Winning: A Cynical Saudi Solution

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July 19, 2007: While Saudi Arabia is not happy with how Shia Arabs have taken control of Iraq, and appear able to hold on to it, they are pleased with how the fighting in Iraq has greatly depleted the number of al Qaeda backers inside Saudi Arabia. Over 5,000 Saudi Islamic radicals are believed to have died in Iraq so far. For the last four years, up to half the suicide bombers have been Saudis, and about half the 135 foreigners currently held in U.S. military prisons over there, are Saudis. Currently, American intelligence believes about 45 percent of the foreign fighters (less than ten percent of all terrorists there) are Saudis. The next largest group is Syrians and Lebanese (15 percent), followed by North Africans (10 percent). The other 30 percent are from all over, including Europe.

The Saudis themselves are coy about how all those Saudi Islamic radicals got into Iraq. The Saudi border with Iraq is heavily patrolled, and not easy to get across, no matter which direction you are going. But the Saudis have refused calls to crack down on their young men going to Syria or Jordan, and crossing from there into Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq brought to an end the informal truce between Islamic terrorists and Saudi Arabia. Before the end of 2003, there were several terror attacks, which quickly turned most of the population against al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia has since cracked down hard on Islamic terrorism within its borders. But at the same time, millions of Saudis still support such terrorism, although nearly all Saudis are opposed to such attacks within Saudi Arabia. Most Islamic radicals in Saudi Arabia are willing to abide by this unofficial rule, but still want to fight for Islam.

Some of these Islamic terrorists continue to plot attacks within Saudi Arabia. Such terrorists have a hard time of it, as there are always enough Saudis willing to turn them in. A few active terrorist cells continue to survive. Senior clerics in Mecca then denounced such terrorism. Yet many of these same clerics still support the things like destroying Israel, expelling all non-Moslems from Saudi Arabia and forcibly converting Shia Moslems to the mainline Sunni form. The government tolerates some of this talk, and only comes down hard on those who advocate terror attacks on civilians anywhere, especially Western countries that buy Saudi oil, and sell it weapons, or inside Saudi Arabia itself.

Saudi religious conservatism takes some strange (to Westerners) forms. For example, mainline Saudi clerics can preach boycotts against Saudi businesses run by men who are clean shaven or smoke. While drinking alcohol is forbidden by Islamic law, smoking is in a gray area, as is being clean shaven. But Islamic purists insist the absence of a beard, or the presence of tobacco, is sinful, and should be punished. This type of religious zealotry is what enables Islamic terrorists to survive in Saudi Arabia. The government fears that there are still several groups that have surrounded themselves with a network of very religious, very loyal, and very secretive supporters. Within that network, new terror attacks are being planned.

The few Islamic terrorists that remain at large are desperate, dangerous and good at avoiding capture. The only acceptable outlet for their zealous urge to kill, is Iraq. So the government has reached another informal truce with Islamic radicals. They can live in Saudi Arabia as long as they remain quiet and non-violent. The government will not interfere with their traveling to Iraq to do a little jihad. Apparently, most of these fellows do not survive the process. The Saudi government has been helpful in trying to identify the bodies, so they can be returned to their families for burial. Family values and all that. Those who do come back, are usually questioned by the police, and some are placed under surveillance, or even arrested. Late last year, the Saudis arrested about 200 people who, while under surveillance, indicated that they were going to try and break the truce. They never got a chance, and the Saudi police want to keep it that way. Peace in the kingdom is considered a victory that can be savored day by day.

 


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