Terrorism: The Lesser of Two Evils in Saudi Arabia


October 20, 2005: On October 13th, a new Islamic terrorist group announced its formation in Saudi Arabia. The "Echo of Tuwayq Brigades in al-Zulfa" declared themselves part of the Organization of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia needs all the help it can get, as most of its known members have been arrested or killed. The Tuwayq Brigades mentioned that among their first operations would be revenge attacks for all the al Qaeda members killed by the government over the last two years. In 2004, the government compiled a "most wanted" list of 26 terrorist leaders known to be operating in Saudi Arabia. Nearly all of them have been killed or arrested by now. So the government came up with another list. This one contained 36 names, all of them second and third tier al Qaeda leaders (or weapons technicians). The Tuwayq Brigades appear to be connected with a few people on this second list. Recently, most al Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia has been of the web based variety. A flurry of attacks last year, turned most Saudis against al Qaeda (or, at least al Qaeda operations in Saudi Arabia). This loss of popular support led to more tips about al Qaeda operations (including where members were hiding out.) The news from Iraq has not helped either. The large number of Moslems being killed by al Qaeda up there, especially Sunni Arab Moslems, also diminished al Qaedas popularity in Saudi Arabia. Thus the mention of "revenge attacks." Killing policemen or soldiers is seen as less of an atrocity than is the murder of women and children. Or least that appears to be the al Qaeda thinking in Saudi Arabia. The government apparently saw that coming, and has made sure the grieving families of dead policemen, killed in battles with terrorists, got lots of attention in the media.

At the moment, al Qaeda is fighting a losing battle in Saudi Arabia. But their chief liability is not their own inability to strike a telling blow, but the high price of oil. Driven largely by rapidly growing demand from China and India, oil is selling for twice what it did before U.S. troops went into Iraq. This means the royal family has more money to share with the people of Saudi Arabia, and more time to deal with the corruption and spendthrift ways of the growing royal family. It's the unpleasant, and incompetent, royals that have offended Saudis for the longest time, as well as the resulting lack of economic progress in the kingdom. Replacing the royal family with a theocracy has little appeal either, because Saudis have noted that that did not do anything for the Iranian economy next door. The Saudis don't like Islamic terrorism or their royal family, but as long as the terrorists make themselves the most dangerous menace, the royals get a pass.


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