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The Saudi enigma

Saudi oil drives globalisation, Saudi money drives part of the Islamic revolt against it. Have the princes lost control of the religious fervour which underpins their rule and become a liability for the west?

By James Buchan   November 2001

On 12th january 1980, at about the time a 22-year-old Osama bin Laden set off on his first journey to Afghanistan, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi interior minister, held a press conference in Riyadh. The Saudi royal family had just passed through the most perilous few weeks of its existence, after more than 400 Islamic extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and held it for a fortnight against vastly superior government forces. Naif was anxious to show the world that his family, the al Saud (Saud’s clan) was back in control.

On a table in front of…

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