U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (L) meets with Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (R) at the first ever gathering of the defense ministers of the Global Coalition Against ISIL/Daesh at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 11, 2016. REUTERS/VIRGINIA MAYO/POOL
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent: Confused about the US response to Isis in Syria? Look to the CIA's relationship with Saudi Arabia
In the 20 years between 1996 and 2016, the CIA and British security and foreign policy agencies have consistently given priority to maintaining their partnership with powerful Sunni states over the elimination of terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and Isis.
In 1996 the CIA set up a special unit called Alec Station with the aim of targeting Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network. It was headed by Michael Scheuer who found the Saudis less than cooperative. “When we set up the unit in 1996 we asked the Saudis for some basic material on bin Laden, like his birth certificate, his financial records – obvious stuff,” recalled Mr Scheuer many years later. “We got nothing.”
The CIA unit pursuing bin Laden kept on requesting this mundane but necessary information about their target from the Saudis for the next three years but got no reply. “Finally in 1999, we get a message from the [CIA] station chief in Riyadh, a Mr John Brennan,” Mr Scheuer said in an interview published in Kill Chain: Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins by my brother Andrew Cockburn. “He said we should stop sending these requests as it was ‘upsetting the Saudis’.”
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WNU editor: A sobering and depressing analysis and commentary on the U.S. - Saudi relationship .... and the war against the Islamic State.