If you told a foreign journalist, between the years 2003 and 2006, that Saudi Arabia will defeat terrorism, he would have cynically smiled hinting that this is impossible.
Riyadh’s streets were witness to shocking scenes as vehicles with flashing light and heavy weapons roamed neighborhoods following fierce raids. Men were decapitated and their heads were placed in fridges at homes right near drinking bottles. Terror cells had woken up from their slumber like monsters across Saudi Arabia.
As this was a common sight, this or that journalist would not have believed you. Another reason they will not believe you is their lack of faith in the local forces’ capability to fight terrorists and renewing their planning and tactical methods when cracking down on terrorism.
In 2006, all al-Qaeda leaders, from Yusef al-Ayeri to Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, Turki al-Dandani, Faisal al-Dakhil, Nimr al-Baqmi and others, were eliminated and hundreds of others were arrested. Al-Qaeda plots were thus nipped in the bud and the group’s remnants sought places to hide in Yemen.
It was a unique experience for Saudi Arabia and the world has not forgotten about it. This was the most significant experience in terms of combating terrorism in the region and perhaps in the entire world.
During the joint meeting of Gulf foreign and defense ministers in Riyadh, in the presence of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ministers confirmed that security-related matters are the most difficult for countries in the region and that it is impossible to achieve welfare and stability without it.
Saudi Arabia believes that preemptive action is essential in fight against terrorism. It started to believe in it particularly after it suffered at the hands of those who returned from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and SyriaTurki Aldakhil
A relentless campaign has been going on against terrorism. The interior ministry carries out combing operations in the kingdom and disciplines terrorist infiltrators at the borders while the defense ministry leads the alliance that consists of 40 countries and participates in the international coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Saudi Arabia believes that preemptive action is essential in fight against terrorism. It started to believe in it particularly after it suffered at the hands of those who returned from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Syria. Most al-Qaeda leaders carried out their experiments there. The basic solution thus lies in eliminating cells where they are before they turn into a fatal disease.
Few days ago, a CNN report urged Donald Trump’s administration to follow Saudi Arabia’s suit in terms of its fierce battle against terrorism and to adopt its approach in combating terrorist groups that Washington is fighting in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The report said: “Central to the program is the philosophy that raw firepower is not enough; the government must win the public theological battle against the misguided interpretations of Sunni Islam by ISIS and al-Qaeda. Such strategic thinking has led to various “soft” anti-terror initiatives by various Saudi government agencies. For instance, a new border security program is being launched that will cover 900 kilometers of the northern frontier of the kingdom with Iraq to prevent infiltration by ISIS-affiliated fighters. Further, the Saudi government has made it a crime for anyone to support ISIS and al- Qaeda and has blocked all support – including funding – from inside the kingdom. These strict controls have forced ISIS and al Qaeda operatives to self-fund from Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi and other Gulf sources. Hence, targeting these funding sources has become a central objective of the Saudi counterterrorism program.”
The report is supported by statements made by top officials in the US and European countries, which believe that Saudi Arabia is the most prominent ally in the war against terrorism considering its experience and capabilities. Saudi Arabia has, through the Arab coalition, contributed to targeting al-Qaeda leaders and members in Yemen.
Some are bidding on Saudi Arabia in this war on terrorism and these bids fall within the context of “political propaganda” which is adopted by the terrorist resistance axis that is killing children using chemical weapons.
Saudi Arabia’s experience in confronting and combating terrorism may be incomplete but considering how seriously the country is targeted and all the pressure on it, it is so far the most successful and most comprehensive experience. Security is the sustenance of humanity in the years to follow. I hope we don’t reach a phase when security is “rarer than red sulfur!”
The article was first published in Al Sharq al-Awsat on May 2, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.