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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 441

PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 2:32 am    Post subject: No protection Reply with quote

For those westerners who are still in Saudi let me tell you that the security you see around the compounds and the police you see driving down the street and the road blocks are no guarantee of safety.
In fact they lull you into a false sense of security.
The havoc that was caused by 4 youths in Khobar on Saturday could not have occurred without the assistance of elements of these same security personnel.
Now considering what 4 kids did can you imagine what a really well planned attack on a grander level might achieve?
Well the thought is mind boggling.
Bin Laden has massive support within Saudi and believe me when i say many Saudis would have been very happy about the events in Khobar.
Now we can argue about the rights and wrongs of this sort of action about whether it is terrorist action or the work of freedom fighters blah blah blah (we will leave that to usool) but on a more practical level for those westerners still in Saudi you are walking around with a big target on your back because there is no one really there to protect you.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15302

PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I now accept that Saudi is not safe. It took me a while to come to see the dangers but they are REAL.

I notice that some of the real oldtimers here are still in denial and refuse to accept there is a danger. They cannot accept that the good times here are over and that it is time to move on.
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Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 49

PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's good to see that across the board, literally, people are recognising that the threat is real and 'probable', to use the British Ambassador's word.

My life, at the moment, consists of lying down in the back of driver's car to and from work, never leaving work or my compound, doing all banking over the phone, my heart almost exploding when the alarm goes off at work (as it has done twice this week with false alarms), wincing everytime anyone stares at me and listening to my wife peading me to be ultra-careful everyday.

It's no way to live, and if the terror-boys don't get me, then my old ticker will at this rate.

However, in around 10 days, my life will consist of:
walks in the park with my family.
a nice cool beer with a nice meal in a restaurant.
shopping trips with my wife not wearing a bin-bag.
going to the cinema.

Hoorah - and get me the f*&% out of dodge!
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Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 12:18 pm    Post subject: The Times, they are a-changin' Reply with quote

Apropos of that, a quote from this morning's NY Times:

"I just don't feel comfortable right now. I don't even leave my compound anymore. What is the point of staying?"
JERRY JOHNSTON, an American planning to leave Saudi Arabia after the latest terror attack.

and the full story:

Saudi Attack Spurs More U.S. Workers to Pull Up Stakes

Published: June 3, 2004

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia, June 2 Jerry Johnston plans to leave the kingdom forever on Thursday morning, the gory terrorist attacks on a Western compound prompting him to end a 13-year career here.

He arrived in January 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles slamming down on this oil hub along the Persian Gulf shook his residence. Neither that nor any of the later turbulent events prompted him to leave. Until Sunday
The tipping point came when Mr. Johnston, a 59-year-old Texan, learned that three of the four terrorists who attacked the Oasis Residential Resorts and other Western targets in Khobar and killed 22 people had eluded capture.

The attackers managed to escape during a confused moment and shoot their way through the weakest checkpoint, guarded by just two police cars, a Saudi official said. They were long gone by the time commandos landed on the roof at dawn.

"If they let them go, what does that tell every other possible terrorist?" said Mr. Johnston, speaking by telephone from Jidda, where he said he was the sole Westerner working in an office block of the Saudi oil giant Aramco. "I just don't feel comfortable right now. I don't even leave my compound anymore. What is the point of staying?"

Expatriate life for the tens of thousands of Americans and other Westerners working here has long been about comfort. Sheltered from the harsher tenets of Wahhabi Islam by the high walls and hissing lawn sprinklers of their compounds-*beep*-country club, residents can usually pay off huge debts, put their children through college or build a retirement nest egg by settling here for a bit.

But in the past year, with terrorist attacks across the country claiming the lives of more than 75 people, the equation has begun to shift. Many expatriates are weighing the benefits of high salaries, good schools, great travel and exposure to the exotic against Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists bent on killing Westerners.

Reports of new violence are constant. On Wednesday, the United States Embassy in Riyadh said that two American military personnel working on a training project with the Saudi National Guard escaped with one slightly injured when their cars were shot at south of the city.

And the Interior Ministry announced that two suspects linked to the Khobar attacks, but not among the attackers, died in a shootout with security forces near the western city of Taif overnight.

