on this attack and the issues that surround it.

17 thoughts on “Riyadh Attacked

  1. So, if the Saudis have been paying off terrorists (as both of us apparently believe they have), and specifically paying al Qaeda, then why haven’t we invaded THERE to stop terror groups from obtaining funds? Or weapons, for that matter, seeing as how they’ve got a ton that could be given to al Qaeda. The Saudis don’t grant freedoms to their citizens, and women are subjected to horrendous conditions and situations…so remind me again why Iraq was the seat of terror in the Middle East and needed to be invaded?

    Oh, I remember–we could beat Iraq in a month and a half, but Saudi Arabia must be too mighty. Either that, or Bush once again allowed personal reasons to affect the course of his Administration, rather than good or effective policy.

  2. No, Saudi Arabia is far weaker militarily than Iraq was.

    Invading Iraq has put an incredible amount of pressure on Saudi Arabia to reform, as it has with every nation in the reason.

    We invaded Iraq militarily so we wouldn’t have to use military force against the Saudis.

  3. Now you’re just going to have to explain that one to me slowly, and in little words.

    Iraq’s military was decimated by the 1991 Gulf War and couldn’t adequately rearm because of a decade of sanctions and weapons restrictions. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia happens to be the single largest purchaser of Belgian arms, and has bought billions of dollars in modern equipment over the last decade.

    How on Earth can you say that Iraq, the nation that crumbled in less than two months and never fired a single weapon of mass destruction at our forces on this invasion, was stronger than Saudi Arabia millitarily? Moreover, why would we use a show of force against a stronger country to get a weaker country to comply with our demands, instead of the other way around?

  4. And the CIA agrees with me!

    -From the CIA World Factbook-
    2000 Military Spending:
    Iraq- $1.3 billion
    Saudi Arabia- $18.3 billion

    As do the Israelis! (Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies)
    Iraq 2002 troop strength: 432,500 (appx.)
    Saudi 2002 troop strength: 171,500 (appx.)
    Iraqi 2002 Air-Air Interceptor Planes: 120-333, 106-150 believed operational (appx.), mostly grounded
    Saudi 2002 A-A Interceptor Planes: 101, mostly American-made and routinely flown F-15s
    Iraq- Has not purchased tanks since 1989, mostly destroyed in Gulf War
    Saudi- Purchased American M1A2 Abrams tanks in 1993, some are still in storage
    Iraq- No new self-propelled guns since 1985
    Saudi- possesses both American-built Howitzers and anti-tank weaponry (circa 2001)

    And those radical anti-proliferation experts at INESAP agree, too!:


    “Contrary to public opinion, the Iraqi military is seriously weakened. The sanctions and embargoes have forestalled the rebuilding of a strong army. The Republican Guards are just an instrument to guarantee and exercise power inside Iraq. Combat readiness of the other military forces is estimated at around 50 %. The military equipment is largely obsolete. According to IISS, the air force can use only 55 % of the 350 aircrafts. The artillery has 2,200 systems, and 200 rocket launchers. The number of tanks—2,600—seems impressive, but they are mostly outdated. Overall, Iraq does not pose a significant conventional threat.”

    “Saudi Arabia

    “Although quantitatively small (124,000 personnel), the Kingdom’s army is reported to be quite modern. 315 modern Abrams tanks constitute the heart of the heavy divisions, comprising 1,000 tanks in total. The artillery with its 300 cannons and 60 rocket launchers is of minor importance. The air force has 600 vehicles of differing ages.”

    …But I’m sure you’ve got something to back your assertion other than the respective numbers of troops in each country, right?

  5. Easy, Iraq had a far larger military than Saudi Arabia.

    Because of stealth and cruise missile technology we can wipe out their air defense systems in a matter of days. Our military has no problem taking out just about any country we’d care to. Occupation would be different matter, and having US forces occupying Mecca would be absolutely idiotic. There’s no reason to do so.

    The Saudis know that if Iraq succeeds they are in trouble – they have a massive unemployment rate (over 50%), and the Saudi government has failed to bring the benefits of modernization outside of the select few. A free and democratic Iraq creates a major counterexample to show that the failures of the Arab world aren’t the result of the Jews or some other factor but a result of a governmental system that is horribly, horribly broken.

    That is why the terrorists are attacking Iraq with such ferocity – they know that if Iraq becomes free they will have lost.

  6. Again, the difference is in force projection. The Saudis can only play defense, and they have no ability to shoot down a Stealth or a cruise missile. M1A1 tanks are pretty fearsome – unless they’re a smoking pile of metal debris from a cruise missile impact.

  7. We don’t fire cruise missiles at tanks–they’re way too expensive and don’t get shot at that many moving targets. In the first Gulf War, we took out the Iraqi’s tanks with ours. They didn’t get a chance to buy more for the second Gulf War. The same anti-tank weaponry we have, the Saudis have. The Iraqi military had neither an offensive nor a defensive capability, as the war clearly demonstrated. The Saudis have Air-to-Air interceptors, unlike the Iraqis, and they have a large number of high-tech SAM sites that resist detection much better than Iraq’s did, so even taking out their Command and Control networks would have been more costly than it was in Iraq.

