Al Qaeda has made things easier for the Saudi Arabian government by openly making terrorist attacks within the kingdom. Al Qaeda had long refrained from this because of something of an understanding with the monarchy. If al Qaeda did not attack in the kingdom, then the government would not crack down hard on the al Qaeda fund raising and recruiting within the kingdom. The initial al Qaeda attacks certainly terrorized the government, and most Saudis. The retribution was swift and effective. While many pro-al Qaeda Saudis trying to head off to Iraq to fight, were stopped, those that made it were not seen as a failure, as most of them would die up there.
Iraq has not been a total failure for al Qaeda. Like Afghanistan in the 1980s, those who survive the experience will come out of it much deadlier terrorists. But they have no place to go where they are not hunted and under constant threat of arrest, or worse. The al Qaeda survivors who come out of Iraq will also have with them the knowledge that they were hated by most Iraqis, and that most of the people killed in Iraq were innocent Iraqi civilians. This breeds doubts in the minds of terrorists, and many of the surviving terrorists have gone home unsure if they are following the right path. In the long run, what will destroy al Qaeda is not bullets, but doubt, and loss of faith in the effectiveness of terror.
Al Qaeda is getting desperate. One reason there have been no attacks in the U.S. in the last three years, and few in Europe or elsewhere, is because American troops invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaedas principal goal has always been getting infidel troops out of Moslem countries. Another goal is to replace democracy, and any other form of government, with religious dictatorships. Al Qaeda is very much on the defensive because they are losing big time in both these areas. Al Qaeda pitched the battle in Iraq as a critical one. Either al Qaeda could do the deed or, who needs al Qaeda? The successful, and popular, elections in Iraq were yet another major blow. This made obvious what many in the Arab world have been suspecting for some time; that al Qaeda is not popular in Iraq. While al Qaeda promotes itself as the insurgency that is liberating Iraq from, the occupiers,, far more Iraqis prefer the coalition troops than al Qaeda terrorists. But this brings up another important point that is rarely covered the Arab, or anyone elses, media; the feud between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The majority of Iraqis are Shia, and the majority of Saudis believe that Shia are heretics. The Sunni Arab minority in Iraq take strength from the support of such Saudis. While the Saudi government will not support al Qaeda, or the Iraqi Sunni Arabs, they would prefer that Sunni Arabs to be running Iraq. Saudi Arabia tolerated Saddam Hussein for so long because, while Saddam was an SOB, he was their SOB, a Sunni Arab SOB. Saddam got religion after the 1991 war, which threatened Saudi Arabia, because he knew that would resonate with Saudi public opinion. Saudi Arabia may be a monarchy, but even kings have to pay attention to public opinion.