Articles

Jun 19, 2004

Saudi situation

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Good morning.
NGUYEN: Let’s talk about Paul Johnson’s case. He is not the only American attacked in Saudi Arabia. How are these terrorist choosing their victims and why soft targets?

BERGEN: Well, there’s been some 85 people who have died in terrorist attacks since May of 2003. Some have died because they live in particular residential compounds. Some like Paul Johnson have been specifically targeted. In recent weeks we are seeing more specific targeting of specific people, rather than going randomly into a residential compound and blowing up a bomb. Really, assassinations and kidnappings have characterized the last few weeks.

NGUYEN: Is it time for the U.S. to send in security teams to protect Americans in that country?

BERGEN: Well, that’s probably a difficult issue. Already since May of 2003 the FBI has had a stepped up presence there. American security teams in Saudi Arabia that would be a tough one I think, because of questions of sovereignty that the Saudi government would have.

NGUYEN: Is the Saudi government doing enough? We have seen the killings. What can be done?

BERGEN: Well, we just heard from Adel Al-Jubeir, the spokesman for the foreign ministry. He says that 15,000 people were involved in Paul Johnson’s — searching for Paul Johnson. There was a pretty quick response in this instance, killing Al-Muqrin, the leader of the Al- Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

I think the Saudi government is in a very different posture than they were let’s say before May attack of 2003. They had their head in the sand. At this point they are managing a fairly effective campaign against militants. A lot remains to be done.

NGUYEN: Of course, yet Americans are being urged to leave the country. Is it time for Americans to pull out of that country?

BERGEN: That’s obviously the decision left to the individual. You know there are a lot of Americans also in Iraq, which is also a very dangerous place. The State Department is urging people to leave. That’s really a personal choice. Obviously a lot of people like living in Saudi Arabia, the salaries are good. Generally speaking it’s a rather safe place to live at least until the last year. So people like Paul Johnson actually wanted to stay in Saudi Arabia. He is a sort of — he lived there for 10 years. So, that’s a very personal decision.

NGUYEN: Quickly, do you think we will see more cases like Paul Johnson?

BERGEN: I think, unfortunately, yes. The aim of these people is to get foreigners out of the Saudi Kingdom, to jack up the price of oil, and destabilize the House of Saud in an effort to bring it down, and we will see more of this, unfortunately.

NGUYEN: Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism expert, we thank you.

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