    Plus, the Saudis are a greater terroristic threat to the US than Iraq ever was. Bin Laden- Saudi. The vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers- Saudi. And wasn’t the thrust of your post that the Saudis had been working with al Qaeda to limit attacks there?

    Honestly, Jay, it’s a good thing for you that most of the traffic this site gets seems to be Liberals who think its fun to call you out for making unsupported and counterfactual statements, such as “Saudi Arabia is far weaker militarily than Iraq was.” I don’t think any defense analyst in the world would share that assessment with you, and it’s really laughable how you cling to this false notion rather than concede the error and move on.

    But I’ve provided the facts to you. If you can look at them and still believe that the disloyal Iraqi military that cut and ran at the first sign of invasion and only had successes when we made mistakes was stronger than the Saudi military, then I pity you for your devotion to fiction. Right now, though, you look really petulant trying to argue that Iraq was a powerhouse.

    Manpower does not equal effectiveness. The Saudi military makes the most of their 171,500 by giving them better training, equipment and support. Iraq did nothing for its soldiers, and an invasion force smaller than the Saudi military laid it to waste in a matter of weeks.

  8. A good chunk of the “Saudi” military is made up of Pakistanis and the like imported from South Asia for extra muscle. The running belief among House Saud seems to be that they’ll have less compunctions about suppressing a revolt than the natives. I suspect that there is some truth to this claim.

    OTOH, I wouldn’t count on them to put up too much of a fight if it came down to a death-match between Saudi Arabia and the US.

  9. I assume you’re talking about the Saudi mujahadin, which is officially linked to their home guard. In the event of a US attack, those are the guys I’d be most worried about, since they’re the types that give our guys the most trouble. Nevertheless, I’m by no means arguing that the US couldn’t destroy the military of the Saudi Arabian state. I AM arguing that it would be more challenging than Iraq, and that Saudi Arabia’s military eight months ago could have wiped the floor with Iraq’s military. Israel could still have whipped both.

    But Dan, are you willing to argue that the Saudi Arabian military was weaker than the Iraqi military?

  10. The Saudis might give us some trouble, but they can’t counter Stealth technology nor could they do anything about a US cruise missile attack. Their expensive and very nice command and control system can’t do much when it’s been blown apart.

    The fact is attacking Saudi Arabia is simply stupid tactically. Occupying Mecca would send the signal to the Arab world that this war is against all of Islam. Saudi Arabia may be a state sponsor of terrorism, but direct military intervention is not strategically feasible and never has been. The argument is a complete non sequitor to begin with.

  11. The Saudi military is unquestionably better-equipped than its Iraqi equivalent, however the fact that it has never truly been combat tested, the role of nepotism and dynastic ties within the command structure, and the reliance on foreigners as cannon fodder would tend to negate many of the advantages offered by their superior technology.

    Similarly, US technological advantages can also be negated to a certain extent if you know what you’re doing – just look at the Iraqi guerrillas these days. Generally good tacticians can fight a decent battle whether or not they have equipment that is on par with their enemy’s.

  12. Jay, the subject of your post is the attack in saudi Arabia, and how the Saudi policy of negotiating with terrorists has failed. MY point is that the Saudis posed a much greater threat to world security and regional democratic reform than Iraq ever has or will. Your counterpoint ot my argument was “No, Saudi Arabia is far weaker militarily than Iraq was.” So I went through and laid out why the Saudis were stronger than Iraq. Your response was that, since the Iraqi military was larger than the Saudi military (and, for that matter, larger than the force that invaded it and deposed it using the same equipment the Saudis have purchased from the US and Belgium over the past decade), it must be stronger.

    I’m pretty sure that’s a linear debate, Jay. What is a non-sequitor is your assumption that size=strength. If that was the case, the Chinese flag should be flying over Seoul right now, the USSR should be controlling a united Germany and we would not be the last remaining superpower. American technology trumps Soviet technology, as the first Gulf War showed. Iraq was not the Middle Eastern state with a fundamentalist government armed with American munitions.

    Dan, you make an excellent point in defending tactics over technology and materiel. My counter to that point, however, is that, even supposing that Saudi Arabian generals were as inept as Iraqi generals, and that their troops were only as loyal as Iraqi troops, the few loyal fighting men they WOULD have would be better prepared, paid and protected than their Iraqi counterparts. Plus, lest we forget, Iraq never had a chance to substantially reconstitute its military after we kicked them to the curb in ’91, whereas the Saudis have been continually upgrading their capacity to make war.

    And, once again, the Saudi government–as you and I have both stated, Jay–was funding al Qaeda by paying them to not attack the monarchy. This was an overt relationship. Any relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda (a point you continue to try to defend, even in the face of logic, reason and fact) was covert and minor in comparison.

