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Hakyel on the bum bomb 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Bernard Haykel has an excellent piece of analysis in the Guardian about the recent Saudi bum-bomb attack. In short, Hakyel does not really see this incident as a harbinger failure of Saudi’s policies or tactics in their war on terrorism. The key paragraphs are below, but the whole piece is well worth the read.

To an outsider, the episode looks like a colossal security failure, as if the head of the FBI personally greeted one of Bin Laden’s lieutenants at a garden party. But it is just this highly personalised form of politics that the Saudi royals have adopted with defecting al-Qaida members. Indeed, this policy, even with its risks, partly explains al-Qaida’s defeat in Saudi Arabia. Highly personalised politics form part of what might be called Saudi Arabia’s theatre of state, which keeps the royals firmly in power.

Since 2003, Prince Muhammad has been in charge of a successful campaign against violent Islamism in the kingdom. In terms of armed security action, he has developed a strong domestic intelligence and police service that is both efficient and brutal in its tactics. At the same time, the prince has cannily used deeply rooted cultural and religions norms to pressure al-Qaida’s recruits to give up violence.

For example, he offers significant financial inducements to individual jihadis, as well as their families, in return for political obedience. In effect, by not accepting Saudi largesse the militant will be keeping food off his own family’s table – a powerful restraint in a culture and religion in which parents are highly regarded and respected.

Entry into the programme often involves a personal audience with the Saudi prince, in a ceremony that emphasises the paternalistic and personal nature of governance in the kingdom, where all subjects are regarded as well-cared-for children of the royals.

Finally, Prince Muhammad has launched an internet monitoring and disinformation campaign that keeps close tabs on jihadi websites and online forums. As a result, the Saudi security services have a feel for the pulse of jihadi debates, as well as for the radicals’ recruitment strategies.

Al-Qaida has also damaged itself with the Saudi public, which has been repeatedly victimised by terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings of public buildings and attacks on oil and other government installations have alienated many Saudis. With at least 80% of the population dependent on government salaries or grants, the attacks have proved very unpopular.

In addition, ordinary Saudis see the chaos next door in Iraq and do not want the same turmoil at home. For most people, stability, even if imposed by authoritarian means, trumps disorder.

For now, however, the Saudi royals have a prince who is seen as a courageous hero for having survived an assassination attempt while offering the hand of generosity to an unrepentant zealot. Saudi King Abdullah chastised Prince Muhammad for recklessness, but the King must also be thankful that his family has produced a security chief who has broken the back of al-Qaida, at least inside the kingdom.

Dubai metro hits 1,000,000 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Business Intelligence Middle East reports that Dubai’s new metro has passed the magic number of 1,000,000 passengers. Mabrouk, as they say.

Iranian Gulf Relations 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Gulf.
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Two quick snippets from MEMRI show that both sides of the Gulf’s strained Arab-Persian relationship are trying to keep it afloat.

First is the Iranian insistence that their recent display of small and medium ranged missiles is not aimed at their brotherly Muslims but avaricious Western powers. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? And, after all, it’s not as if they’ve been caught lying recently…

Secondly, KUNA (Kuwait News Agency) reports the Arab States have agreed to participate in talks on Iran in October. Not exactly an earth shattering agreement, I suppose, but not without interest.