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.