Saudi Gazette runs a release from the Saudi Press Agency reporting that two Americans traveling by car in Al-Ahsa were fired upon. At least one was wounded and brought to a nearby hospital. The identities of the Americans, nor their jobs or reason for being in the area are reported. Nor are any motives being suggested.
HASA — Two US citizens came under gunfire Friday in the Eastern Province and one of them was wounded, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The wounded American was rushed to hospital and “is in stable condition,” police said. It was not immediately known who shot at them.
The two were traveling in a car on Salah Al-Deen Al-Ayoubi Road in Al-Ahsa governorate at the time of the attack, said a police spokesman.
The attack took place around 2 p.m. and an investigation is underway, he said.
In its report, Arab News hints that the attack may have been ISIS-related:
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has a lengthy piece in which he talks about Saudi succession and the issues facing the new king. Not surprisingly, those issues are the same as faced the former king.
Cordesman gently slaps those who were expecting some sort of crisis in succession. The Saudis have been doing this for some time now; they know how to do it.
He points out numerous areas of reform where progress must continue if the Kingdom is to meet its challenges. He sees no reason why it cannot do so. He sees no major shifts in foreign policy, alliances, or cooperation with other nations, particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism.
Saudi Arabia’s Smooth Succession: The King is Dead, Long Live the King
Once again, Saudi Arabia has managed its succession without problems, delay, or any signs of serious divisions within the royal family. One of its most competent and impressive kings has died, but the Crown Prince – Prince Salman – officially became king virtually at the time King Abdullah’s death was announced. Moreover, Prince Muqrin immediately became the full Crown Prince, ensuring that one of the youngest sons of Ibn Saud would become king or de facto ruler if Prince Salman became incapacitated or died.
Within less than 24 hours, the new King also announced a whole list of new appointments that gave the next generation of princes more power and helped prepare for the succession after Prince Muqrin:
Following the deaths of several Saudi border guards, including a general officer, Saudi Arabi has decided to play hardball. New orders have gone out to the Border Guards directing them that they are not to engage in negotiations, but to shoot intruders. Saudi Gazette reports:
Border Guard given orders to shoot intruders
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette
RIYADH — Border Guard officers have been ordered to shoot intruders without engaging in any negotiations, said spokesman Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Ghamdi.
Iraqi Border officials have been informed of these instructions, which are considered a legitimate right of the Kingdom.
Al-Ghamdi said border officers will implement the instruction to protect Saudi territory and people.
“The instructions were made as a result of regional situation and the latest attacks on Arar borders,” Al-Ghamdi said. The officers are ready for any emergency and will not hesitate to implement the orders given to them.
Earlier this month, militants killed two Saudi Border Guards and their commanding officer in an attack near the city of Arar.
The British newspaper The Telegraph runs an article — complete with infographic — on the 600-mile-long fence Saudi Arabia is constructing along its border with Iraq. The article notes that the fence will serve to keep ISIS militants out of the Kingdom. It will also make it more difficult for adventurous young Saudis to go north for purposes of jihad.
Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s ‘Great Wall’ to keep out Isil
When a raiding party from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant attacked a Saudi border post last week, it was no mere hit on a desert outpost.
The jihadists were launching an assault on the new, highest profile effort by Saudi Arabia to insulate itself from the chaos engulfing its neighbours.
The Saudis are building a 600-mile-long “Great Wall” – a combined fence and ditch – to separates the country from Iraq to the north.
Much of the area on the Iraqi side is now controlled by Isil, which regards the ultimate capture of Saudi Arabia, home to the “Two Holy Mosques” of Mecca and Medina, as a key goal.
The proposal had been discussed since 2006, at the height of the Iraqi civil war, but work began in September last year after Isil’s charge through much of the west and north of the country gave it a substantial land border with the Kingdom to the south.
In a thoughtful piece for Asharq Alawsat, Amir Taheri talks about how analyses of the Charlie-Hebdo incident that fall back on the “Clash of Civilizations” fail. He talks, too, about how democracy, while providing an apparent “soft target” for terrorism, is also the way to end it. It is not the democracy that is practiced in the West that will provide the cure, however. It is the democracy that must develop in Islamic nations that will end “terrorism in the name of Islam.”
Democracy is the answer to terrorism
By now you might feel that you have read all you need to about the events in Paris last week that triggered worldwide sympathy for a France absorbing the shock of terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, to discuss ways of fighting back against this latest form of terrorism we may still need to put the event in some context.
Looking for a shorthand analysis, some commentators branded the event as the latest example of the “clash of civilizations” foreseen by Samuel Huntington two decades ago. We are told that the assassination of cartoonists and the murder of Jewish shoppers showed Islam, as a civilization, challenging the Christian civilization, its rival for more than 15 centuries. There are at least two problems with that analysis.
