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ISIS, Qaeda exploiting Yemen chaos to infiltrate Saudi Arabia

Authors of Path of Blood maintain that global terror is an entirely new threat and policing it has proved to be harder than anticipated

Ehtesham Shahid

Published: Updated:

Terror organizations al-Qaeda and ISIS are exploiting the state of chaos in Yemen and use the country as a base to infiltrate Saudi Arabia, authors of a famous book on the subject have said.

Thomas Small and Jonathan Hacker – co-authors of Path of Blood: The Story of Al Qaeda's War on the House of Saud – told Al Arabiya English that ISIS is changing as a result of the campaigns against them while al-Qaeda has been taking advantage of a lesser spotlight on them.

“Losing ground in Syria and Iraq, they are expanding into areas further and further afield from the Middle East,” Thomas Small said.

“Though the two groups argue over strategy and leadership, and because ISIS is now seen as the more barbaric of the two, al-Qaeda has managed to position itself, oddly enough, as a more “moderate” face of global jihadism,” he said.

According to Jonathan Hacker, both al-Qaeda and ISIS are exploiting the chaos in Yemen and use the country as a base to infiltrate Saudi Arabia. “Every year there are four or five attempted or successful bombings in the Kingdom. The problem has not gone away,” Hacker said.

Attacks imminent?

Thomas Small emphasized that there is a lot of growing evidence that another campaign against Saudi Arabia, launched by ISIS or al-Qaeda or both, could be imminent.

“Taking over the Two Holy Mosques and wresting control of the Kingdom’s oil revenues remains a chief objective of both groups. The Saudi government must remain vigilant,” said Small.

Small maintains that global “jihadism” is an entirely new kind of threat to the international community and policing it has proved to be harder than anyone anticipated.

“Rather than laying the blame for that on the counterterrorism campaign itself, we tend to focus instead on the durability of the ideology: both hard measures and soft have failed to curb its attractiveness to a significant number of Muslims, and solving that problem will remain very difficult,” he said.

“It is essential to think about how to combat the ideology. It cannot be done without engaging fully with the communities from which ISIS and al-Qaeda recruit,” Hacker added.

Top counterterrorism agency

Asked about how Saudi Arabia has managed to prevent major attacks so far, Small said that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) is one of the world’s top counterterrorism agencies.

He said that their policing, without a doubt, has played a huge role in limiting the number of terrorist attacks on Saudi soil in recent years.

According to Jonathan Hacker, ISIS seems more on the front foot than al- Qaeda yet it has continued to bomb Saudi, albeit at a low level.

“The coordinated attacks of 4th July, attributed to ISIS, are just the latest in a series of attacks that seem to be designed to keep their organization’s name in the headlines. Last year there were bomb attacks on 22 May, 29 May, 6 Aug, and 26 October,” Hacker added.