Yet, as one analyst points out, the concept of terrorism has become quite fluid
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Egyptian President Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi prioritized the issue of terrorism. This came after his foreign minister described the scourge as “a phenomenon that threatens the world,” stressing that the relaxed treatment of “terrorist” countries will not achieve anything.
For his part, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman affirmed this week on the country’s National Day that Riyadh would “remain steadfast in moderation while fighting extremism and terrorism. The kingdom will not allow anyone to attack its sovereignty or tamper with its security,” he added.
A Middle East political analyst who asked not to be named told The Media Line that the recent rhetoric against terrorism comes as part of a Saudi-led campaign to gain support from Sunni Arab leaders amid an ongoing feud with Shiite Iran and Hizbullah, which is playing out with deadly consequences in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.
“It’s a new alignment of the Arab forces in the region,” he said.
The analyst explained that the Saudi government is working to ensure that the majority of Arabs living in the Middle East will side with Riyadh. He gave as an example the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the end of last year. “Saudi Arabia immediately jumped in,” accusing Beirut of declaring war on the kingdom and failing to rein in Hizbullah.
“The concept of terrorism has become quite elastic these days,” Mahmoud, an Egyptian political analyst who did not reveal his last name, conveyed to The Media Line. He noted that countries often use different definitions of terrorism—some contradictory—based on their political agendas and national interests.
“What terrorism is Saudi Arabia talking about when it is perpetrating terror in Yemen?” he asked rhetorically. “Not to mention the Saudi and American direct support to the armed groups in Syria, which seek the destruction of the state.”
Mahmoud said it is important to differentiate between the “terrorism” that Egypt is fighting and the kind that Saudi Arabia is combating. He claimed that Riyadh has formulated its own notion of terrorism to counter any party that violates its political or religious doctrines. Cairo, on the other hand, “is working to limit political-Islamist groups, which is something positive.
“Egypt has completely stopped supporting any Islamic groups in Libya and Syria,” Mahmoud stressed, adding that Cairo was waging a fierce campaign against an Islamic State-affiliated group in the Sinai Peninsula.
Saudi political analyst Sulaiman al-Oquily said that while the kingdom continues to fight terror, Iran and Qatar are funding groups to attack and undermine the government. He added that though these organizations claim to act in the name of Islam, but what they are doing has nothing to do with the religion which Saudi Arabia has protected.
“These groups distort Islam to embarrass the Saudi kingdom and put pressure on it,” al-Oquily elaborated to The Media Line. “They also use Islam as a tool to disrupt geographic unity through violence and terrorism that causes countries to lose their strategic role in the region.”