After al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia takes on ISIS
The Islamic State (ISIS) has promised Saudi Arabia it would carry out more deadly attacks in the kingdom in the near future. This warning comes on the heels of the bombing of a mosque on August 6th. The bomb, detonated in a police complex, killed 15 people. The ISIS warning came in an audio recording released on the internet.
The unidentified voice on the recording said Saudi rulers and troops “will not enjoy peace” for taking part in the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.
The attack in the town of Abha was one of the deadliest against Saudi Arabia’s security personnel in years. Most of the victims were members or recruits of the kingdom’s special forces, a group that played a crucial role in defeating terrorist activities and dismantling terrorist cells operating in the kingdom.
The renewed threats against the kingdom are history repeating itself. Saudi Arabia is re-living the nightmare it went through following the first Gulf War when the kingdom allowed US and other foreign troops to prepare the assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait from Saudi territory.
At that time, tens of thousands of troops from the United States, Britain and France, as well as several other countries, arrived in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the thrust into Kuwait to push back Saddam Hussein’s troops.
It was reported, according to sources well informed on matters relating to the palace, that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had approached the Saudi king asking him not to allow the “infidels” in the land of the two holy mosques. Bin Laden, according to the sources, offered to use his Afghan Arabs recently returned from Afghanistan following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Again, according to the same source, the Saudi king laughed at the proposal.
The rest was history. And now history appears to repeat itself, which it often does.
The kingdom allowed the anti- Saddam coalition to form and to launch from Saudi Arabia the liberation of Kuwait. What followed was a spate of terrorism directed at Saudi Arabia for which Saudi authorities were ill-prepared. But the Saudis did not give in. They doubled their efforts and special anti-terrorism units were formed.
These special forces were trained in the latest and most advanced techniques in combating terrorism from elite groups from France, Britain, Germany and the United States.
Eventually Saudi authorities managed to defeat the terror campaign and were successful in dismantling many militant groups, which were part of al-Qaeda. Now it seems as though the desert kingdom is faced once again with the problem of having to battle home-grown terrorism.
How will fighting ISIS compare to fighting al-Qaeda? Although many members of the Saudi-based ISIS are very likely former al-Qaeda militants, ISIS is going to be a harder nut to crack. Their tactics are tougher, more deadly and more difficult to track down. Overall it will be a far deadlier game between the two sides.
It is not surprising therefore that one of the first targets chosen by ISIS was a special services unit.
Basically, what this means is that an all-out war can now be expected between Saudi Arabia and ISIS.
Can Saudi Arabia use the same tactics they used to defeat al-Qaeda in the kingdom?
ISIS would be looking closely at every operation to study and learn what mistakes were committed by al-Qaeda and avoid making the same ones going forward. Likewise, Saudi Arabia’s special forces will be looking to see where they can perfect operations and become more effective.
In either case this promises to be a challenging time in the Arabian peninsula as in the rest of the Middle East.