Once again, Saudi Arabia is on the terrorism frontline

Multiple suicide bombings leave no doubt that Saudi Arabia is in clear and present danger from terrorism

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Published: Updated:

Multiple suicide bombings in the Saudi cities of Jeddah, Medina and Qatif over the past 24 hours leave no doubt that Saudi Arabia is once again on the forefront of the global battle against terrorism. Saudi authorities responsible for internal security must be praised for their efforts in containing yesterday's triple threat, however extremist tendencies, so global support and an extra counterterrorism push are absolutely necessary now.

Saudi Arabia has for long been fighting terrorism at home, notably since 2004. Not too many people would remember that it has successfully fought off al-Qaeda internally and that the country’s interior minister, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef who is acknowledged worldwide for his efforts, almost lost his life in this fight.

Military efforts aside, the kingdom actively sought to dry out terrorism funding and has received much praised from allies such as the US for its cooperation on this front.

This makes it obvious that it is the tough position taken by Saudi Arabia on terrorism, which has made the country the target for terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, both of which have named the kingdom as an enemy.

Attacks carried out on Monday have the fingerprints of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has pushed to create as much regional chaos as possible during Ramadan and into Eid.

For now, Saudi Arabia may be in ISIS’s crosshairs, and must be protected at all costs

Dr. Theodore Karasik

ISIS claimed a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed more than 200 people, as well as the recent attacks in Bangladesh and at Istanbul airport. In addition, security services and police interrupted a major plot by three ISIS cells in Kuwait.

These attacks illustrate that extremists are likely to target other Gulf states in the short term, so extra vigilance, intelligence and police work are necessary. With ongoing anti-ISIS operations in Libya and the Levant, the group is losing territory, so it is exacting revenge during a very critical time of the Islamic calendar. By combining battlefield defeats with successful terrorist attacks, ISIS is able to up its game with deadly effect.

What next?

What happens next is important for policymakers and stakeholders. Firstly, ISIS attacks in Saudi Arabia may raise risks for potential foreign investors. The group realizes this, and is likely to act accordingly sooner rather than later. Mitigation procedures by Saudi security services and police are paramount.

Second, ISIS will make itself felt globally now, with violent attacks against many different types of targets besides those in the kingdom. These attacks can occur anywhere in the world. Its adherents are out in force and ready to fight to the death. If ISIS is forced out of the Levant or Libya, its fighters will migrate to other locations. That fact illustrates the problems in mitigating and reversing its sick ideology.

Finally, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) needs a jump start to a new reality. As ISIS spreads beyond its so-called caliphate, what is required is a new focus on where adherents will find new ungovernable areas to operate, or urban areas in which to attack popular commercial sites, sporting events, nightclubs and other soft targets. What happens if its adherents attack a target in Latin America? Is the CVE community prepared for this possibility?

The United States and Saudi Arabia, plus their allies and partners in counterterrorism, are continuing their robust cooperation and intelligence-sharing. The fight behind the scenes is as important as the public display of the ongoing fight against extremism. For now, Saudi Arabia may be in ISIS’s crosshairs, and must be protected at all costs.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans. He tweets @tkarasik

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