KSA shows the way to combat terror

Updated 06 May 2016

KSA shows the way to combat terror

Fighting terrorism is a war of many battles. It is a tough slog against a hidden enemy. The key is to wrest the initiative from the terrorist. The fight must be taken to them.
Saudi Arabia is showing the world how to do this successfully. It has just arrested Oqab Al-Otaibi, the number five on its “Most Wanted” list. Last week, a terror attack in the southwestern Bisha province was foiled by alert security personnel. Two terrorists were shot dead.
The Kingdom has learned the hard way. Al-Qaeda opened its terror campaign here in November 1995 with a car bombing at the National Guard HQ in Riyadh. Five Americans and two Indians died. Worse was to come in the following years. But with each new outrage, the security forces understood better the nature of their enemy. By 2009 the back of the terror campaign had been broken. The success had been achieved by a combination of intelligence and public vigilance. The authorities did not allow their guard to drop. In 2012, eight people were arrested in Riyadh and Jeddah where they were planning a new bombing campaign.
It was only in 2015 when a new enemy in the shape of Daesh emerged that the terrorist emergency returned. Inevitably, the initiative once again lay with the attackers. The security forces had to start afresh to identify new networks. Daesh had learned lessons too. It had seen how Al-Qaeda had been crushed in the Kingdom. It sought to operate in tighter cells. It strengthened its communications. It pressed home six attacks last year, killing 37 people, the majority of them policemen.
But it had underestimated the Kingdom. The intelligence-led security machine that had beaten Al-Qaeda once again went into overdrive. So far this year there have been only two major attacks. Both were in January. No one is claiming that Daesh has yet been defeated. As long as it maintains its power base in Syria and Iraq, all neighboring states remain under threat. And even when Daesh-held territory has been overrun, the threat will not have gone away. Yet the Saudi defeat of Daesh in the Kingdom is as inevitable as that of Al-Qaeda.
It is not simply the efficiency of our security forces. It is not simply the high state of alert to which members of the public have returned. What will also defeat Daesh is the math. Their suicide bombers may kill dozens. Their gunmen may shoot down more. But in the end, Daesh faces the same problem as terrorists have always faced. They and their murderous tactics are confronted by an insuperable number of decent people. Every terrorist crime is an isolated outrageous act. Its consequences are of course greatest among the family and friends of the victims. But for the rest of the Kingdom as with any other civilized state, the reaction is one of cold fury. How dare these creatures seek to disrupt a peaceful and stable state.
Terrorists are all about terror. They imagine that they can inspire such fear that society collapses before them. It is a delusion. But it is a deadly delusion for innocent people while the terrorists try to slaughter with the aim to grab power.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address, people have nothing to fear but fear itself. There is one important lesson the Kingdom is sharing with the rest of the world. It is that populations must not give the terrorists a first victory by being terrorized.
On top of this, Saudi security forces have been eager to set in place the regular interchange of intelligence with the rest of the world. The terror threat is global. It cannot be defeated piecemeal.
Nothing better illustrates this than the UN Counter-Terrorism Center in New York. Started with $100 million from the Kingdom, it is dedicated to exposing shadowy terror networks by the efficient and timely exchange of data. Snippets of information are aggregated to produce a bigger intelligence picture. Little by little the terrorists and their plans are unmasked.
In these circumstances, it is unbelievable that the Kingdom is still criticized for its counterterrorism work. Saudi Arabia arguably has the greatest insights into the secret menace of terror. It won this understanding in a long and bitter fight against Al-Qaeda here in the Kingdom. It will win the battle against Daesh as well. And meanwhile it will give every assistance to other countries in their own counterterror campaigns.

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.