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Egypt and Saudi Arabia Battle the Jihadist Current

Egypt and Saudi Arabia Battle the Jihadist Current

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By: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
By: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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Published by: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on May 01, 2014
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12/20/2014

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 Egypt and Saudi Arabia Battle the Jihadist Current
By: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
 
Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 14, No. 11 April 23, 2014
 
Following the lead of Egypt, Saudi Arabia has decided to join the battle against
 jihadists
 in the Middle East, where movements led by al-Qaeda and Iran strive to topple the ruling Arab regimes. The leading regimes realize that these movements have a common goal: to destroy the prevailing political order and replace it with either a Sunni caliphate based on the strictest interpretation ofIslamic law or a state modeled after the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran.
 
Saudi Arabia‟s decisions to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and
downgrade diplomatic ties with Qatar to protest its support for the Brotherhood mark an
important turning point in the kingdom‟s approach to international terrorism.
 
 
To contain negative influences and counter the threat to the regime‟s stability stemming from the “Arab Spring,” Saudi Arabia has initiated economic and social reforms. It has also started
to take action against the global
 jihad 
‟s funding sources, primarily wealthy citizens in the
kingdom itself, and has further increased intelligence cooperation with the United States.
 
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are incensed over Qatar‟s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. They are also offended by Qatar‟s giving asylum to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, an influential
Egyptian cleric and staunch critic of both the Egyptian and Saudi regimes. Qatar has given Qaradawi free rein on its influential satellite channel Al Jazeera.
 
Qatar has also granted asylum to a former Israeli Arab Member of Knesset who is wanted in
Israel for subversive activities, „Azmi Beshara, and appointed
 him adviser to the ruling emir and director-general of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (known as the Doha
Institute). The Egyptians and the Saudis want Qatar to close Beshara‟s Doha Institute for its
seditious publications and activities.
The Leading Regimes in the Arab World Mobilize to Counter Extreme Islamic Movements
Following the lead of Egypt and other Arab states, Saudi Arabia has decided to join the battle against
 jihadists
 in the Middle East and North Africa, where movements led by al-Qaeda and Iran strive to undermine Arab regimes and topple the ruling elites. Three years after the outbreak of
 
what romantics called the “Arab Spring,” the leading regimes in the Arab world have mobilized to
counter the anarchy sown by extreme Islamic movements. The ruling Arab elites realize that the movements led by al-Qaeda or Iran have a common goal: to destroy the prevailing political order in the Middle East and, where appropriate, replace it with either a Sunni caliphate based on the strictest interpretation of
 shari’a
 (Islamic law), or a state modeled after the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi Arabia Targets Al-Qaeda
In an unprecedented decision, on March 7, 2014, the Saudi kingdom formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization,
1
 just four months after the army-backed government in Cairo did the same in December after accusing the Brotherhood of a suicide bomb attack on a  police station that killed sixteen. The Saudi kingdom has also given the terrorist-group designation to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (in Arabic,
 Daesh
), and the Al-Nusra Front whose fighters are waging a merciless war against the Assad regime in Syria. The Saudi Interior Ministry also listed
as terrorist organizations Yemen‟s Shiite Houthi movement and Hizbullah in Saudi Arabia‟s
Eastern Province, an offspring of the pro-Iranian Lebanese Hizbullah.
The Saudi Interior Ministry‟s regulations include far 
-reaching provisions that authorities can use to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its
understanding of Islam, as stated in Article 1 of the royal decree that prohibits “Calling for atheist
thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which
this country is based.”
 Besides banning the abovementioned organizations, Saudi Arabia has called on all its citizens fighting in foreign wars to return within the next few weeks or face up to twe
nty years‟
imprisonment. This reflects concern that young Saudis with battle experience in Syria will come home to target the ruling Al-Saud royal family, as occurred in the cases of the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq. Saudi Arabia‟s religious authorities ha
ve spoken out against Saudis going to Syria to fight, but the Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 have done so nonetheless. The kingdom has also approved new legislation that criminalizes raising, receiving, offering, holding, or transferring money to individuals or groups designated as terrorist. The Interior Ministry emphasized that the royal decree would apply to both Saudis and foreign residents who  joined, endorsed, or gave moral or material aid to groups it classifies as terrorist or extremist,
whether inside or outside the country. The decree also asserts that “those who insult other countries and their leaders” or attend gatherings inside or outside Saudi Arabia that threaten
security and stability and spread sedition, would be punished by law. Article 4 places outside the law anyone who:
…aids [“terrorist”] organizations, groups, currents [of thought], associations, or parties, or
demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom; this includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or
 
circulating their contents in any form, or using slogans of these groups and currents [of thought], or any symbols which point to support or sympathy with them.
Anger over Qatar’s Support for the Muslim Brotherhood
 
At the same time and in an exceptional move, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, saying Doha had violated an agreement not to
interfere in each other‟s internal affairs. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are incensed over Qatar‟s
support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
They are also offended by Qatar‟s adoption of Shei
kh Yusuf Qaradawi, the notorious president of
the World Muslim „Ulema Association, an influential Egyptian cleric and staunch critic of both
the Egyptian and Saudi regimes. Qatar has given Qaradawi asylum and a free rein on its influential satellite channel Al Jazeera. Qatar has also granted asylum to a former Israeli Arab Member of Knesset who is wanted in Israel
for subversive activities, „Azmi Beshara, and appointed him to the very significant positions of
adviser to the ruling emir and director-general of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (also known as the Doha Institute).
A Turning Point for Saudi Policy
Saudi Arabia‟s decisions to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and downgrade
diplomatic ties with Qatar to protest its support for the Brotherhood mark an important turning
 point in the kingdom‟s approach to international terrorism. The Saudi government had been the main financial backer of Afghanistan‟s Taliban since at least 1996. It has also channeled funds to
Hamas and other groups that have committed terrorist acts in Israel and other parts of the Middle East.
Moreover, the Saudi monarchy has funded schools and “charities” throughout the Islamic world
that have been centers of anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Israeli indoctrination.
2
 The schools, for example, not only indoctrinate students in a virulent and extreme form of Islam, but also teach them to hate Western secular values. They are also taught that the United States is (along with Israel) the fulcrum of infidel power in the world and the enemy of Islam. Graduates of these schools are often recruited by al-Qaeda and other
 jihadist 
 groups.
To contain negative influences and counter the threat to the regime‟s stability stemming from the “Arab Spring,” Saudi Arab
ia has initiated economic and social reforms. It has also started to take action against the global
 jihad 
‟s funding sources, primarily wealthy citizens in the kingdom itself,
and has further increased intelligence cooperation with the United States after the latter criticized
the kingdom‟s meager efforts in this regard.
 In the past, Saudi Arabia appeared reluctant to launch a comprehensive counterterror strategy.
3
 It enlisted in the fight against terrorism only under intense U.S. pressure following the September 11 attack. Even then, its cooperation has been minimal and grudging. For example, Riyadh has
resisted Washington‟s requests to use its bases in Saudi Arabia for military operations against al
-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan. Although, after September 11, the Saudis mobilized against al-Qaeda and its support base at home, they seemed unwilling to confront the deeper sources of  political, ideological, and financial support for extremism and terrorism within the kingdom.

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