Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Saudi poll: Wide support for bin Laden

This edition to Saudi Revolution Watch looks at a CNN poll of 15,000 Saudis taken in late 2003.

- Almost half of all Saudis said in a poll conducted last year that they have a favorable view of Osama bin Laden's sermons and rhetoric. "They like what he said about what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or about America and the Zionist conspiracy. But what he does, that's where you see the huge drop." This is a contradiction since what he says leads directly to what al Qaeda does. Basically, half of Saudi citizens agree with the rebels but do not support the rebellion. This contradiction will be resolved, one way or the other, in time.

- Only 39 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the Saudi armed forces. "They don't trust their army." This is a particularly worrying statistic. Why don't they trust the army? Because it's incompetent? Because it's corrupt? The army is a pillar of the regime. Erosion of support for the army is not a good sign for the royals.

- Almost a third of Saudis have positive view of militant clerics. More support government clerics. The militant clerics are the ones issuing fatwas in support of the rebels.

Summary: between 30-40% of Saudis support militant clerics, agree with bin Laden, and do not trust the army. That is a pretty damning indictment of the social order. And the poll would not have included anyone under 18. Fifty percent of Saudis are under 25 and 42% is under 15. How do they feel? Are they more sympathetic to al Qaeda than their parents? Do they trust social institutions any more? Are they less militant or more? Stay tuned.

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