Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saudi Arabia: time for terrorists' containment

Dr. Leila Nicolas
As the Lebanese politicians reached an agreement to form a new government after months of deadlock, many see it as a sign that Saudi Arabia has realized the importance of re- engineering its previous regional policies; to constructively engage in the counter terrorism strategies.
In 2007, Many American think tanks started to talk about major changes in the American strategies of the "war on terror", especially after their failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving the two countries to instability and becoming safe havens for terrorists.
It was, then, that the American administration started to think of a new approach to counter "Islamic extremism"; using containment rather than confrontation. It was believed that the best way to contain these Islamic radicals is by using "moderate" Islamic groups which may contain, control and defeat them in the end. The problem was the spread of these radical groups all over the world, so it was necessary to implement an "aggregation" strategy, which means driving the terrorists to gather in one geographical area -the Arab world.
The chance came with the Arab developments after Tunisian uprising, the West sought the alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood as the best way to implement this counter terrorism strategy empowering the Turkish model of "modern and moderate" views for Islam with good ties with Israel and the West.
As the "aggregation" phase was accomplished and the terrorists gathered mainly in Syria and Libya; the so called "moderate" Islamic groups - the Muslim brotherhood - couldn't achieve their part of the deal. The MB were brought down in most of the "Arab Spring" countries, and were militarily defeated in Syria. This raised major European concerns as the extremists have been fighting in Syria and are tending to go back to their homelands threatening to becoming a time bomb.
All these developments, raise the major question: who will handle the second part of the counter terrorism project?
As the region reached this point, the Iranians tried to convince the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change his Syrian strategy, promise to collaborate with the Syrian president Bashar el Assad in fighting terrorism, and then rule the Islam - Sunni world under the umbrella of this "international job"- fighting terrorism. The problem is that Erdogan is unable to do this retreat despite the promising rewards, as he had burned all the bridges with the Syrian government and he feels that his retreat may finish his political future.
Respectively, Saudi Arabia had two alternatives: either to accept the job and rule the Islam world in partnership with Iran, or to refuse and continue challenging the American Administration and this may lead to major changes in the political structures of the kingdom, or to the fragmentation of Saudi Arabia. It seems that the Saudis took the rational decision; to contribute in terrorists' containment, in order to be prepared to the second phase: engagement in the international war against terror which will come after the Russian- American Middle Eastern agreements.
Hence, it seems that manifestation of Saudi- Iranian detente will appear through national settlements in Lebanon, Yemen, and maybe Bahrain.
 As for Lebanon, the Saudi - backed future movement will start to confront the radical groups in its regions. The movement has double interest in this new policy of terrorists' confrontation: to get rid of radical groups as they are threatening its influence in the Sunni regions, and to portray themselves as the "moderate Sunnis", where Lebanon suffered a lot when they were excluded from government.

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