Whose Side Are They On?
How much did the Saudis know? The Associated Press said that "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia accused Britain on Monday of failing to act on information the Saudis provided that might have averted London's deadly July 7, 2005, suicide bombings."
The king did not specify what information Saudi Arabia provided. However, the BBC reported Abdullah's remark was linked to a long-held Saudi leadership claim that it gave Britain information that might have averted the 2005 attack. Months before the July 7, 2005, attack in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people and wounded hundreds on London's transit network, Saudi Arabia told the British and U.S. governments that it had arrested a young Saudi man who confessed to raising money for a terrorist attack in crowded areas of the British capital, officials have told the Associated Press.
But the information apparently wasn't specific enough to include the names of the actual perpetrators.
The Saudis obtained information that the attack would involve explosives and a Syrian contact for financing, and that at least some of the four attackers would be British citizens, according to officials in several countries with direct access to the information. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was classified. The officials said at the time that the investigation had not connected any players from the July 2005 attacks to the original Saudi warning and that the information provided in December 2004 did not provide attackers' names, a date, specific location or time of attack.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to tell the Saudis that their human rights record was "totally unacceptable". She added: "Mr Brown's message should be - reforms need to come, and they need to come quickly."
The leader of one of the British opposition parties, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, is boycotting the state visit to Britain of Saudi King Abdullah, in part to protest a government decision to squelch an investigation charges of corruption in connection with an extremely large arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The Al Yamamah deal "is the name of a series of a record arms sales by the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia, which have been paid for by the delivery of up to 600,000 barrels of oil per day to the UK government. The prime contractor has been BAE Systems and its predecessor British Aerospace. ... It is Britain's largest ever export agreement, and employs some 5,000 people in Saudi Arabia." Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox, was quoted as saying that Cable's move would be seen as "juvenile gesture politics" and risked insulting one of Britain's main allies in the Gulf.
The question of "how much did the Saudis know" about the London bombings is really a variant of a larger question which is "on whose side are the Saudis on?" That in turn is part of an even larger political debate which asks whether the West is better off supporting the current government in Riyadh or insisting on reforms and risking bringing another regime even more hostile to the West.