Counter-Terrorism: Saudis Schmooze Their Way To Safety


July 1, 2008: So far this year, Saudi Arabia has arrested 701 terrorist suspects. About 180 were released, but the rest are still being investigated. Many had been recruited overseas by al Qaeda, and provided with money to get into Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Moslem is encouraged to do at least once). Last year, the Hajj tool place in December. Some of those sent this way were organizers, while a few organizers were already in the country. The Saudi police were tipped off, and began arresting those pilgrims who were identified as plotters, or did not leave Saudi Arabia after the Hajj for the wrong reasons. Some of those who stayed behind were not terrorists, but hundreds were found to be consorting with Islamic radicals, or were caught with documents or weapons.

Saudi Arabia arrested 172 suspected terrorists last year, and foiled two attacks on their oil facilities at the same time. While Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, the royal family spreads the wealth around, thus most Saudis are opposed to al Qaeda attempts to damage the oil production and shipment facilities.

Saudi Arabia in the process of forming a special oil and industrial facility protection force of 35,000 security personnel. This is a last ditch defense. It's much better to catch the terrorists while they are still planning their strikes. The Saudis have excelled in maintaining the support of most of the population. This is done largely because the Saud family has always recognized that they rule via the support of a network of tribes and clans. This schmoozing is time consuming, and often aggravating, but it pays off when there is a perceived threat. The al Qaeda bombing campaign in 2003-4 (to "punish" the Saudis for "allowing" the invasion of Iraq) turned most Saudis against Islamic radicals, and the security and intelligence services took advantage of the subsequent flood of tips (there are a lot of al Qaeda fans in the kingdom, but most are talkers, not doers.)





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