Counter-Terrorism: Talking To The Enemy


December 3, 2007: Saudi Arabia has arrested another 230 terrorists, and destroyed six terrorist cells. The raids also broke up plans to attack oil installations. Earlier this year, there was another roundup of 172 terrorism suspects. Shortly thereafter, tighter restrictions were put on the purchase of explosives, or items, like nitrate based fertilizer, that could be used to improvise explosives.

The most recent arrests included 18 foreigners, who were involved in a plot to import eight missiles, for use in the attacks. Some of the foreigners were from Yemen, which is also fighting hard against Islamic terrorism.

Saudi Arabia began suffering al Qaeda attacks after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Most Saudis promptly turned on the terrorists, and most of these Islamic radicals fled the country. The Saudis have given Interpol the names of these terrorists, and asked for help in tracking down these men. The Saudis were not happy with the lack of cooperation from Syria and Yemen in tracking down Islamic radicals. Yemen has since turned around, but the Syrians, largely because of their alliance with Iran, have dragged their feet. In the last four years, nearly two hundred people have died in Saudi Arabia as a result of Islamic terrorism, and most Saudis are hostile to Islamic radicalism because of this.

However, many Saudis blame the United States for all this, seeing the invasion of Iraq as an opportunity for Islamic terrorists to increase recruiting, and gain practical experience in carrying out attacks. The surviving Saudi terrorists then come home, along with their deadly skills. So far, the Saudis have been able to control the Islamic terrorists, and do not see them as the principal threat. That would be the growing influence of Shia Iran among the Shia Arabs of southern Iraq, and eastern Saudi Arabia (and the other Arab Gulf states.) Saudi Arabia has always made it clear that it preferred someone like Saddam Hussein (a Sunni Arab dictator) running Iraq, rather than a democracy that would allow the Shia Arab majority to rule. This would have provided a more reliable ally against Iran, which is a nation of non-Arabs (Iranians are Indo-Europeans), who practice a variant of mainstream Sunni Islam.

Saudis are also reluctant to admit that their country is still a major source of support for Islamic terrorism. While the Saudis have cracked down on Islamic radicals in schools and mosques, as well as trying to prevent financial contributions to terrorist causes, much support for Islamic radicals still comes from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also downplay the participation of young Saudis in terrorist operations in Iraq. The Saudis now insist that earlier evidence, showing half the foreign terrorists in Iraq are Saudis, was wrong. Saudi officials believe fewer than twenty percent of the foreign terrorists in Iraq are Saudis. But recently captured al Qaeda records, showing that 42 percent of recent foreign terrorists in Iraq were Saudi, has give the anti-terrorist factions in the kingdom more clout. The Saudis have recently shut down public preaching of some pro-terrorist clergy, and gone after wealthy Saudis that were using their businesses to pass money on to "Islamic charities" that were actually fronts for Islamic terrorist fund raising.

Many Saudis still cannot believe that 79 percent of the 911 terrorists were Saudis. The ruling family believes it, and is heavily funding the Arab Reform Movement, which insists that the social, economic and political problems in the Arab world are local, not the result of foreigners interfering. This might appear to be an odd thing for the Saudi monarchy to get behind. But the Saud family did not come to found the kingdom back in the 1920s, by ignoring reality. The Saudi royals may appear a bit medieval to Westerners, but that's only because they must get along with some pretty old-school groups. The Saudis believe that it's best to keep talking to your enemies, even if you might have to turn around and kill them in the near future.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close