President Obama adviser, Dr. Bruce Riedel, answers to our questions about Algeria, the DRS, and JASTA.

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Dr. Bruce Riedel. DR.

Dr. Bruce Riedel was a senior official at the CIA, where he served for 30 years. He advised four presidents of the United States, including the current president, on the US security and counter-terrorism issues. He is advisor of President Barack Obama and a member of the National Security Council at the White House.

He answered us on two questions about Algeria and its intelligence services, the DRS, and the JASTA law with its consequences for US-Saudi relations. He showed a great prudence and diplomacy in this interview. Speaking on Algeria, he told us:

« Algeria is a fascinating country in many aspects. It is the largest country in Africa and in the Arab world. It has a large modern military.

But is also a mystery in many ways. The intelligence service DRS dominated the political process for years. The military still has enormous power behind the scenes. Le Pouvoir (in French in the text=the Power) is a very unique system. Bouteflika is also an extraordinary story. He played so many important roles in his lifetime. His health is another mystery. »

He adds, speaking about the United States which, according to him, played a role in the independence of Algeria:

« The United States was a key player in the fight for Algerian independence. John F Kennedy spoke out for Algeria’s freedom in his first major foreign policy speech in the Senate. As President he encouraged Charles De Gaulle in the right direction. Before JFK President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to invade North Africa in 1942 set in motion the process that would lead to the war for independence. « 

He continued by mentioning the Algerian intelligence services, the DRS:

« I know the DRS from working with it. It was a very professional service and very capable especially against terrorism. Many of its tactics were learned from the Russian intelligence services. I’m sure its successor service is also very capable. »

He encourages the United States and Europe to develop closer relationship with Algeria:

« America and Europe should pay more attention to developments in Algeria because it is a crucial player. The new mosque is a visible symbol of Algeria’s important role in the future of the Islamic world. The Obama White House has devoted much attention behind the scenes to following the developments in Algeria. »

Dr. Riedel approaches the JASTA law passed by the United States Congress. He evokes the Yemen war:

« The war in Yemen is escalating and becoming more dangerous. The Yemeni people are facing a humanitarian catastrophe. Unlike in Syria, the United States has significant leverage to halt the war and the suffering. Unfortunately the Congress’s frivolous override of President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act has made using American leverage harder at this crucial moment.

The big beneficiary of the Yemen war is Iran. It provides the rebels diplomatic support and limited military assistance. In return it bogs down the Saudis, Emiratis and its other Gulf enemies in a quagmire in Yemen that is expensive in lives and treasure when oil prices are depressing their economies at home. Tehran is all too happy to fight to the last Yemeni.

The New York Times this week rightly suggested that Obama use American diplomacy to secure an immediate cease fire. The United States and the United Kingdom are the Saudis major arms providers. On Obama’s watch over $111 billion in US arms have been sold to the Kingdom. American and British maintenance is crucial to keeping the coalition aircraft in the air. That also makes them culpable in war crimes.

The Times editorial reflects growing unease in Washington with Riyadh’s war. Although the American media is preoccupied with the drama of our election, the mood on the Hill is increasingly skeptical about arms sales to the Gulf. Despite enormous lobbying efforts the Saudis face increasing hostility. »

He complements in approaching the consequences of the JASTA law:

« The JASTA over ride passed the Senate 97 to 1, a massive bipartisan message to the Kingdom. Despite an expensive public relations effort, the Kingdom was all but declared guilty of conspiracy with al Qaida in the worst terrorist attack in American history by both chambers of the Congress.

The US Congress has tasked two bipartisan independent investigations to ascertain who was responsible for 911. In 2004 and 2015 the studies absolved the government of Saudi Arabia and its officials of any role in the plot and its execution. The Kingdom is a vital ally against al Qaida and the Islamic State. But both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump backed JASTA. Few if any on the Hill read the reports they commissioned. »

He concludes by saying that JASTA will not affect US-Saudi strategic relationships founded by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the two countries needing each other.

« Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have rightly responded with astonishment at this frivolous act. Despite many calls for retaliation so far they have kept their powder dry. When legal proceedings began as they will the Gulf States will be hard pressed to show restraint. Whether Clinton or Trump wins in November they will inherit a damaged relationship in January. But the US and the Kingdom still need each other. JASTA will not be the end of the partnership FDR started in 1943. »

In conclusion, even if Clinton or Trump have backed JASTA and that the future President of the United States will inherit an altered relationship, nevertheless, and despite the compensations that Saudi Arabia will have to pay, the historical relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia will not be deteriorated by JASTA, and will stay as they have been designed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It should be noted that Dr. Riedel has used the concept of war crimes for the war waged by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Remember that the Saudis are using prohibited weapons, as cluster munitions, in their deadly war against the Yemeni people. According to Dr. Riedel, the Saudi kingdom is a vital ally of the United States against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, while everyone knows that Wahhabism circulated by Saudi Arabia is the matrix of terrorism and that the Kingdom supports, finances and arms the terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and Daesh.

