US and British intelligence services are faring no better in Riyadh than did CIA chief Tenet in Islamabad and bitter resentment governs their exchanges. American and British spy chiefs complain the Saudis are holding back vital information on al Qaeda operatives in the kingdom and their plans of attack at home and overseas. Those plans include hijacking passenger planes and crashing them into cities in the United States and Europe or downing them with shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles.
Pressed to part with key data, the Saudis replied calmly that material would be handed over “to the extent warranted by developments in their investigation.” Washington and London took this as meaning that the Saudis were getting nowhere fast in their interrogation of captured al Qaeda operatives and were fighting a losing war against al Qaeda.
One counter-terror source speculated to DEBKA-Net-Weekly: “The situation is so bad that the heads of US and British intelligence will have to put the issue before President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.”
Another source monitoring events in Saudi Arabia said: “It is not only a question of internal security in the kingdom. By denying us crucial intelligence, the Saudis have been hurting our war against terrorism in Iraq, the United States and Europe – and in some places they have almost managed to stall our efforts altogether.”
The security chiefs hold it is time for Bush and Blair to read the riot act to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources, the recent arrival in Saudi Arabia of one of al Qaeda's veteran commanders, Mukhrain al-Najdi, adds urgency to the problem. Najdi, one of bin Laden's great Saudi loyalists, fought in the notorious 1993 Blackhawk Down battle in Somalia, a bloodbath that inflicted heavy losses on US special forces.
In the mid-1990s, Najdi was in Bosnia fighting alongside local Muslim forces.
Posted to Afghanistan until November or December 2001, Najdi was among the last al Qaeda fighters to depart the besieged Tora Bora cave complex as US troops closed in. He was recently spotted in Algeria.
Intelligence experts believe he has now been assigned to the command of all Qaeda forces in Saudi Arabia and perhaps also Yemen. His mission is to reorganize the rank-and-file and prepare devastating terrorist attacks on Saudi soil and beyond its borders. Neither the United States nor Britain believes the Saudis, in their current state, are capable of dealing on their own with an arch-terrorist of this caliber. But with Riyadh pointedly omitting to ask for outside help in tracking Najdi down, US and British intelligence chiefs are awaiting instructions from Bush and Blair.