Robert Lacey, who recently completed a second book about Saudi Arabia, says the country’s government consists largely of pro-Western moderates.
“The moderates in Saudi Arabia would dearly love to push all the bearded extremists on to a boat and send them off into the sea,” Lacey told Newsmax.TV. His new book is “Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia.”
Seventeen of the ministers in Saudi Arabia’s cabinet hold master’s degrees and Ph.D’s from American universities, Lacey said.
“The westernized elite who run the country realize the only way ahead is more science education, less religion, more tolerance, more mixing of the sexes. It’s a day-to-day battle they fight against the extremists.”
To be sure, Lacey says, there’s a segment of Saudi society that hates Americans. “That’s what my book is about,” he said.
“How this intolerance and dislike boiled up so that not only were 15 of the 19 [Sept. 11] hijackers Saudi, but of course the inspirer of the whole episode, Osama bin Laden, was a Saudi as well.”
And what inspires their hatred? “It comes basically from America’s commitment in the Mideast to the state of Israel and the fact that until recently Saudi Arabia was committed to trying to push Israel into the sea,” Lacey said.
“They’ve changed since — that’s the government — but deep down in society, there’s a lot of anti-American feeling.”
Saudis want the best of the West, Lacey said. “But when they look at American culture, at the decadence of some of it, at the open display of sexuality in the more degraded forms of American culture, they feel that justifies their view that America is the Satan.”
Saudis hold mixed views about former President George W. Bush, Lacey said.
On one hand, they strongly object to his invasion of Iraq. That’s because in their view Bush deposed a Sunni government, the Saudi government’s own persuasion, and handed Iraq to the Shiite Muslims of Iran, whom the Saudis distrust.
But the Saudis appreciate Bush for seeking an independent Palestinian state at the same time that he was strongly allied with Israel, Lacey said.
“He was the first American president to try that — to create a balance between Israel and to acknowledge Palestinian rights. For that the Saudis thanked him.”