Editorial: KSA’s key role in fighting terrorism

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Meeting of Ministers of the Global Coalition Against ISIL (Daesh) at the Pentagon in the United States on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 22 July 2016

Editorial: KSA’s key role in fighting terrorism

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been in Washington along with fellow defense ministers of all the United States’ key allies. They have held crucial meetings to consider the fight against terror. Their target is Daesh.
The terrorists are cornered in Iraq and Syria. But a key discussion in Washington has been as how also to corner the perverse ideology of terror. How do Daesh recruiters manage to turn the minds of young men from decent families? How can they inspire self-destructive nihilism in their supporters? How can their blasphemies find root in healthy, well-ordered Muslim communities?
The Kingdom has experienced the agony of the concerted Al-Qaeda terrorist campaign. It has also known the joy of victory. The Al-Qaeda menace was destroyed. That achievement owed much to the outstanding performance of the security forces. A vigilant public also played a crucial role. But often overlooked was the wise program of forgiveness and rehabilitation. This offered those ensnared in the terrorist trap a route back into society. If their contrition was genuine, their punishment was minimal. This far-sighted program also gave the security forces an intelligence bonanza. The information provided by these escapees from Al-Qaeda’s grip was invaluable. It helped the security forces roll up the networks and kill or capture their die-hard leaders.
For the last two years, US-led coalition air forces have mounted a devastating air campaign against Daesh. Saudi Arabia played its part in this campaign. There have been an average of 20 airstrikes every single day. This awesome firepower has degraded Daesh. Moving men and materiel within their territory has become increasingly hazardous. Repeatedly, signals intelligence has led to the targeting of terror leaders with precision-guided weaponry.
But the defense ministers in Washington recognized that brute force alone will not destroy Daesh. Terror has bred in the ruins of Iraq and Syria. As Daesh is driven out of more and more territory, funds are needed to help shattered communities restart their lives. A figure of $2 billion was mentioned in Washington. This is likely to be a mere downpayment. The destruction brought about by Daesh has been enormous.
But experience has shown, money alone does not defeat the hidden men of violence. The National Cohesion Program announced here in the Kingdom is a pioneering initiative that will be watched carefully around the world. It is an important measure that confronts extremism head-on. In carefully organized meeting all over the country everyone will be encouraged to understand the Daesh menace and the falseness of its siren calls.
The full extent of its deviant ideology will be laid bare. Its claims to legitimacy will be exposed. The manner in which it traduces the values of moderation and tolerance that underpin Islam will be set out clearly. Thought leaders, including teachers, intellectuals and journalists will be shown how they can help counter the terrorist message.
Just as important, the Cohesion program will explain the techniques that Daesh uses to recruit and brainwash its supporters. This is not the no-brainer it might seem. The terrorists are masters at exploiting piety and good intentions. This is of course particularly true of young people. The admirable idealism of youth is clearly vulnerable to the weasel words of Daesh scouts.
The National Cohesion Program can be seen as an extension of the physical fight against terrorists in the Kingdom. Public vigilance continues to be of great help to the security forces. It helped destroy Al-Qaeda’s operations in Saudi Arabia. It is helping now defeat Daesh.
The Cohesion initiative is taking that vigilance a step further. It is equipping everyone in the country with the tools to identify and combat the warped Daesh ideology. With a few psychopathic anti-social exceptions, terrorists are not born. They are made by a process of trickery and lies. The deviant Daesh message needs to be understood so that it can be countered effectively.
And there is another key benefit in the Cohesion Program. The Kingdom is once again under threat. The meetings will bring communities together to confront the danger. They will create an even stronger sense of national consciousness. Everyone who lives in Saudi Arabia has a role to play here. They are already alert for terrorist activity. Now that watchfulness can be extended to the behavior of friends and family. Troubled young people will know that they have somewhere to turn. If a Daesh recruiter begins to work on them, they will recognize the tricks and alert the authorities.

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.