    So, again, I ask you: which was the stronger state, and which the greater threat to Middle Eastern stability? I think it’s clear that they were one in the same. If you want to call my argument a non-sequitor, fine, but you better justify that claim, because so far all you’ve offered is contradictions in place of data, and that’s even worse than a non-sequitor.

  13. So, again, I ask you: which was the stronger state, and which the greater threat to Middle Eastern stability?

    The answer is Iraq – Saddam Hussein was a symbol for Arab defiance in a way that the Saudis are not. While the Saudis do finance terrorism, the threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands was the greater threat. Furthermore there was significant justification for going to war with Iraq (12 years of broken sanctions, etc) where there is absolutely none for invading Saudi Arabia. A war against Saudi Arabia would make the international backlash against the war in Iraq look like nothing. There would be no legal or ethical justification for engaging in military action against the Saudis despite their ties to terrorism.

    Furthermore, by attacking Iraq it puts great pressure on the Saudis to reform – a pressure that has already had numerous effects on the Middle East from Syria to Iran.

  14. “Furthermore there was significant justification for going to war with Iraq (12 years of broken sanctions, etc) where there is absolutely none for invading Saudi Arabia.”

    Then why did your post mention the fact that the Saudis sponsor terrorism? Moreover, just by running a search ON YOUR OWN SEARCH ENGINE, I find that you yourself have shown ample cause for invading Saudi Arabia, assuming we apply the same standards to a fundamentalist Islamic regime that we did to Iraq:

    ~The Saudis sought to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan (October 22, 2003). that ws postwar, so good job on deterring the Saudi government through “liberating” Iraq! This was also, for the record, after the FIRST al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh.

    ~Saudi Arabia used anti-Semitic language in banning Barbie. Your thoughts included, “Let’s dump those babies all over Riyahd and give the Saudi Secret Police something to do other than beat women who show their ankles.” A nice, compassionate bunch, to be sure. Didn’t you say we had a humanitarian goal in mind when we invaded another Middle Eastern country…? That was September 10th, a day before the two-year anniversary of a bunch of Saudis slamming themselves and several hundred of my countrymen into three buildings and a field.

    ~Did someone say invading Iraq without bringing pressure on the Saudis ws “foolish?” Yeah, you did, on August 27th, 2003. “It is just as foolish to liberate Iraq without working against Islamic Jihad, Hizb’Allah, and the states that support them.”

    ~We don’t like people arming militant terror groups, right? “The Palestinians are dependent on shipments of arms and aid from Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran.” That’s a golden oldie from way back on May 29th.

    ~On April 7th, those guys that we’re not supposed to distinguish from terrorists, according to Fearless Leader, were called out by you. “…governments like Syria and Saudi Arabia that foster terrorism should be on notice.” How’s that go again? “We will make no distinction….”

    ~A blast from the past, just in case you ever wanted to argue that you always said we invaded to liberate Iraqis: “But it isn’t about ensuring the cheap flow of Iraqi oil. Rather, it’s about safeguarding the region. If Saddam Hussein were to have a nuclear weapon and invade Saudi Arabia, what would our response be? It’s not at all sure that we would risk exposing our troops to nuclear annihilation to remove him. At that point, Saddam Hussein becomes one of the most powerful individuals in the world. It would not only be the “oil whore” United States that would be harmed, but Europe and Asia who depend on Saudi oil even more than we do. The effects of that scenario would be nightmarish.” And if ifs and buts were beer and nuts we’d all have a hell of a party. Than again, that was in January.

    ~November 20th of last year, you seemed to think the only way it would be bad for the world to be rid of the Saudi regime would be if Iraq did it, not the US. “Now I’ve no love for Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud is a corrupt, amoral bunch of duplicitous terrorist-financing slimebags. I’d love to see them get their comeuppance.”

    So, what have we learned? Well, the Saudis sponsor terrorism. The Saudis have been trying to obtain nuclear materials. The Saudis have transported arms to nonstate terror groups. The Saudis oppress their people. The Saudi military is modern and well-armed.

    Sometimes, Jay, you just make it so damn easy for me.

  15. And notice never once did I say the US should engage militarily against Saudi Arabia. Yes, I’d love to see the House of Saud go away, but doing so through direct military intervention is simply not a viable option and never has been.

    If you think US troops in Mecca is a smart idea, fine, but don’t expect anyone else to buy it.

  16. I never said you supported attacking Saudi Arabia, Jay. I think US troops in Mecca is as stupid an idea as US troops in Karbala.

    My point, which you actually have once again illustrated, is that you irrationally hold Iraq to a different standard than other countries in the region that do exactly the same as Saddam.

    Actually, there is one key difference between the two: we never supported Saudi Arabian aggression before, whereas Saddam had the US’s support under Reagan for his war with Iran.

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