Monday, November 1, 2010
A Saudi Lesson
By Tariq Alhomayed
This opinion was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 1/11/2010
The ‘The New York Times’ newspaper was not exaggerating when it said that, had it not been for the effort of the Saudi security services, the plot to send terrorist parcels from Yemen to the United States would not have been thwarted. According to the newspaper, the world used to talk about potential terrorists coming from Saudi Arabia, but today it is talking about the excellence of Saudi security, and the importance of it in the battle against international terrorism.
The lesson learned from this Saudi achievement does not concern the discovery of terrorist operations before they occur, but rather the fundamental achievement here was confirmed clearly and unequivocally: [the mentality] of the Saudi security official. He believes in the nobility of his battle, and its justice, and therefore he continues to excel in the most difficult task in the fight against terrorism, namely obtaining information. Those in charge of Saudi security are responsible for this achievement.
One of the most significant problems in confronting terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world is the volume of discontent and systematic skepticism, from religious, political and media circles, regarding the nobility and legitimacy of the fight against terrorism. This leads security authorities in these countries to question the validity of their battle. This is evident in Yemen and Pakistan, and it is a result of the fact that some states have failed to convince their citizens, and security personnel, of the importance and credibility of the fight against terrorism. To combat this scourge is first and foremost in the interest of the homeland, but it also serves to protect religion, and furthermore, one the principle benefits [of combating terrorism internally] is that it prevents foreign forces from interfering, under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
Today we hear the Yemeni officials saying, after the incident involving the terrorist air packages, that they will not allow any foreign interference in their country. The problem that our Yemeni brothers have not understood is that no one craves for such intervention, but countries today, especially in the West, are preoccupied with domestic issues, like their economy, therefore what everybody wants from Yemen is to avoid the ills that originate from their homeland. Especially when it comes to non-complex issues, which brings up the question; how can an individual fool security by sending explosives hidden in computer printers from Sanaa to Chicago?
Therefore we can say that Saudi Arabia has provided a lesson in how to deal with the fight against terrorism. The lesson is that counter-terrorism can be effective when the security personnel believe in the importance and sanctity of their cause. Thus, Saudi security has come to the global forefront in the fight against terrorism, via its excellence in monitoring information. Approximately two weeks ago, France announced that Saudi security had warned their French counterparts of an imminent terrorist threat, and prior to this, the Saudis had already warned two other European countries about a forthcoming terrorist danger. Let us not forget, of course, that the Saudis claimed to have warned Britain [of an imminent threat] before the 7/7 terrorist attacks, and the outcry from the British press when such information was disregarded. However, we saw how the Americans took the Saudi information very seriously a few days ago, and moved quickly, in order to thwart the parcel bomb plot before it could occur. The world soon discovered that the Saudis were responsible for protecting international airports from a major terrorist disaster, which, had it occurred, would have resulted in great chaos, and harmed the international travel and aviation industry.
Therefore, the whole world today thanks the Saudis and their distinguished proficiency in the field of security. Subsequently, Saudi security now becomes a large and continuous challenge, as Saudi Arabia must continue to invest in security, personnel, and technology, to further its recruitment, training and development. Unfortunately for Saudi Arabia and the region, the battle against terrorism is still a long one.