While the intricacies surrounding the kidnapping, torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey Oct. 2 remain shrouded in a web of intrigue, one thing is remarkably clear. The manner in which the murder was carried out bears a striking resemblance to the 9/11 hijackings and bombings using several commercial airliners that brought down the World Trade Center towers, damaged the Pentagon and caused the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans.
For almost two decades now, there has been a controversy over how the 19 men, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals, and none of whom spoke English, could have flown under the radar for almost two years while plotting the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil. To many investigators, it appears that the 9/11 attackers either were extremely lucky or had a lot of help, or both.
One of the striking similarities between the events that transpired Oct. 2 and on 9/11 is the structure of the hit teams involved. As in the 9/11 attacks, Khashoggi’s murderers arrived in separate teams to carry out the attack. From reports about the Khashoggi assassination operation, two separate teams of Saudi military personnel arrived in plain clothes on two separate flights, and after carrying out the attack also departed in two teams on two flights. The Saudi attackers of 9/11 also dressed in plain clothes and lived in separate teams (terrorist cells) for more than a year in the U.S. before carrying out the attacks.
But the most striking similarity between the two attacks is the relationship between the attackers and the Saudi ruling elite. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11attacks, shared a close relationship with the Saudi monarch, mainly because of his father, Mohammed bin Laden, having built and restored mosques in Mecca and throughout Saudi Arabia. Until his death in 1967 in a plane crash, Mohammed Bin Laden enjoyed a close friendship with the Saudi king, Abdul Saud, who had commissioned most of the mosque-building projects. Mohammed Bin Laden’s sons, including Osama bin Laden, inherited that close relationship with the Saudi monarchy, as well as a significant fortune from their father’s construction businesses.
Based on many media accounts, the team of 15 Saudis arrived in Turkey aboard jets personally owned by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. From what is known about them, several members of the team have provided personal security for bin Salman, and were in fact directed by bin Salman’s closest lieutenants, including adviser Saud al-Qahtani and Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.
Whereas the direct links between the Saudi military and government in the Khashoggi killing are clear, the links between Saudi government officials and the 9/11 attackers remain quite murky. But that doesn’t mean the links aren’t there. An extensive piece in Politico in 2017 documented one lawyer’s quest to prove Saudi Arabia bankrolled the 9/11 attacks, New York attorney Jim Kreindler, who represents the families of more than 800 victims of the 9/11 attacks, certainly believes the terrorists had official help from the Saudi government. And he is not alone in this opinion. Former Florida GOP Senator Bob Graham, the co-chair of Congress’ 9/11 Joint Inquiry, is on record stating, “I’ve stopped calling what our government has done a cover-up. Cover-up suggests a passive activity. What they’re doing now I call aggressive deception.”
Graham further noted, “I came to the conclusion that there was a support network by trying to assess how the 19 hijackers could pull it off with their significant limitations. Most couldn’t speak English, most had never been in the United States and most were not well educated. How could they carry out such a complex task?”
Over President Obama’s strenuous objection and veto, which then candidate Donald Trump called “one of the low points of his presidency,” Congress unanimously passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in October 2016. The act permits an exception to the sovereign immunity usually accorded to foreign governments against lawsuits in U.S. court and specifically permits U.S. courts to carry out discovery of facts related to the Saudi government’s potential involvement in financing the 9/11 attacks.
The fact that a deeply divided congress came together to override the president’s veto is significant. It implies that the American people believe, as does Senator Graham, that the terrorists who attacked our country in such a sophisticated, well-financed and coordinated attack almost certainly had a state sponsor. Although the sordid rabbit hole leading to the ultimate culprits in the 9/11 attacks is far too deep to fully explore in one article, it certainly points in the direction of high-ranking Saudi officials.
The peculiar way that both the 9/11 attacks and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi were orchestrated—using military personnel disguised in civilian clothing, the separate “teams” of attackers, the nationality of the attackers (15 Saudi nationals in each instance) and the use of Saudi official infrastructure—all point to a common progenitor. The styles rhyme, even if the targets differ.
The real lesson here seems to be that the U.S. might have forgotten some of the lessons of 9/11. Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration made deals with the Saudis predicated upon U.S. access to vast Saudi oil reserves and Saudi investments in U.S. domestic infrastructure, military hardware and the financial system. It seemed to them like a marriage made in Heaven. But given the apparent willingness of the Saudi government to provide sanctuary to terrorist factions, and the Saudi’s brazen attack on a U.S. resident and dissident journalist in a protected foreign consulate, the relationship now needs to be closely scrutinized.
The Trump administration should not make the mistake the Obama and Bush administrations made in assuming that the mutually beneficial economic and geopolitical relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are free from serious risks. One of the scions of Saudi royalty—Osama bin Laden— masterminded the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil ever. And another scion, Mohammad bin Salman, seems to have used the cover of the close U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia to carry out the brazen assassination of a journalist. That should make anyone in the free world shudder. A marriage of convenience it might be, but made in Heaven it is not.
Mr. Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. Watch our “Right Side Forum” every Saturday live on Newschannel 8 TV 28 in D.C., 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and repeated at 6:30 p.m., EST. Follow on Twitter @arightside. Visit online at www.ArmstrongWilliams.com.