The Saudi royals' strategy of dealing personally with defecting al-Qaida members, argues Bernard Haykel, "partly explains al-Qaida's defeat in Saudi Arabia."
Although al-Qaida's leadership, beliefs, and ideology are rooted in Saudi Arabia, the organisation has been all but crushed in the kingdom by a government policy that combines a big carrot and an even bigger stick. The attempted assassination in Jeddah last month of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister for security affairs, demonstrates both elements of the Saudi strategy, and how a bold attempt by al-Qaida to revive its fortunes has failed.
The bomber was Abdullah Asiri, a Saudi citizen and al-Qaida member who had returned from Yemen, claiming to have renounced terrorism and wishing to surrender directly to Prince Muhammad in his palace. Earlier that day, the prince had the bomber flown in on his private jet from the Yemeni-Saudi border and reportedly ordered that he not be carefully searched. Yet, Asiri had indeed hidden a bomb inside his body, a one-pound explosive that he detonated near the prince. However, the bomb was not encased in metal and the terrorist was the only person killed.