The government of Saudi Arabia, on the hot seat since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, announced Monday that several arrests were made along with the discovery of a cache of weapons and high tech tools used in the terrorism trade.
The Saudis have been the target of criticism from the United States in recent years because the government appeared lax on terrorist organizations within the kingdom. Critics believe the ruling royal family fears that any terrorism crackdown would threaten their rule.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Saudis had dug up an arsenal of weapons in addition to arresting 16 suspected terrorists. The weapons search unearthed, according to the report, “20 tons of bomb-making chemicals, detonators, rocket-propelled grenades (of which there seems to be no shortage in the Middle East) and rifles.
Despite the “traditional” weapons found in the raids, there were a number of other items which are a little more disturbing. This includes an assortment of fake passports, forged ID cards, night vision goggles, bullet proof vests and high tech surveillance equipment.
It’s good news when we here reports that the Saudi government is cracking down on terrorist cells and taking an assortment of weapons from the international underground of terrorist organizations. But how much of these police actions represent a true wave of anti-terrorism enforcement rather than a sweep of the usual suspects to please America?
Saudi Arabia has been a target for terrorists, including al Qaeda, over the past decade. Terrorists have targeted anything that represents the kingdom’s ties to the west, such as military barracks and western housing communities.
U.S. intelligence officials investigating a terrorist attack on military barracks in the 1990s were thwarted when they were denied access to the suspects. These suspects were later beheaded for their crimes.
A suicide attack by terrorists on May 12 in Riyadh (which killed 25 people) seems to have prompted the latest sweep.
This sweep is good news, but the efforts won’t be complete unless U.S. intelligence personnel are allowed access to those in custody. The U.S. should also be allowed some sort of access to the property seized in the raids.
Unless U.S. intelligence officials are allowed to find out where these weapons came from; where they were headed; and who is involved, the latest bust should be treated as another Saudi PR move.