War on terrorism fought the symptoms, not the cause

War on terrorism fought the symptoms, not the cause

War on terrorism fought the symptoms, not the cause
Popular Mobilization Unit fighters flash the victory sign as they advance through a street in the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Aug. 26, 2017. (AFP)
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Sept. 11 is a date that the world knows as a reminder of the terrorist attacks that took place in the US in 2001, which were directed primarily at civilians and used civilian aircraft.
It is considered that this day made the entire world aware of the dangers and atrocities of terrorism and demonstrated the importance of solidarity to confront it by all means, including military, political and, of course, security, including intelligence. There is no doubt that terrorism and its threat at that time shuffled the cards and made countries move away from one another, placing obstacles and tightening procedures to prevent such an attack from happening again. But that alone was not enough and we are now here talking about the 20 years that have passed since these tragic events and how to deal with them.
There is no doubt that these attacks were horrific and cowardly. Their aim was not only terrorist, but also political. Whoever prepared these operations aimed at igniting wars and stoking strife on religious grounds, as well as striking alliances and driving a wedge between an important country in the region, Saudi Arabia, and the US. Their alliance has, for decades, stopped the ambitions of many countries within the Middle East, such as Iran, and major countries like the former Soviet Union from interfering in the region, destabilizing its security and changing its political maps and economic interests.
There is no doubt these dimensions are no less important than the military aspect in facing the threat of terrorism. When the real and deep dimensions of such colossal operations are decoded, it appears that it is impossible for a terrorist group to carry them out. Most of such groups’ members live in caves and have not mastered much knowledge or many skills, including the political dimensions, as most are mere tools that are sometimes deceived on ideological grounds.
In any case, we are still talking about 9/11 even after 20 years and we are still shocked and we are still thinking about how, why and where, among other questions. Real questions remain that need answers.
Has the war on terrorism worked? Did everyone contribute to confronting terrorism? And has it really been confronted at all?
Here we are specifically trying to review the war on terrorism, which was launched by the US with two wars on two Middle Eastern countries. The first of which was Afghanistan, which was a war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Here we know that their initial defeat was inevitable. After that, the Taliban moved to Iran, where they were embraced by the regime. Tehran is a safe haven for them.
However, the situation today is returning to that of pre-2001, with the Taliban returning, even if there is an agreement between them and the US. But it now appears that there is a group that operates from Afghan territory that is even more dangerous and powerful than Al-Qaeda — Daesh-Khorasan, which last month carried out an attack on Kabul airport that killed dozens, including US soldiers and Taliban members, as well as Afghan civilians.
The other war that was launched was on Iraq on the pretext of eliminating weapons of mass destruction, but that was a complete lie. It destroyed an Arab country, its army and its security. Unfortunately, this war on Iraq is what awakened terrorism there and allowed the presence of many members of Al-Qaeda and later Daesh, the latter of which was only eliminated with the formation of an international coalition. But the danger of Al-Qaeda is not comparable with the danger of the Iraqi militias affiliated with Tehran, which are in their dozens. They have carried out many attacks on American bases in Iraq, in addition to the American Embassy in Baghdad. These terrorist militias have persecuted Iraqis, carrying out kidnappings or assassinations of anyone who opposes their presence. They have also intervened in neighboring countries in an effort to destabilize them, fighting in Syria and other hotbeds of conflict in the region in favor of the Tehran regime. In other words, Iraq has been handed over to Iranian terror.
It is clear that there are countries in our region that have contributed to the war on terrorism, the first of which is Saudi Arabia, whose lands were exposed to this threat long before the US was. The Kingdom was one of the first countries to be affected by terrorism and to confront it seriously. Many believe that the 9/11 attacks were the beginning of global terrorism, forgetting that Saudi Arabia had already been subjected to dozens of terrorist attacks, most notably the bombing of a residential complex in the city of Alkhobar in 1996. The Kingdom has also faced numerous terrorist attacks since 9/11, starting with Al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, followed by other terrorist organizations in Al-Awamiyah in the east of the country, and finally Daesh.
The Kingdom’s experience in confronting the phenomenon of terrorism is a model to be followed, and it has received local and international praise due to its high-security experience that has enabled it to defeat terrorism. Saudi Arabia has also been able to prevent many terrorist operations with pre-emptive strikes. It has foiled more than 95 percent of terrorist operations, according to a security strategy that has won the appreciation of the entire world. That is why many observers believe that the Kingdom’s experience in combating terrorism and detecting terrorist plots before their implementation give it unprecedented superiority over many advanced countries that have suffered from terrorist attacks for decades.
On the international level, the Kingdom has actively contributed to regional and global meetings related to combating terrorism and criminalizing terrorist acts in all their forms. This has been embodied in many initiatives and contributions, including the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, which uses security, intelligence and political cooperation to combat religious extremist terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most important members of the Global Coalition Against Daesh. It has also established an Islamic military alliance, the first of its kind, based in Riyadh. This comprises 41 Islamic countries and helps them coordinate and support each other as they join the international effort to combat terrorism and maintain international peace and security.
In its long war against terrorism, the Kingdom has carried out parallel efforts and plans that were not limited to the security aspect. They include intellectual, social and awareness projects, and counseling, containment and care committees for the deceived victims of extremism groups. It has also enacted a number of laws that contribute to protecting society from the effects of extremism.
These efforts are represented in two important centers: The Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, and Etidal, the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. The former is a unique model that reflects the quality of care and attention given by the Kingdom to detainees. It has received remarkable attention from security services and officials from countries around the world.

The danger of Al-Qaeda is not comparable with the danger of the Iraqi militias affiliated with Tehran.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

Etidal, which is the first center of its kind to track and combat terrorist financing, whether at the level of individuals or organizations, offers an enlightened vision for uprooting extremist thought. It was established in Riyadh as part of a US-Gulf partnership and decisions are not issued by it until after information is shared between all the founding parties. It is the first international gathering to confront the sources of intellectual extremism, monitor the most common languages and dialects of extremists, track all their financial and banking sources and their real estate, and work with specialists to combat intellectual extremism in all its forms.
Not only that but, on behalf of the world, Saudi Arabia now has nearly six years of fighting alongside the legitimate Yemeni government against the Houthi terrorist militia, which recruits children, kidnaps journalists, arrests women, and even sends booby-trapped planes in their thousands to target the interior of Yemen, as well as Saudi Arabia. The Houthi militia is considered the first terrorist group to possess ballistic missiles, which it has used to kill civilians in Yemen and also to target Saudi Arabia.
Houthi terrorism is more dangerous than Daesh terrorism, as the group possesses weapons that no other terrorist militia has. It threatens maritime navigation through some of the busiest straits in the world. If it were not for the role played by the Kingdom on behalf of the international community, there would have been many more disasters, security incidents and maritime threats, as well as a greater spread of Iranian terrorism. The strange thing is that a new American administration has come in and removed the Houthis from the list of designated terrorist organizations. These are the Houthis, who steal humanitarian aid, destroy Yemen and prolong the war, all while failing to value international norms or laws.
So the war on terrorism can be considered an unbalanced war; a war on the symptoms of a disease, such as Daesh and others, leaving the main problem of the Iranian regime and its militias unpunished.

  • Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @DrHamsher7
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