Saudis Cracking Down on al Qaeda

StrategyPage — Saudis Offer Carrot and Stick to al Qaeda

Saudi Arabia has declared a “holy war” against the al Qaeda terrorists operating within the kingdom. The government is offering a limited amnesty to al Qaeda members who turn themselves in. The amnesty is limited in that the government would not prosecute, but, under Sharia (Islamic) law, which is the only law in the kingdom, the families of anyone killed by those turning themselves in would still be able to demand death for an al Qaeda murderer.

The government has taken advantage of the public disgust, and is asking citizens to provide information on known al Qaeda members, or anyone who seems to be involved in al Qaeda activity. The government has also pointed out that there has been no widespread penetration of the security services by al Qaeda. The police uniforms used by some al Qaeda can be bought in second hand clothing stores. In one instance, police raided an al Qaeda hideout and found uniforms in the process of being sewn together from easily obtainable components.

Islamic conservatism and radicalism is something that Arabia has always had to deal with. The method that has worked best over the centuries can be described as “carrot and stick.” In other words, make every effort to negotiate, or buy, your way out of Islamic radical demands. Then, after you have demonstrated your generosity and patience, savagely attack and kill those who still oppose your will. The style you employ to carry this out is important. You’ve got to hold on to the moral high ground, and have more firepower than your opponents. The al Saud family has managed to survive these attacks on their authority about once every generation or two. They will probably survive this one, although how they deal with the economic problems in the kingdom is as important to success as how they deploy their security forces.

The key is clearly the public. If disgust with the terrorists outweighs fear and/or admiration, the people will provide enough intelligence to ferret them out. Otherwise, this is a meaningless gesture.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.