This is serious news, and a sign that the forthcoming days will be very difficult. I am talking about the Emirati security authorities’ announcement of the arrest of a terrorist cell belonging to the so-called “Deviant Group” [Al Qaeda], which was planning to carry out terrorist operations in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as other “sisterly” states. What is remarkable in this news is that the UAE revealed that the arrest of this terrorist cell had taken place in coordination with Saudi Arabia.
We say that this Emirati – Saudi coordination is remarkable because the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit in Bahrain has just approved an amended joint security agreement between GCC states. As I wrote yesterday, there must be joint coordination between Gulf States, and at the highest levels; this is vital for Gulf security. Whilst this Emirati announcement has today confirmed the importance of such cooperation. The arrest of this terrorist cell tells us that the threat of terrorism has not ended in our region, particularly the Gulf, and that cooperation and coordination is imperative. The Emirati announcement read “in coordination with special security apparatus in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a terrorist cell from the deviant group, comprising citizens from both countries, has been arrested. The cell was planning on carrying out actions that infringe on the national security of both countries and sisterly nations.”
In Saudi Arabia the expression “Deviant Group” is usually reserved for the Al Qaeda organization, which means that we are facing a long night ahead with regards to this terrorist group. Therefore the Arab Spring did not – as many both inside and outside the region believe – mark the end of Al Qaeda, amidst claims that Arab governments were playing up the size and role of this terrorist organization. The facts are in front of us, whether we are talking about the UAE’s announcement of the arrest of this terrorist cell, or what has been announced in Tunisia and Morocco, and indeed what is happening in Libya and Yemen. This reality tells us that Al Qaeda is present and active and seeking to maximize its terrorist crimes, not in Syria – as some claim – but behind our backs. For the real Al Qaeda in Syria is none other than al-Assad and his regime!
Therefore, the UAE announcement regarding the arrest of this terrorist cell highlights a number of important points. Firstly, there is the importance of Gulf coordination, because the security of the Gulf is one. Secondly, so long as we do not genuinely confront all the issues that facilitate extremism -whether we are talking about financial support, incitement or the ease of issuing fatwas – with rhetoric and action, we will have no hope in successfully combatting terrorism. All of the security work that has been conducted against terrorism is excellent, however the ideological battle is not at the requisite level, and there is still a lot that must be done in this regard. The third issue, which is no less important, can be summed up in the following question: if Saudi Arabia has been able, in an amazing manner, to obstruct all Al Qaeda’s sources of funding, whilst the UAE, for its part, does not tolerate extremism in any form, then who financed this terrorist cell? Where did this cell obtain the equipment that was in its possession, according to the information published in the official UAE statement?
It is important for the public to be aware of this information, for just as we say that there is negligence in the ideological war against Al Qaeda, there are also certain parties that have never stopped funding Al Qaeda. The objective of this is clear, namely to harm the security of the entire Arab Gulf. Therefore there can be no doubt that exposing those who are financing Al Qaeda represents an important part of combatting extremism in our region.