Counterterrorism Efforts in Arabia

An often overlooked theater in the war against al Qaeda’s global network is right in the heart of the Middle East on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is a troubled ally in the War on Terror, as their internal politics and government support of the radical Wahabi strain of Islam often conflicts with fighting al Qaeda’s support mechanisms within the country. However their efforts killing or capturing al Qaeda members in the kingdom cannot be questioned.

This week, Saudi security forces killed two senior members of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Abdel-Rahman al-Mutab and Mohammed al-Suwailmi. They were the number four and seven on the Saudi’s latest most wanted list. Security Watchtower’s C.S. Scott keeps a running graphic of the Saudi’s efforts against al Qaeda, and notes “All told, 55 of the 74 most wanted have been killed or captured, including 44 of the top 45.”

Counterterrorism expert Evan Kohlmann notes Mohammed al-Suwailmi recently praised Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s commander in Iraq, and actually received assistance from Zarqawi. In what Mr. Kohlmann describes as “a defiant audio recording on the Internet” al-Suwailmi stated, “The mujahideen will never forget the group of the faithful who stood beside them and supported them… Among those is my mujahid brother Abu Musab al-Zarqawi-may Allah protect him and use him to spread frustration amongst his enemies. [Abu Musab] did not hesitate even for a second to support and assist the mujahideen in [Saudi Arabia]. I ask Allah to grant victory upon him and his brothers in Mesopotamia and to grant honor and dignity upon Islam.”

In Kuwait, six terrorists of the al Qaeda linked “Peninsula Lions” were sentenced to death, and thirty-one were given jail terms for deadly attacks in the country. The nationalities of those sentenced highlights the global nature of al Qaeda; “They include 25 Kuwaitis, seven stateless Arabs, two Jordanians, a Saudi, an Australian and a Somali.”

An attempted prison break in Iraq which included “some of the most violent of Iraq’s insurgents” also reinforces the global nature of the jihad, as “A Russian, a Tunisian and a Saudi were involved” in the uprising.

The fight against al Qaeda’s global network of jihad will not be won by U.S. efforts alone. The Arabian Peninsula is a central recruiting ground for al Qaeda’s foot soldiers and leaders. Less than fully committed allies, such as Saudi Arabia, must continue to target the networks of al Qaeda, but also need to push further with political reforms and clamp down on the inciteful rhetoric which emanates from its mosques and schools.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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