Europe should study the Saudis’ example in fighting terror

Friday 01/04/2016
Saudis showed exceptional skill in penetrating AQIA cells

The terrorist attacks in Brussels should serve as a message to the governments of Western Europe even more than the outrages in Paris last November to shake up their security services and get their houses in order.

The highly successful Saudi example of combating al-Qaeda and related extremists teaches many lessons that the Europeans desperately need to emulate.

First, that the March 22nd attacks targeted Brussels is of enormous importance: The terrorists humiliated the European Union and NATO in their host city. Multinational organisations cannot combat international terrorism effectively. Strong national governments working in close cooperation with each other are needed to do that.

Saudi Arabia’s experience, starting with the response to the Riyadh compound bombings in 2003, shows that given sufficient national will borders can be defended and terrorist organisations can be stopped in their tracks.

In the five years after the Riyadh compound attacks, as I document in my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), to be appointed operational head of al-Qaeda in Arabia (AQIA) was a literal death sentence. The Saudi security forces routinely hunted down and killed about half a dozen such commanders in rapid succession. They proved that repeated decapitation of terrorist leaderships, combined with other efforts, can and does work.

Second, the Saudis showed exceptional skill in penetrating AQIA cells and, by using the intelligence gained and reacting quickly, were able to thwart attacks.

Third, national security services in the West need to learn to respect their opposite numbers far more in Muslim countries as well as elsewhere. All the talk about international cooperation is hollow hypocrisy if key officials involved are so filled with religious and racial prejudice against Saudis, Turks, Egyptians, Jordanians and even Russians that they do not respect the people sharing the information and fail to act on warnings.

We now know that Turkey’s security services had warned the Belgians about the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks but no action was taken.

Similarly, in the 2003-05 period, Saudi security services and diplomats repeatedly warned the British government of Tony Blair about the extremist preachers they were complacently allowing to operate before the 7/7 London attacks in 2005.

Also, the Russians wanted to extradite the Tsarnaev brothers from the United States but their request was shrugged off, leaving Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev free to perpetrate the Boston Marathon attack in 2013.

Fourth, Saudi Arabia has invested considerable resources in increasing its land border security forces and defences. The need for this was recognised when it became clear that US policies in Iraq following the 2003 invasion were generating increased chaos in that unfortunate country, giving jihadist groups a chance to establish themselves on a scale they had never managed before. We have since seen the same phenomenon in Syria and Iraq.

Fifth, and crucially, the Western European countries need to boost their efforts to absorb and work with the vast majority of Muslim immigrants in their countries.

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out in a speech in California on March 23rd, the day after the Brussels attacks, that the New York Police Department has 1,000 Muslim officers and that Muslim communities in Western countries when engaged constructively provide the first, best line of defence and early warning against terrorists.

This is a reality the British security services in particular have clearly recognised since the 7/7 attacks nearly 11 years ago.

There is never going to be any perfect defence against terrorist attacks in any modern country but applying these five vital lessons from the Saudi example would help enormously.