Last week Saudi Arabia sent a stern message to insurgents that terrorism will not be tolerated.  Not only was a message broadcast in the most emphatic manner but it will also confuse the war against the world leader in terrorism, ISIS.

When I lived in Saudi Arabia justice was swift.  If a person was convicted of a capital crime they had one appeal and that was to a court in Riyadh.  It took about a week for the court to meet.  If the conviction was upheld the prisoner would be taken out to the city center after mid-day prayers on Friday and in a public forum would be beheaded.  Friday’s in Muslim countries are    commensurate to Sundays in Christian countries.  Needless to say this was a deterrent to crime and instead of waiting years for appeals such as we see in America, justice is usually dispensed within weeks.  That is why the announcement that forty-seven prisoners were executed on one day has underlying tones.

The majority that were executed were found guilty for Al Qaeda bombings ten years ago.  Four were from the Muslim minority Shiite sect and were found guilty of subversion, not Al Qaeda plots.  A mass execution of this magnitude in twelve separate cities was designed to provide the biggest impact against terrorism.  The rulers of Saudi are from the Sunni Sect.  The executions sent two messages. First, terrorism from Al Qaeda would not be tolerated in Arabia.  Second, the Sunni Sect will not allow subversion from the minority Shiite set.

This is not the first time that there has been a Sunni-Shiite clash within the country.  In 1979 I was in my second year in Arabia when a religious holiday was taking place. The Shiites were holding a parade in the Shiite town of Qatif; about 15 miles from where I lived.   Someone had tied a large picture of the Saudi King to the tail of a donkey and drug it through the streets in the parade.  This brought the troops into the town.  The road going into Qatif were blocked and no one could get in and none out. Rioting took place.  As luck would have it I was taking a helicopter from Dhahran to Khursaniya near Safaniya to look at a new camp design.  My pilot deliberately flew over Qatif as we looked at the military below.  After the riots were quelled a permanent military presence was stationed at each end of the town.  Years later I worked with a young Saudi engineer who had a brother in the Saudi Special forces and was sent to Qatif during the insurrection.  They took fire from a house. The Special Ops guys went up the wall and entered from the roof of the two story house.  When they exited they announced that no one was left alive.

Several years after the riots at Qatif, a young Saudi engineer from Qatif tried to blow up the Ras Tanura refinery.  He failed and was executed.  At the time a large portion of the security force at the gates of the company I worked for were Shiite.  One day trucks rolled up to the gates and the Shiites were told to get in.  They would no longer be gate guards.  Instead they were going to the gas stations to take the place of foreign laborers pumping gas for the company vehicles.

While this makes a statement about how swift justice is meted out in Arabia there is also a double edge to the sword.  The fact that one of the men executed was a Shiite cleric will not go un-noticed.  Iran is enraged about the incident.  While America has little regard for Iran, the country does portray military might in the area.  Iran does actively support forces fighting ISIS both materialistically and with firepower.  This now leaves Saudi Arabia, the greatest American ally in the Mid-East with two potential enemies lurking in the bushes.  These are the enraged Shiites with Iranian covert support and ISIS and its’ sympathizers within Saudi.  2016 should be interesting.


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