The first is that Islam and Christianity, in their many varieties, are religions and can hardly be regarded as “civilizations.” There is a European civilization which has, in the name of the Enlightenment, progress, human rights, and more recently democracy, helped reshape the whole world. However, that civilization traces back its origins to ancient Greece and Rome. If anything, Christianity, once it had become the state religion under Emperor Constantine, tried to de-Europeanize the European civilization but ended up becoming one of its many ingredients.
On the Islamic side, one could speak of Arab, Iranian and Turkish civilizations, among many others, of which Islam is a major component. However, in every case, none could be understood with exclusive reference to Islam. The Arabs had developed several civilizations of their own, long before Islam appeared, as had the various Iranic and Turkic peoples. In the same way that reducing Chinese civilization to Buddhism or the Indian to Hinduism is reductive, suggesting that all 57 Muslim-majority nations belong to a single bloc at war against a Christian bloc is misleading.
The second problem with the “clash of civilizations” analysis is that even the various groups and countries that use Islam as a political ideology rather than a religion cannot be regarded as a monolithic bloc with a common strategy. We are already witnessing an inflation of pretensions towards Caliph-hood. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has its caliph just as the Taliban have their own Amir Al-Mu’mineen (Commander of the Faithful). Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram have also named their respective caliphs. Iran has a “Supreme Guide” who claims to be the religious leader of all Muslims, while branches of Al-Qaeda have retained their own fatwa-issuing “sheikhs.”
In an opinion piece for Al Arabiya TV, Prince Turki Al-Faisal — former Saudi Ambassador to the US and UK as well as head of Saudi Intelligence — gives a review of the history of the rise of ISIS. He notes how the actions and inactions of several regional states all led to the growth of the group. He suggests that a better and more accurate name for the group would be Fahesh: “obscene.”
A New Name for ISIS
Pr. Turki Al-Faisal
When the international community decided to punish Al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the 9/11 attacks, a number of Al-Qaeda members fled to Iran. The Iranian authorities then sheltered these militants under the supervision of the intelligence service. Some of them included members of Osama Bin Laden’s family, as well as Saif Al-Adl, one of Al-Qaeda’s most senior military commanders and the man responsible for planning the attacks on Riyadh in May 2003, and Salih Al-Qar’awi, the leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Qar’awi later relocated to Waziristan in Pakistan where he was eventually killed by an American drone attack and his body flown back to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the destruction of the Iraqi government, military and security institutions, Tehran allowed many of these individuals to enter neighboring Iraq, where they found fertile ground to carry out their schemes. Here, they re-grouped and rebranded under the new name, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and were also joined by militants coming from other countries, such as Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Muhsin Al-Fadhli, the leader of the Khorasan Brigades. Fadhli, who comes from a prominent Shi’ite family in Kuwait, is believed to be responsible for the attack in Najaf that killed the senior Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Al-Hakim. The Iranian government also allowed Fadhli to enter Syria shortly after the uprising there began.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad actually allowed the entry of many of these individuals through his country and its borders, where they eventually made their way into Iraq. In fact, and in what is the first twist in this story, former Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki sought during his first term in office to submit an official complaint to the UN Security Council accusing Assad of supporting terrorist groups and allowing the passage of their members into Iraq. But Maliki never followed through on the accusation, leaving space for Al-Qaeda in Iraq to form in the country, where it eventually found strong resistance in the form of US forces and armed Sunni tribal coalitions. Many members of the group and its leadership were killed during these fierce battles, among them Zarqawi. Those who survived were thrown into American-run prisons in Iraq; but as soon as the US started pulling troops out of the country during Maliki’s first term, the men were released. Among them was Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, along with some of his close aides.
Writing in Arab News Saad Dosari finds himself in general agreement with the sentiments addressed by Abdulrahman Al-Rashed. Muslims need to take a serious look at how they’ve permitted terrorism in the name of Islam to grab hold and threaten individuals and groups around the world.
When words turn into bullets
What is more evil? To commit a crime or to back it through reasoning and justifications. I would argue that the crime itself is completed once the criminal act is over, you kill someone, he is dead, you blow up a checkpoint, the damage is done, it could lead to ramifications, but the act itself is already part of history. But when you reason and theorize any crime, you are actually preparing for a next wave of violence. You are keeping the evil concept of the crime alive, breeding more brutality and barbarity.
Last week, history repeated itself, another attack, new blood spilled, more lives lost in the name of Islam. Gunmen with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in the heart of Paris, blindly wounding and killing whomever happened to be on their way.
After all these years of terrorism in the name of religion, it is pointless to defend Islam from the massacres committed under its banners…
…For us Muslims everywhere in the world, we need to stop and revisit our culture and traditions, to go back to the pristine teachings of Islam. This religion has been sent to the world with nothing but mercy, why some of us are depriving it of its holiest message?
