It's turning out to be a lot harder to close Guantanamo without turning loose scores of al Qaeda jihadis than it was for the brand new Obama Administration to announce its intention to close the place (just as I forecast in one of my earliest posts). The Obama team put the word out a few days ago that it might keep the military tribunals that Obama suspended as one of his first official acts, with a few changes, since otherwise they might wind up springing the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Even our closest allies have spurned U.S. requests to take some of the Gitmo detainees, and Administration plans to release at least some of the 17 supposedly less-than-dangerous Uighurs now at the camp have prompted howls of protest from both Democrats and Republicans. Now, House Republicans have introduced a bill that would prohibit the release of any of the 240 remaining Gitmo prisoners into the U.S.
With all this, Defence Secretary Gates must be getting desperate as the point man (along with A.G. Eric Holder) for the Administration in figuring out what to do with the 240. His latest gambit, according to news reports, is to ask the Saudis if they will take the 100 Yemeni detainees at Gitmo into their jihadi rehab program.
What, you say? A Saudi jihadi rehab program? Believe it or not, there is such a thing -- known formally as the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Care and Counseling.
It's a 12-step program that purports to lead jihadis back to the straight and narrow path. The Saudis claim that some 3,000 men have passed through the program with very positive results. However, there is this little problem: of the 85 suspects on Saudi Arabia's own list of most wanted terrorists, 11 had been prisoners at Guantanamo who were released and went through the Saudi rehab program. That may not seem like a lot, but they are a particularly dangerous bunch, after all. In fact one of them, Said Ali al-Shihri, is currently the second in command of al Qaeda's Yemen branch. We need not think too hard to figure that al-Shihri would love to have the chance to recruit among 100 of his Yemeni comrades whose jihadist escapades landed them in Guantanamo in the first place.
Still, there is superficial attraction to the idea of letting Saudis deal with them. On the other hand, there are jihadis and jihadis. Saudi Arabia (and Yemen) are crawling with men who decide to wage jihad at one time or another. Not all of them are equally dangerous -- at least not to the Saudi state and royal family. When al Qaeda waged its violent uprising in Saudi Arabia, beginning back in 2003 (one of the most under-reported events by the Western media on the ongoing war against al Qaeda), the Saudis cracked down hard on the guys who staged attacks like this one. Saudi security forces sought out al Qaeda suspects across the kingdom and engaged them in dozens of furious gun battles (like this one). The result was that the Saudis shot dead the leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula faster than they could be replaced and left the ground littered with the corpses of the most dangerous terrorists. So the worst guys didn't live long enough to make it into the rehab program.
It may be that some of the 100 Yemenis at Gitmo are sufficiently non-dangerous for it to make sense to release them to the Saudis -- but we had better be awfully sure. If we're not, it is 100% predictable that some of these guys will pop up again trying to kill Americans.
What do you think? Post a comment.