What’s the difference between a horse and a Gitmo inmate? If you’re the King of Saudi Arabia, apparently not much.
The new cache of State Department cables leaked by online whistleblower Wikileaks brims with juicy diplo-gossip.
But few of the dispatches are as fascinating as the 2009 report of a meeting between Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and U.S. counter-terrorism officials, where Riyadh’s potentate expresses his disdain for Iran — “May God prevent us from falling victim to their evil” — and waxes lyrical about his beloved racing horses.
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King Abdullah also offers this instructive advice to Washington about tracking terror suspects set to be released from detention at Guantanamo Bay:
“I’ve just thought of something,” the King added, and proposed implanting detainees with an electronic chip containing information about them and allowing their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth. This was done with horses and falcons, the King said. [White House counter-terrorism adviser John] Brennan replied, “horses don’t have good lawyers,” and that such a proposal would face legal hurdles in the U.S. (see complete cable on Wikileaks
Apart from a tip of the Newsfeed hat to the good humor of Washington’s envoy, it must be pointed out that King Abdullah’s suggestion is hardly surprising. Saudi royals are probably as obsessed with falcons and horses as they are with terrorist threats or Tehran’s machinations in the region. Horse-racing in the Gulf states is a booming industry and falconry is a time-honored practice in the Arab world, still popular with many a sheikh or prince.
Saudi Arabia’s founder — the current King’s father — was known as the Falcon of the Peninsula. Of course, no one would have dared plant a microchip on him.