Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security Bilal Y. Saab writes for Foreign Affairs on Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism campaign against ISIS and its relationship to entrenched religious divisions:
There is something familiar about the Islamic State’s (also known as ISIS) current terrorist campaign in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it looks an awful lot like al Qaeda’s twelve years ago. Back then, the House of Saud successfully held off its jihadist foe. This time around, however, the enemy is more resilient and resourceful, and regional cards seem to be stacked against the Kingdom. Riyadh will need foresight, statecraft, and above all, introspection to repeat its previous success.
Although the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden focused primarily on targeting the United States, Saudi Arabia also preoccupied his mind. The Saudis must be overthrown, he kept saying, because they opened the door to “Crusader and Zionist” domination of the Muslim world and betrayed the Palestinian cause to “Jews and Americans.” But beyond the perceived transgressions, bin Laden understood that, ultimately, he would need to wage war with Saudi Arabia over the biggest stakes of all: control over Islam’s holy cities and enormous oil wealth.