The recent attack in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa province, which killed eight citizens, was a carefully selected crime with political motives. In killing Saudi Shi’ites, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was attempting to stir turmoil in the region. ISIS committed another terrorist act last week, this time killing an American woman in the UAE’s capital, also for political motives.
ISIS itself is just a part of the larger movement—an ambiguous organization with links to regional regimes—but it does not branch out far from the mother organization: Al-Qaeda.
We already knew that Al-Qaeda targeted specific countries, the same countries it targets today: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others. These countries should not settle for a strategy of confronting organized violence by dismantling the largest possible number of terrorist groups, which use citizens from different nationalities. The security-based approach has proven effective against terrorism and minimizing losses to it, but the parties supporting and facilitating terrorism need to be dealt with as well, which requires wide-ranging regional political cooperation.
It is normal to be skeptical about the countries accused of hosting or helping these terrorist groups by turning a blind eye to their financial activities, but we cannot plainly accuse them, at least not now.
The terrorist’s decision to target countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will require a new degree of coordination and political activity that does not tolerate any entity, whether a state or a group, which facilitates terrorism, either ideologically or with material support. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon for the governments of the region; a number of serious attacks over the pas decade have given security services experience in combating its, and in cooperation both regionally and internationally.
If incidents like the murder of the American teacher in Abu Dhabi and the attack on a Husseiniya (Shiite religious gathering) in Saudi Arabia were the opening salvo of a war, we should take extra measures and prepare for worse to come. However, if they are just isolated incidents, remaining firm and resolute will deliver a strong message to others.
Today, the situation in the region is more complex and serious than seen during the past decade of terrorism. War is ongoing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and partly in Egypt. As battles rage in some countries, it is only to be expected for some parties within the region will try to turn this to their advantage, perhaps even by dragging their battles to the borders of more stable countries. Confronting these actions and the brainwashed minds that facilitate them will be much easier if the parties behind them are identified.