According to different reports that have been coming in, at least 90 people have been killed in three suicide bomb attacks carried out in the Saudi capital Riyadh. A further 160 were injured. Ten of the dead have been confirmed as American citizens. A fourth attack was aimed at the headquarters of Siyanco US-Saudi-owned company. Contractors for a U.S. defence firm were based in one of the compounds that was hit.
Apparently nine suicide bombers and two trucks were involved in the attacks. One carried the suicide bombers who had shackled themselves to the inside of the truck. This was followed by another with two gunmen whose task it was to clear the road for the suicide bombers. These shot their way into the compounds, thus allowing the car bombs to get to their targets, which were British and American citizens. The gunmen, adding to the ferocity of the attack, opened fire on the wounded as these attempted to get away from the bombed out buildings.
The three attacks took place shortly before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was to arrive in Riyadh today on an official visit to Saudi Arabia. This seems not to be a coincidence. It is a clear signal from the al-Qaeda network that they are alive and well and capable of major attacks on US interests in the Middle East, and that the so-called “war on terror” has actually achieved nothing. This is particularly the case in Saudi Arabia, where most of the al-Qaeda network comes from. In fact everything points to al Qaeda responsibility in the attacks. This is not the first such attack on US interests. Since 1991 US military bases in Saudi Arabia have twice been targeted.
On arriving in Riyadh Powell announced that, "We will commit ourselves again to redouble our efforts to work closely with our Saudi friends and friends all around the world to go after al Qaeda, to go after terrorism." He added that the US would “hunt down” the terrorists wherever they are. George W. Bush added that terrorism is the “number one priority” and that he would continue the “war on terrorism” with everything at the US’s disposal. Thus they are preparing for more actions that will only serve to create even more recruits for the Islamic fundamentalists.
The Saudi regime is extremely unstable. There is widespread resentment, especially among the youth, at the presence of US troops on what is regarded as holy land, the land of Mecca. Social problems in Saudia Arabia have been getting worse, with growing unemployment, falling living standards, and increasing polarisation between the extremely rich and the poor. Unfortunately, this is fertile ground upon which the ideas of individual terrorism can grow.
After the US “victory” in Iraq the Saudi monarchy had kindly requested that the US should withdraw their troops from Saudi Arabia. The US did not like this, but announced nonetheless their withdrawal two weeks ago. This gesture was supposed to help the royal family in its attempts to curb the Islamic fundamentalist threat. But it came too late. In any case. the US has not really withdrawn its forces from Saudi Arabia: at least 10,000 non-uniformed troops remain and the bases are still under American control. It is ironic in fact that this is the first major attack on U.S. and Western interests since the US-UK coalition occupied Iraq.
We explained that the war on Iraq far from stabilising the Middle East would lead to greater instability and turmoil. In particular, we have explained consistently that the war in Iraq far from reducing terrorist attacks would lead to an increase in such acts. The so-called “war on terror” of Bush has done nothing but increase enormously the number of potential recruits for organisations such as al-Qaeda. The scenes of mayhem and destruction in Iraq will have served to enrage a whole generation of Arabs. Proof of how widespread the terrorist network has become is the fact that the Saudi authorities have charged 90 Saudis with belonging to al Qaeda. It is also interrogating a further 250. We have to remember that most of the 19 September 11 hijackers were in fact Saudi citizens, and none of them were Iraqis!
Now the U.S. ambassador is advising Americans to leave if they can. An American school in Riyadh has been closed. The irony is that throughout the war in Iraq this school remained open. Now all American, British and other Western citizens who are working in Saudi Arabia must be feeling threatened. The problem is that because of the huge oil interests in Saudia Arabia, tens of thousands of people from the West are working there. There are about 30,000 Americans and a further 30,000 British working in Saudi Arabia. These cannot all be evacuated without seriously hampering US and British economic interests in the country.
Marxists condemn such acts of individual terrorism on the part of the fundamentalists. They will not serve the interests of the Arab masses. The US administration will use such acts to justify their war on Iraq. They will use it to convince the people in the US that all Americans are under threat. Thus the reactionary leaders of the al-Qaeda network play into the hands of the equally reactionary Republican administration in the US. And so long as the Arab masses continue to suffer social injustice at the hands of US imperialism and their local puppets, such acts of terrorism will be inevitable.
What is needed is another road. The Arab masses need the socialist perspective, one which poses the question of the overthrow of all the reactionary regimes in the region and the expulsion of their imperialist backers. Once the workers of the Middle East come to power they will put an end to imperialist exploitation and together with this also remove the conditions which breed such acts of terrorism. It is the only solution.