The militants' goal is to drive all infidels from Islam's birthplace, in the process wreaking economic damage that will bring down the ruling house of Saud.

There is no question that, with every attack, the number of Westerners here shrinks, although the militants have not set off a general exodus. Statistics are hard to come by, but executives in many American and European companies said that dependents left in droves this week.

At the main school used by Americans outside the Aramco system, just 55 out of 260 students showed up Wednesday, an American businessman said.

The attacks are having a global impact, with oil prices jumping to a record $42 a barrel over jitters that the world's main oil-producing region is unstable. The Saudi government makes constant reassuring noises about its ability to maintain a steady oil supply.

"There is a market illusion how much the kingdom is affected by foreign workers," said Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi on Wednesday, Reuters reported. "It is part of the market illusion that if 10 foreign workers leave, the kingdom's production is affected."

He spoke on the eve of an OPEC meeting expected to lift production quotas in an attempt to slow rising prices. Analysts say the minister is correct, at least in the short term. The six million foreign laborers are overwhelmingly Asians. Some 35,000 Americans and 30,000 Britons live in the kingdom, most employed in the oil and finance sectors. If they all left at once, a highly unlikely prospect, Saudi Arabia could probably turn to skilled Asians or other nationalities.

"You lose some know-how, but it would not have a direct impact on loading, production, things like that," said Roger Diwan, a managing director at PFC Energy.

The questions would arise over the long haul with the need to replace aging plants or find new oil, he said. American companies are on the leading edge in highly technical aspects of managing oil and gas reserves, exploring for new fields and constructing petrochemical plants.

If Iraq is any example, the threshold of violence people accept for fat salaries is high. Some expatriates here reached that threshold in the attack.

The wife of one senior British Army officer who lived in the Oasis compound heard bullets hissing past as she clambered up a ladder that her husband had bought as part of a contingency escape plan.

The couple made a run for it around 11 a.m., three hours after the attack started, when it was clear that there would be no immediate rescue operation for trapped residents.

"They left us there for dead," said the woman, tears in her eyes as she remembered leaping off a 10-foot wall. "They want to kill all Westerners," she said, before heading to her house to pack some belongings.

On the other end of the scale, a Japanese executive who hid on the floor of his villa through the attack moved back Tuesday. He figured security was better now, he said, fingering the bullet holes in his house, and the hotel was uncomfortable.

Security has become the prime concern. At perhaps the most closely guarded compound, residents negotiate four checkpoints to get home.

"This is essentially a family-oriented maximum-security prison with barbed wire and security gates and the whole works," said Peter Wieck, the manager, asking that the compound not be named. "People drive by enough fire power to stop an army and they ignore it."

Entering any compound is like landing on another planet. Women bike around in shorts not to mention drive cars, which is otherwise illegal in Saudi Arabia while children gambol across lawns and streets. The Muslim prayer call barely penetrates some compounds.

Most compounds are self-contained hamlets with their own grocery stores, restaurants, pubs, extensive athletic facilities and beauty parlors. Some residents leave the cocoon only for the airport. But the constant grind is taking its toll, even if professionals can earn up to four times what they might at home.

Some stay because their presence here generates important trade and jobs in the United States. "Most of us knew that this was a tumultuous area before we came," said David A. Cantrell, president of the 240-member American Business Association.

Saudis still love to buy American when it comes to cars and household appliances, but that could change if Americans pulled out and their competitors stepped in, he said.

Diane Reed, a 47-year-old substitute teacher, does not want the terrorists to win, but it is a hard point to argue from her bed at Saad Specialist Hospital. On Saturday morning she heard a ruckus outside and went to her front door only to find it on fire. After dousing the flames, she discovered a bullet hole in the living room window. She called her husband at work to tell him she wanted to make a run for it.

The bullet struck her leg just before she reached the guard post at the end of the street. She crawled a few yards, then collapsed. A Dutch woman who was also fleeing dragged her to safety.

Still, Mrs. Reed is torn about the decision to leave after eight years.

"There is a quality of life that you miss out on if you don't take advantage of the culture here," she said. "Psychologically it would be difficult for me to go right back and think nothing has happened."

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