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Are the Saudis an anti-terrorism ally?

From David Ensor (CNN Washington Bureau)

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The fact that 15 of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis has created a shadow over U.S.-Saudi relations. CNN's David Ensor reports (October 3)
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CNN's Brooks Jackson has a look at Saudi oil and the power it gives the country. (October 4)
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• Part 2: The military role
• Part 3: Courting the Saudis
• Part 4: Anti-terror ally?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked the United States last year were Saudi citizens raised questions in the minds of many Americans after September 11.

Could the United States rely on Saudi Arabia in the war against terrorism? Is the kingdom a breeding ground for terrorists?

"The issue of Saudi tolerance, of incitement toward, participation in international terrorism has been at the forefront of our foreign policy discourse for over a year now," said Mark Levitt, a former FBI analyst.

Many Saudi leaders suspect tension between Riyadh and Washington was one of the goals of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, whose al Qaeda terrorist network was behind the terror attacks.

"The prevalent theory in the midst of this investigation in Saudi Arabia is that bin Laden deliberately chose Saudis to fly those planes in order to do a double whammy -- on America as the victim, but also on Saudi Arabia as somehow the perpetrator," said Wyche Fowler, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Since September 11, President Bush has worked to maintain the kind of close but discreet working relations the two countries have had for 60 years.

Saudi Arabia, according to Fowler, has done a lot to fight terrorism -- before and after September 11.

"There's much to be done, but much is being done that, quite frankly, the Saudis are not getting credit for because it is basically being done in secret," Fowler said.

Critics say that Saudi-funded schools -- madrassahs -- still teach hatred of Christians, of Jews, and of other brands of Islam, and that money from wealthy Saudis is still reaching groups with known ties to al Qaeda.

"The people suspected of funding al Qaeda are still operating openly," said Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi dissident living in the United States.

"They have not been stopped, in large part because they are very close to the government, and in some cases part of the government and members of the royal family."

Saudi officials deny that charge. They note that bin Laden declared war on the Saudi monarchy even before he did so against the United States.

While Bush administration officials publicly praise the Saudi government for its work against terrorism, officials at the FBI and CIA privately say the Saudis do not always share their sense of urgency -- and do not always acknowledge that their schools and their money may be part of the problem.

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