Counter-Terrorism: A Lack Of Suitable Work

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November 12, 2010: During 2003-2007, there was a large supply of foreign suicide bomber volunteers (from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Morocco) going to Iraq to be Holy Warriors against non-Moslems. Nearly half these volunteers came from Saudi Arabia. While religion was a major reason for men from oil rich Arab states to volunteer, there are other factors as well. Consider the jobs situation in the Arab oil states. In Saudi Arabia, the unemployment rate is 12 percent, but many of those men are unemployed by choice. Arabs tend to have a very high opinion of themselves, and most jobs available to poorly educated young men, do not satisfy. Thus most Saudis prefer a government job, where the work is easy, the pay is good, the title is flattering, and life is boring. In the economy, 90 percent of the jobs are taken by foreigners. These foreigners comprise 27 percent of the Saudi population, mostly to staff all the non-government jobs. This means most young Saudi men have few challenges. One might say that many of them are desperate for some test of their worth, and a job in the competitive civilian economy does not do it. Al Qaeda appealed to this by urging Saudi men to come to Iraq and fight for Islam. Since few of the volunteers had any fighting skills, most arrived and were talked into being suicide bombers.

The Saudi employment situation is not unique. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has foreigners occupying 99 percent of the non-government jobs. The unemployment rate is 23 percent, but only a tenth of those are actually looking for a job. A survey indicated that most of the unemployed are idle by choice. Kuwait is more entrepreneurial, with only 80 percent of the non-government jobs taken by foreigners. The other Gulf Arab states (which have less oil) have a similar situation. Yemen, which has very little oil, and a 30 percent unemployment rate, also sent a lot of volunteers to Iraq. But Yemen has a lot of desperate young men, many of whom are trying to leave just to get a job.

There aren't many foreign volunteer terrorists in Iraq these days. After 2007, better security on the Syrian border, and fewer areas where the terrorists could establish safe houses, made it difficult to get the volunteers in and train them. But there were also fewer volunteers. Al Qaeda, and Sunni terrorism took a big image hit in 2005-2008, as it became clear throughout the Moslem would that even Iraqi Sunnis were hostile to the Islamic terrorists. It was also pretty clear that the volunteers were mainly killing civilians. All those videos of dead women and children had an effect. This was often in an indirect way. Many volunteers still wanted to come, but one reason they killed themselves was to win some respect back home. When it became more common, throughout the Arab world, to despise, not honor, the suicide bombers in Iraq, many potential volunteers thought better of dying for the cause (and being held in contempt back home, and bringing shame on his family.)

 


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