The terrorist attacks of September 11th changed America forever, but Robert Lacey argues they had a big impact on Saudi Arabia too, by emboldening reformers to push back against religious extremists.
Nine years on, the 9/11 attacks can only evoke bitter memories for America. But it is already clear that 9/11 was a very good thing for Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who flew into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania were Saudis, disgruntled young men drafted by Osama bin Laden in what was essentially a Saudi quarrel fought out on American soil. Foiled in his attempts to bring down the “near enemy”—the “Sheikhs of Satan” as al Qaeda described the Westernizing princes of the House of Saud—Bin Laden targeted the “far” enemy, the Al-Saud’s mighty patron across the Atlantic, where security, he correctly divined at that date, was more lax.