Despite increased Saudi intelligence and law
enforcement efforts, Westerners remain targets of Islamic insurgents in
Saudi Arabia, a new report says.
The report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and
International Studies asserted that Saudi Arabia cannot deal with threats to
Western interests posed by Islamic insurgents. The center said Saudi
security agencies require a major restructuring and improvement to prepare
for such a task.
"The kingdom cannot deal with Islamic extremism and terrorism without a
more effective internal security effort, and must act accordingly," the
report, entitled "Saudi Arabia Enters The 21st Century," said. "Even with
such efforts, it is nearly certain that Americans and Westerners will
continue to be targets at some level of activity. Attacking U.S. citizens Ñ
particularly the U.S. military Ñ allows Saudi extremists to attack proxies
that are non-Islamic, and to obtain foreign sanctuary, if not foreign
Islamic insurgents have conducted a series of bombings against Western
nationals in the Riyad area over the last two years. The U.S. embassy in
Riyad has urged Americans to leave the kingdom while the State Department
reduced the U.S. diplomatic presence in Gulf Cooperation Council states.
The report, authored by senior fellow Anthony Cordesman, said strikes
against Western targets serve to defuse resentment agains the regime. The
attacks, particularly on the United States, are meant to undermine the Saudi
royal family without provoking massive government retaliation.
"Such proxy attacks are hardly safe, but they do not provoke the kind of
extreme action that would follow an attack on a prince," the report said.
"It is scarcely surprising, that the U.S. embassy has issued a steady stream
of alerts since the Al Khobar bombing and '9/11,' and further attacks and
bombings seem almost inevitable."
The report asserts that Saudi Arabia does not face major political
challenges from the secular opposition. This group, as well as like-minded
reformers in the royal family, oppose rapid modernization and have utilized
Islamic values in their decisions and rhetoric.
A major source of unrest, the report said, is the large population of
young Saudis. Saudi youth is said to regard the royal family as corrupt and
immoral and maintain that princes flout the very same laws they enact.
The report said the areas with the greatest potential for unrest are the
capital Riyad and Buraida. Youthful opponents of the regime are believed to
range from members of established families to the newly-urbanized Bedouin
"Nevertheless, it is all too clear that Saudi religious extremists have
gathered significant support among a large enough minority of younger Saudis
to create a serious extremist and terrorist problem," the report said.
"It is also clear that the Saudi government long underestimated the
seriousness of extremist feelings among Saudi youth, and was slow to address
the broader educational, social, and economic problems created by its youth
The report quotes senior Saudi intelligence sources as saying that as of
1997, up to 25,000 Saudis were trained for insurgency operations Ñ whether
in Afghanistan or other areas of the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Many of
those trained were financed by wealthy Saudis.
Cordesman asserts that Saudi security agencies have long managed to
limit the movement of Islamic insurgents. He said rather than open
confrontation the royal family has preferred to coopt suspected opponents.
"Nevertheless, the overall mix of different Islamic extremist advocates
and groups inside the kingdom does pose a serious cumulative problem in
terms of the kingdom's foreign relations and internal security, and it is
likely that new leaders and figures will emerge if Saudi Arabia's economic,
social, and demographic problems are not dealt with by serious reform
efforts," the report said.