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Saudi Arabia: We Broke Up Terror Cell, Arrested 10 with Revolutionary Guard Ties

Saudi Arabia: We Broke Up Terror Cell, Arrested 10 with Revolutionary Guard Ties

‘This is just an excuse for the crown prince to suppress domestic opposition,’ analyst says

Saudi authorities said on Monday that security forces had arrested 10 members of a terrorist cell, claiming that some had received military and weapons training at Revolutionary Guard camps in Iran.

The Presidency of State Security, which is overseen by the king and crown prince, added that weapons and explosives stored at a house and a farm were confiscated but did not say where the raid and arrests, carried out last week, took place.

The Presidency of State Security, created in 2017, combines the counterterrorism and domestic intelligence services in a single body.

The government statement did not identify those detained because the investigation was ongoing.

But the state news agency SPA, citing a statement from the Saudi state security, reported that three members of the cell underwent training in Iran, while the rest were “linked to the cell in various roles.”

Tensions between the Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran have been on the rise for several years.

“Security investigations revealed the elements’ identities as well as two sites used by the elements to store weapons and explosives,” the Presidency’s statement on official media read.

A list of 30 seized items included dozens of explosives ready to use and several communication and advanced eavesdropping devices.

I personally can’t take any of this seriously. [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman [MbS] is the same person whose regime claimed that they had nothing to do with the murder of [journalist] Jamal Khashoggi [in Istanbul in 2018], the arrest of their own relatives and the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister [Saad al-Hariri], forcing him to resign

Prof. Mohammad Marandi, head of American studies at Tehran University, does not buy the kingdom’s official narrative.

“I personally can’t take any of this seriously. [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman [MbS] is the same person whose regime claimed that they had nothing to do with the murder of [journalist] Jamal Khashoggi [in Istanbul in 2018], the arrest of their own relatives and the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister [Saad al-Hariri], forcing him to resign,” Marandi said.

Hariri was allegedly detained in Saudi Arabia in late 2017, from where he broadcast his resignation under circumstances that remain unclear. He subsequently left and rescinded the resignation.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016, following an attack by demonstrators on its embassy in Iran after Riyadh executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. And last year, the Saudis accused Tehran of being behind an attack on Aramco oil facilities in the kingdom’s Eastern Province. The strike included a cruise missile and drone raid on the world’s largest oil processing plant. The United States also said that Iran was behind the attack, while France, Germany and the United Kingdom jointly stated Iran bore responsibility for it.

The problem with the Saudi accusations is the timing. Gulf states are becoming jittery over the prospect that [former vice president Joe] Biden will win the US election and commence new negotiations with Iran. This is why the accusations appear to be a bid to assert that Iran remains a threat in the region, and the US should act accordingly in any consideration over how to approach the matter

Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief at International Interest, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in London, told The Media Line the fast-approaching US presidential election has a lot to do with this week’s Saudi statements.

“The problem with the Saudi accusations is the timing. Gulf states are becoming jittery over the prospect that [former vice president Joe] Biden will win the US election and commence new negotiations with Iran. This is why the accusations appear to be a bid to assert that Iran remains a threat in the region, and the US should act accordingly in any consideration over how to approach the matter,” Hamdi said.

The two regional powers accuse each other of meddling in their domestic affairs. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen and providing them with military support.

Tehran has always denied these assertions.

Riyadh and its ally Abu Dhabi have been fighting the Houthi rebels since March 2015, putting a tremendous financial burden on both Gulf states but especially Saudi Arabia.

Marandi said that infighting within the ruling Al Saud family has the US-backed crown prince feeling “paranoid.”

“This is just an excuse for him to be more brutal in his suppression of local opposition,” the professor said. “They issue accusations left, right and center against anyone. And I think the real reason is, or the real problem is, is that MbS feels insecure.”

Hamdi said that despite talk of a dispute within the ruling family, MbS’s “grip on power is pretty solid and he is firmly in control.”

“The Saudi regime remains stable. [MbS] has promised Washington that he will continue his social-engineering project and gradual unpinning of conservative influences, in a bid to contain ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalism,’ and has impressed upon the US administration that he needs time and support. Washington continues to remain on board with this [modernization] project and is unlikely to instigate any bid to have the crown prince removed.”

I don’t see any incentive for Iran to do such a thing at a time when he himself [MbS] is bringing his regime or pushing his regime toward a cliff

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia neighbor and close ally Bahrain announced that earlier this year, it dismantled a plot by militants backed by the Islamic Republic to attack diplomats and other foreigners in the tiny island kingdom, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Marandi said Tehran had no real motive to be behind such an operation. “I don’t see any incentive for Iran to do such a thing at a time when he himself [MbS] is bringing his regime or pushing his regime toward a cliff.”

Hamdi agrees, arguing that Tehran is being careful with its regional activities and has no interest in instigating a fight with Washington.

“Iran is capable of such an endeavor but is unlikely to engage in such activities against Saudi Arabia, for fear of provoking the US into action. Moreover, Iran remains engaged in Iraq, where it has come under significant pressure, and in Syria, as it seeks to contain the impact of US sanctions.”

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