Just as there was an Operation Decisive Storm against what is happening in Yemen, a conflict that took place outside of Saudi Arabia’s borders, we need a Decisive Storm to confront what is happening inside its borders. The battle that is taking place inside Saudi Arabia compliments the battle that is taking place beyond its borders, particularly as the threat to Saudi Arabia’s security comes from within, as well as without.
Saudi security forces were able, within a very short period of time, to bring the killers of two Saudi policemen to justice, and foil terrorist plots hatched by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targeting the Kingdom’s security and stability. These events revealed that ISIS has been active in Saudi Arabia recently, setting up a broad-based network calling itself Jund Bilad Al-Haramain (Soldiers of the Land of the Two Holy Mosques). The name of this self-proclaimed ISIS affiliate immediately brought to mind the threatening statements issued by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah earlier this year, who said that the “land of the two holy mosques” is facing a major threat.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki made a very clear statement outlining the threat that Saudi Arabia is facing from ISIS, revealing that security forces had arrested terrorists in a number of different locations across Saudi Arabia. These are terrorists who are affiliated to Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terror groups, and who had managed to reach advanced stages in terrorist plots before they were ultimately foiled by Saudi security. In the latest spate of arrests, Saudi security forces arrested a total of 93 people who are affiliated with terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia arrested 15 members of the so-called Jund Bilad Al-Haramain, in addition to at least 65 others that had been recruited by the group. These recruits were mostly Saudi nationals, as well as one Palestinian national and one Yemeni national; they were arrested in different areas across the Kingdom and all have ties, directly or indirectly, with ISIS. These terrorist suspects were allegedly plotting to target residential compounds, seeking to incite sectarian violence in Saudi Arabia along the lines of the Al-Ahsa attack last year, according to official statements.
This means that there is a dangerous attempt to incite sectarianism in Saudi Arabia between its Sunni and Shi’ite communities. The Saudi people, Sunni and Shi’ite alike, must remain steadfast in rejecting such attempts, as this is something that will only serve the interests of ISIS and its ilk.
There is also information that this terrorist network was seeking to target and assassinate Saudi military figures at home. So at a time when the Saudi military is on high alert, embroiled in a conflict in Yemen against the Houthis—part of a greater regional conflict against Iran—ISIS is seeking to target Saudi Arabia’s soldiers on their own territory.
The Interior Ministry statement also warned that some of these ISIS affiliates were arrested on charges related to spreading propaganda, particularly through social media websites like Twitter. Therefore, ISIS using social media for coordination and propaganda purposes, and to recruit Saudi youth, is also a very dangerous phenomenon that we must resist with all of our strength. This confirms what we have heard said on many occasions regarding the threat surrounding ISIS’s online presence, particularly when it comes to our own youth.
So, ISIS’s targeting of Saudi Arabia—from more than one direction—is something that is ongoing and only escalating. Just last year, 400 people with ties to ISIS were arrested in the Kingdom, and that number is likely to be even greater this year.
Saudi Arabia, the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, is now facing a double threat: from Iran and its affiliates on one hand, and ISIS on the other.