ISIS’s desperate attacks in Saudi Arabia

The two attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community within a week is clear proof that there is a concerted plan by terrorists

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

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The two attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community within a week is clear proof that there is a concerted plan by terrorist groups to create divisions within the country.

The greatest threat to the Arab world today is sectarianism. Politicians in this part of the world have been using religious arguments for years to guarantee loyalty from their followers. This is the same method employed by terrorists, which has been quite effective, particularly with young people.

The dispute between Sunnis and Shiites is essentially about political power, much like the one between Catholics and Protestants going back to the early 17th century. Disgruntled Catholics protesting the church’s hegemony created the Protestant movement.

The dispute

The dispute started with a minor war in 1618 in Germany, which unleashed a living hell for people in Europe over 30 years, with the death of millions on the battlefield and from starvation and disease. Germany lost seven million of its 20 million population, while the Czech lands lost 30 percent of their people. The war resulted in religious reform in Europe but at a costly price.

It is a given that politics involves disputes over ideology, like the arguments that has raged about capitalism and communism, for instance. However, these clashes become particularly pronounced when religion is involved, particularly in less educated and cloistered communities.

Mature countries have over the years recognized this danger and sought to resolve disputes diplomatically. They have focused on growing their economies. This has led to several nations forming economic blocs to raise their standard of living.

Shared interests

In contrast, the Arab world is being torn apart by sectarian conflict, in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In Yemen, Iran has used the sectarian card to advance its own interests. ISIS is benefitting the most from these disputes. It has now targeted Saudi Arabia after Operation Decisive Storm stopped Iran’s expansion. ISIS and Iran clearly have shared interests in parts of the Arab world.

Iran and ISIS are committing a major political blunder by attempting to threaten Saudi Arabia on its home soil. ISIS has in fact revealed its hand by identifying those involved in these attacks. It is now clear to everyone that it is using Saudi citizens to foment sectarian conflict.

But unlike Syria, Saudi Arabia has strong security and internal cohesion, making it difficult to create anarchy in the country. Terrorism spreads ideally in failed or semi-failed states that do not have strong central governments. This has not been the case with Saudi Arabia, which has been effectively combating terror groups since the mid-nineties.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and interior minister, recently sent out a clear message to terror outfits seeking to sow dissension that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate such behavior on its soil. This was made during a meeting with a citizen who had been injured in the al-Qadeeh mosque attack.

This is not to say that terror attacks are not possible in the country. However, it has become abundantly clear that they are increasingly desperate attempts to undermine the nation’s unity.

The recent crises has shown the true mettle of the Kingdom and its sister nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council. They have taken the opportunity to build an even stronger alliance, as shown by the coalition formed to launch Operation Decisive Storm.

By taking the fight to their enemies, Saudis have demonstrated that they are far from the stereotypical simple desert people who had suddenly found modernity after the discovery of oil. This is a nation built by its founding fathers on the principles of solidarity and unity, which its people would protect with their lives.

This article was first published in Arab News on June 3, 2015.


Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi

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