Chiefs of staff of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition pose for a picture during a meeting in the capital Riyadh on March 27, 2016. (AFP)

Track Persia – July 25, 2017

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have developed their alliance further to become a pan-Arab bloc against Iranian attempts to become a hegemonic power.

While the US has warned Doha it may move its main CentCom military base from Qatar to another location less troubling to Washington, the bloc is developing an Arab homeland security model to counter a planned Persian empire with an intent to control the greater Middle East, a role assumed by the co-ruling Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC, which is trying to turn Tehran into a capital for its Safawis, runs a trans-national mafia covering all the five continents.

The US has imposed a series of sanctions against the IRGC, with the target being its development of ballistic missiles. This is the subject of a long-standing UNSC resolution calling for sanctions. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, supposed to be a moderate, has repeatedly said the IRGC missiles programme is an integral part of a strategy to defend the Shi’ite theocracy which adheres to the 16th century Safawi ideology.

Rouhani was among the top candidates to succeed the theocracy’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 77 and suffering from cancer. There has, however, been a race developed into a power-struggle between Rouhani and his chief rival for the top office, Ebrahim Raisi who heads the Imam Redha shrine in Mashhad which is by far the biggest source of funding. It has an annual turn-over worth tens of billions of dollars.

Attacking Qatar as the main financier of the world’s most dangerous terror groups, Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sissi on July 21 was reported as saying: “This financier of terror will shortly be taken into account for his crimes”.

Sissi was then opening a huge military base named after the late Gen Muhammad Naguib, a former president who used to command the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF). Sissi had led the EAF before he resigned and in May 2014 won Egypt’s presidency. He said the base was one of the largest in Egypt and the Arab world.

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman on July 20 decreed the consolidation of counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence under a new body akin to the US Homeland Security. It was a major overhaul of the security apparatus weeks before Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed the new Saudi Crown Prince succeeding his cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

The string of royal decrees also ordered a shake-up of senior personnel, replacing the head of the elite royal guard and elevating the head of the newly created Presidency of State Security, Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad al-Howairini, and his deputy to the ranks of ministers.

The decrees said the changes were made in order “to face all security challenges with a high degree of flexibility and readiness and the ability to move quickly in facing any emergency”.

According to observers, the new agency is aimed at streamlining security and making counter-terrorism efforts directly accountable to the king. The purpose is to create new efficiencies for both entities and elevate the work especially in counter-terrorism.

The former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef had crushed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2003-2006 before forced it to move to Yemen.

Saudi security police closely monitor Saudi citizens with suspected connections to militants and have detained more than 15,000 suspects in the years since 2003. Howairini has worked in the Interior Ministry for 30 years and was on the US-=Saudi counter-terrorism partnership.

Kuwait, UAE and other countries in the new Arab bloc have adopted the homeland security model. The governments of Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain as well as other Arab states have adopted their own versions of the Saudi model. Although they co-ordinate their moves, each of these states has been acting independently.

In the meantime, two senior US Justice Department counter-terrorism experts are being deployed in Qatar to verify all Qatari government steps to combat the financing of terrorist groups. This is in accordance with an agreement signed on July 11 with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Qatari Foreign Minister Shaikh Mumannad bin Abdul-Rahman al-Thani. The agreement was later endorsed by Qatari Emir Shailh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Tillerson reached the deal with Shaikh Muhammad during a round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at ending an Arab-Qatari diplomatic crisis. But the crisis has escalated and the July 11 agreement was not approved by the four US-allied Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – which accuse Doha of aiding terrorists and financing Islamist militants throughout the Middle East, charges Qatar denies.

 

No details about the contents of the July 11 deal, which was a Tillerson achievement. But a Western official in the Gulf who saw the document said it specified actions Qatar had to take before end-2017. He said the two US Justice Department experts “will work hand in hand with Qatar to charge individuals accused of financing terrorists”. Other actions in the agreement include imposing travel bans, enforcing surveillance and freezing the assets of individuals with suspected links to terrorism. The accord points to internationally agreed definitions of terrorism without specifying particular groups.

A Qatari official said the emirate’s general prosecutor would be working with the US officials but that the terms of the co-operation had not been made public. On July 20, Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim issued a decree bolstering a law to combat terrorism and its financing, as well as the measures to combat terrorists. But the four Arab states said the move was not sufficient and lacked clarity.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.