Ever since al Qaeda started blowing up Saudis, the Saudis have been more willing to publicly do something about the menace. Of late, they’ve scored some solid victories against the group formed, in large part, in response to the actions of the Saudi leadership.
The latest slain militant was Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Mohammed Yazji, killed Wednesday by police in a raid in a rundown industrial area of the capital, Riyadh. Yazji is suspected of involvement in a November 2003 bombing of a housing complex for foreign workers that killed 17 Arabs.
Yazji was holed up in a two-story building hidden away in a maze of alleys full of garages and car parts shops. Police swooped down on the site in the morning, said neighbors, who heard explosions and saw flames leaping from the building.
Yazji was No. 25 on the country’s list of 26 most wanted terrorists, and his death means the government has killed or arrested 23 of the listed militants.
The raid came a day after the end of the kingdom’s longest and deadliest shootout with militants — a three-day battle in the desert town of Rass, northwest of Riyadh. Special forces killed Nos. 4 and 7 on the list, Kareem Altohami al-Mojati, a Moroccan, and Saud Homood Obaid al-Otaibi, a Saudi and a leading al-Qaida figure in the kingdom. Twelve other militants were killed in the raid and six were captured.
While I remain fairly skeptical of Saudi Arabia’s commitment, these recent events lend credence to the theory that Saudi Arabia’s apparent lack of cooperation could be, at least in part, a public mask for the benefit of its public. It could be that the Saudis are cooperating much more closely than generally known, and that it may help explain why the Bush administration has been more easy-going on them than most would expect.
I’ve always been open to this idea, and in fact discussed the idea back in November, 2003:
I’m not at all convinced that Saudi Arabia is really acting like a friend of ours. Their efforts to cut down on terrorism funding and other support in their country haven’t really impressed me yet.
I’m open to the idea that the lack of serious pressure from us may be due to behind-the-scenes negotiating, though. Maybe we’ve allowed them to publicly hem and haw while they work to get their house in order.
In fact, I’d recommend checking out that post and comparing it with what’s been happening recently. Both in the War on Terror (WW4) and at the gas pump.