The truth is that no matter how far we go in imagining the harm the could have been done by the big terrorist network that was caught in Saudi Arabia, we will never be able to grasp the dangers incurred and their consequences, had this group been successful in carrying out its operations. This time, their number and the size of their plan point to one truth that says terrorism is continuing, it is increasing and only God knows the size of the dangers that it represents.
The plan that was discovered brings back to memory the 9/11 events, which hit the USA and caused so many storms that changed the situation all over the world. The 9/11 attacks were just one event, but greater catastrophes were avoided when networks were caught before they launch their attacks. The main ones are the millennium network, the plan to hit football stadiums and others, whose number of victims would have been much bigger than those who fell in the New York and Washington attacks.
I mean by this that the magnitude in number, destructive capabilities and ambitions of the network of 172 terrorists in Saudi Arabia is the biggest event the kingdom has experienced in the field of terrorism. Had it been successful – God forbid – the disaster would have had international proportions. Consequently, the Saudi security services come under increased pressure. The services have been able to catch most of the networks before they carried out their operations, thus anticipating terrorist catastrophes. However, will it always be possible to reach terrorist nests at least one minute before they pull the trigger? This represents an unfair test in an unequal race between the two sides.
This takes us back to the regrettable truth that the problem is not a security one, but a cultural one. The security successes have fooled some into thinking that terrorism is not a danger because they are used to seeing security services chase conspirators and catch them. This is a wrong and dangerous perception.
The problem is cultural. It dates back to the end of 1995 with the Riyadh bombing and has never stopped since. The people are similar, the groups are the same and the ideology and its justifications are almost the same. So, what has changed on the cultural front to combat this situation? In my view, a lot remains to make us confront the extremists: in curricula, funds, mobilization, training and justification. Intellectual extremism is continuing in the open, only the language of threats was removed from it, although it has remained concealed.
Extremist thought is behind everything from fundraising to suicide. The question is how did extremists manage to stay despite all the evidence showing that they are society’s enemy number one? The answer resides in the fact that these groups have been successful in protecting their activities under a variety of claims. Times, it is a necessity to combat extremist ideas from abroad, and times it is a natural reaction to other extremisms inside the country, and times it is a hidden external conspiracy which has nothing to do with the local extremist ideas. The truth supported by the security records of hundreds of terrorists whose full details are kept since the first explosion in November 1995 in Riyadh is that they are graduates of extremist ideas however different the names, the places and the times are.