The Daily Demarche
Monday, August 08, 2005
Mixed Messages
In today's news it was announced that the entire U.S mission to Saudi Arabia, our stalwart "ally" in the war on terror, is closed for today and tomorrow:

American diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia will be closed for two days on Monday and Tuesday because of a threat against U.S. buildings, according to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh. The announcement of the closure on Sunday was followed by a quick response from the authorities in Saudi Arabia that there was no concrete information about any threat.

The statement advised American citizens in the kingdom to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase security awareness.

While I am glad that we are taking proactive action to protect my friends and colleagues in the Kingdom, I have to admit that I am more than a little confused by actions that are rumored to be in the works for the U.S. mission to the House of Saud.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the United States, as it became clear that the preponderance (15 of 19) of the hijackers were Saudi, and that the Visa Express program in the Saudi Kingdom presented a clear and continued threat to national security, public backlash against treatment of the Saudis by the State Department was immense. Heads (Mary Ryan) rolled and the entire visa process was overhauled.

So why is it that we are hearing that now, with the situation in Saudi Arabia far, far from ideal, that we are considering EXPANDING visa operations in the Kingdom to include Dhahran? The Daily Demarche received today, from our Consular colleagues, information indicating that plans are in motion to offer expanded visa services to Saudi nationals in Dhahran. This information has not been confirmed- we can't ask about it for obvious reasons- but the word in the hallways at the Truman Building is that the Dept. of State will begin, sometime soon, to offer visa services in Dhahran for Saudis- to ease the inconvenience of travel to the capital. This means exposing American and loyal local personnel to risk in the Dhahran area despite the last travel warning in effect for the Kingdom, which reads in part:

Due to concerns about the possibility of additional terrorist activity directed against American citizens and interests, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia. The United States Mission in Saudi Arabia remains an unaccompanied post as a result of continued security concerns. Non-emergency employees and all dependents of the U.S. Embassy Riyadh and Consulates General Jeddah and Dhahran were ordered to leave the country on April 15, 2004. An armed attack on the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah occurred on December 6, 2004, resulting in casualties among the non-American staff and damage to consulate facilities. Although counter-terrorism efforts have succeeded in diminishing terrorist capabilities in Saudi Arabia, terrorist groups continue to target housing compounds and other establishments where Westerners may be located. Saudi Government facilities are also targets. In addition to car bombs and armed assaults involving multiple gunmen against such facilities, terrorists have used ambush attacks to kidnap and/or assassinate individual Westerners.

Given what we know about Saudi Arabia, the state of Islam and the threats to Americans in the region, is this really the time to make it easier for citizens of the Kingdom to have easier access to our diplomats, loyal national employees and the United States? I for one don't think so- the Saudis have given no indicatation that they view fundamentalist Islamic terrorism as a problem in which they are partners to the solution, and making it more convenient for them to enter the U.S. seems like an odd way to respond to their reticence. Should this corridor rumor be true it will be one more dark mark in our battle against Islmofacism and those who support our enemies.

(End of post.)

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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