Friday, August 28, 2009

Key Saudi Prince Injured in Terror Attack: Shaking Up the Kingdom

By Barry Rubin

Of Saudi Arabia it has been said that a bird doesn’t move without the royal family’s permission. That a suicide bomber was able to get close enough to wound the Saudi Assistant Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Nayef is a very worrisome development that will shake up the kingdom.

This is not just anybody nor even just any Saudi prince but the man whose father leads the regime’s intelligence and counterterrorist operations, and who himself plays an important role in this campaign. The government knew he was a high-priority target and provided the best security possible. The—presumably al-Qaida linked—terrorists knew it also and thus calculated that making such a hit would show their strength and effectiveness.

As a traditional tribal leadership, Saudi royals frequently hold open meetings, secure in their forces’ tight security control. The terrorist was thus able to approach closely, though the prince was not seriously wounded and no one was killed.

But this is a message: the insurgency against the Saudi regime is not dead, despite many arrests and executions. It is also a reminder that Saudi security can be pretty lax, as has been seen in past attacks where seemingly secure areas were penetrated by terrorists.

The likely response is an escalated campaign against terrorists combined with an increased measure of caution regarding the kind of initiatives which might anger domestic opinion and spur more people to join the insurgents. Like what? Like cooperating with the United States or taking any steps toward peace with Israel.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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