Saturday, December 11

One Step Forward; One Step Back: The Story of Saudi Arabia

From The Economist:

Is Osama bin Laden gaining the upper hand in his homeland?

No. Since May 2003, when a series of bombings in Riyadh made plain the seriousness of the jihadist threat, the Saudi state has fought back. The past six months have been particularly hard on the militants, who had failed to score any "raids", as they call them, since they killed 22 people in a rampage on May 29th. Of the 26 most-wanted men named last year, only seven remain at large. Dozens of others have also been taken out of action.

Nor was the Jeddah attack, for all its boldness, very impressive. Four of the five assailants died, and none penetrated the hardened chancellery within the consular compound. Few Saudis believe such violence will achieve its proclaimed goal of ridding Arabia of "polytheists".

Dogged police work has whittled down the jihadists' potency, while stricter controls on Islamic charities have reduced the scope of terrorist funding. At the same time, some of the more fanatical interpretations of Muslim scripture have been expunged from Saudi schoolbooks. Perhaps more significantly, the Saudi state has enlisted some persuasive voices to denounce the terrorists. Several once-popular militant clerics have publicly recanted. Earlier this week, Saudi television aired emotional interviews with the parents of several jihadists, who said their sons had been the victims of a deviant death cult.
Translation: We're not going to see another Iran anytime soon.

And Back:
In March, a group of reformists were jailed for calling for a constitutional monarchy. Three are still awaiting trial. In September, the government issued an edict banning all state employees, which means most working Saudis, including academics, from publicly questioning state policy. In October it announced that long-promised elections for 178 town councils, now due in February, would be for only half of their seats, with women entirely excluded.
Translation: But we're stuck with the a government that is going to continue to produce terrorists and point them toward the United States so that they can take out their anger over being repressed.