Commenting on remarks made by publisher Rupert Murdoch, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed agrees that it is the responsibility of Muslims to act against the “jihadist cancer” that is infecting the body of Muslim societies. It is Al-Rashed, in an editorial for Asharq Alawsat, here picked up by Al Arabiya TV, who identifies these extremists as “fascists,” noting how their actions and beliefs mirror those used by the fascist states of the early 20th C. “Equivocation and silence” no longer cut it in dealing with the problem, he says.
Murdoch: Muslims bear responsibility for terrorism
Protests against recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals and not in Paris because Muslims stand accused in this case; embroiled in this crisis and expected to declare their innocence. The tale of extremism began in Muslim societies and it’s with their support and silence that extremism grew into terrorism which is harming people across the world. It’s of no value for the French people, who are the victims here, to take to the streets to condemn the recent crimes. What’s required here is for Muslim communities to disown the Paris crime and Islamic extremism in general.
Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch said on Twitter on Friday: “Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” In another tweet, he added: “Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy.”
In his op-ed for Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem argues that the terrorists of the world are winning because their targets are civilized and have a lower threshold of pain that they are willing to endure. They also have a lower threshold of pain they are willing to inflict.
Melhem provides a survey of asymmetric warfare across the ages. He points to the use of terror by the Assassins and equates Anwar al-Awlaki with the “Old Men of the Mountain” who directed terroristic groups in both Syria and Iran during the Middle Ages. Awlaki is able to cause action from beyond the grave, he notes.
A world in the shadows of terrorism
The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, the worst on French soil in 50 years and the clashes it spawned, showed in bold relief how vulnerable are open democratic states to the diabolical machinations of a handful of trained killers. Paris, the political and cultural heart of France, a country of 66 million people, and a major world power with a nuclear arsenal, was neutralized for two days by four terrorists, according to preliminary reports.
Never have a few people, disrupted the lives of so many, with such low cost. In recent years, until the shocking rise of ISIS last summer, the literature on terrorism was dominated by the relatively new strain of terror threat cyber-attacks. Huge financial and significant human resources have been allocated to defend against this kind of terrorism that could cripple a modern economy, and to develop offensive cyber capabilities, particularly after major American corporations and key national security structures like the Pentagon have been subjected to successful hacking attacks. But conventional terror attacks, as we have seen recently in Canada, Australia and now France are as deadly and as crippling as ever.
Saudi Gazette reports that while the Saudi program to rehabilitate those involved in terrorist activities has been largely successful over the past 10 years, it might be time to do a reappraisal to see if it might not be improved. That, at least, is the opinion of a member of the Shoura Council. I think the program has been incrementally tweaked over that time period, though, with changes made as they were seen to be beneficial. It certainly couldn’t hurt to re-examine it, something that I think all government programs — and all governments — should do with some regularity.
The Munasaha rehabilitation program claims a 12% recidivism rate.
<Shoura member: Need to revise terrorist rehabilitation program
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The terrorist rehabilitation programs run by Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Center for Advice and Care needs to be revised and reevaluated now that it has been in place for ten years, according to Latifah Al-Shalan, member of the Shoura Council, Al-Watan daily reported.
Only 10 percent of rehabilitated inmates return to terrorist activities after their release from the center, according to reports.
“These reports do not change the fact that the center has produced very positive results since its inception in 2004,” Al-Shalan said during the Council’s session on the great achievements accomplished by the Ministry of Interior in fighting terrorism.
She said the Council’s committees and some of its members are capable of contributing to a comprehensive plan to further develop the program.
Asharq Alawsat reports that the GCC is considering forming a unified list of terrorists and terrorist organizations, to be based on the list already drawn up by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This should prove interesting as not all countries are agreed on just who should be on the list.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Gulf states are considering adopting the terror lists issued by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait’s Interior Minister Sheikh Mohamed Al-Khalid Al-Sabah said on Wednesday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Kuwait’s Interior Minister said that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are coordinating with one another to investigate the Saudi and Emirati terror lists with a view to adopting them, confirming that the adoption of a joint terror list was discussed at the recent Doha summit.
Al-Sabah warned against “complacency” in dealing with Gulf security, stressing that combating terrorism is something that no single Gulf country can do alone, but something that all GCC states must work together on.
He hailed GCC efforts to promote regional security and stability, despite the regional and international challenges facing the Gulf, stressing that the GCC states must remain steadfast in the face of attempts to divide them.
The UAE announced a list of illegal terrorist organizations in November, formally designating 80 groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen’s Houthis, as “terrorist groups.” Riyadh had earlier issued its own formal terror list, designating the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and Yemen’s Houthis as terrorist groups, in March. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, have also been formally designated as terrorist groups by Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.