Concerning Algeria and the DRS, the word « mystery » is often used in remarks of Dr. Riedel, however, he concludes by saying that the United States and Europe have an interest in establishing a strategic relationship with Algeria. He continues by saying that the Obama administration is closely following the situation in our country, a confession which takes a major meaning on behalf of this very influential official of CIA, at the time when dunces as the Secretary General of the FLN Amar Saïdani and his leaders, including Said Bouteflika, have led for clan reasons a campaign of destabilization of our intelligence services with very dangerous attacks, threatening a strategic institution. Attacking the Algerian intelligence services and the ANP (National Popular Army) with violence as does that traitor Saïdani, flunky among many other flunkies of Saïd Bouteflika, involves an undeniable risk. The narrative on the experience of work with the DRS of Bruce Riedel, this eminence grise of the CIA, is timely to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. This confidence is worth its weight in gold even if we, Algerians, know the value of our intelligence services and our army. As for the mystery whose talks Riedel, we answer him that it is intrinsic to our intelligence services and to our army and it is the proof of their effectiveness. Despite the fact that Riedel is a senior official at the CIA and the White House, and although, according to him, he has worked with the DRS that has proven its effectiveness, this one remains very mysterious to him, confirming the reputation of the Algerian intelligence services in the world, famous for their performance and efficiency. Bruce Riedel adds, besides, that the intelligence service successor of DRS can only be very effective too, in the continuity of its predecessor. At these shady moments of doubt where an American TV series make a splash like Designated Survivor, and where we see an American president declare war on Algeria, we hope that the nuclear attack against Algeria will remain a Hollywood fantasy rather than a prediction.

Indeed, Algeria is fascinating in various aspects, and its army and intelligence services deserve respect. I would add that the liberation of our country is the result of a fight against France and NATO that lasted 7 years. We owe our independence to the sacrifice of our martyrs who have shed their blood for the land of Algeria and whose many of them have bravely fought on the Allied side against Nazism during the Second World War. We remember for History the 7th RTA, the 7th Regiment of Algerian Riflemen that distinguished itself in the battle of Monte Cassino and liberated, among others, Alsace. The liberation of our country was made through the courage and self-sacrifice of our brave revolutionaries who struck the colonialist Hydra and through the heroism of our people. The tree of liberty was watered by the blood of our martyrs. Allah Yarham Chouhada ! Glory to our martyrs!

Mohsen Abdelmoumen


Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, part of the Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. In addition, Riedel serves as a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy. He retired in 2006 after 30 years of service at the Central Intelligence Agency, including postings overseas. He was a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents of the United States in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House. He was also deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Near East and South Asia at the Pentagon and a senior advisor at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels.

Dr. Bruce Riedel was a member of President Bill Clinton’s peace process team and negotiated at Camp David and other Arab-Israeli summits and he organized Clinton’s trip to India in 2000. In January 2009, President Barack Obama asked him to chair a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the results of which the president announced in a speech on March 27, 2009.

In 2011, Bruce Riedel served as an expert advisor to the prosecution of al Qaeda terrorist Omar Farooq Abdulmutallab in Detroit. In December 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron asked him to brief the United Kingdom’s National Security Council in London on Pakistan.

Dr. Riedel is the author of « The Search for al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and Future » (Brookings Institution Press, 2008), « Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad » (Brookings Institution Press, 2011; translated into Persian) and « Avoiding Armageddon: America, India and Pakistan to the Brink and Back » (Brookings Institution Press, 2013). He is a contributor to « Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran » (Brookings Institution Press, 2009), « The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East » (Brookings Institution Press, 2011) and « Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988 » (Brookings Institution Press, 2012). His book « What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979-1989 »(Brookings Institution Press, 2014) won the gold medal for best new book on war and military affairs at the INDIEFAB awards. His new book is « JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War » (Brookings Institution Press, 2015).

Bruce Riedel is a graduate of Brown (B.A.), Harvard (M.A.), and the Royal College of Defense Studies in London. He has taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies, and he has been a guest lecturer at Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, and other universities. Riedel is a recipient of the Intelligence Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Intelligence Career Medal.

Published in American Herald Tribune, October 19, 2016:

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