The Vigilant Interceptor of Storms |
Al Hayat - 18 June, 2012
Author: Ghassan Charbel
From his office at the Interior Ministry, and over four decades, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz monitored the successive quakes that hit the region, watchful of their reverberations and quickly moving to avert their storms. Those decades were eventful and ever hot. It is no simple matter for the people of the region to see Khomeini’s Iran putting an end to the Shah’s era, with voices in the country calling for the revolution to be exported. It is no simple matter for an Iraq-Iranian war to erupt, threatening the security of the region, the stability of its nations and the safety of passageways and wells. It was no simple matter to see Israel occupy Beirut, and force Yasser Arafat into a new exodus.
But the quakes would not stop there. The people of the region would one day awaken to the news of the Iraqi army invading Kuwait, and Saddam Hussein’s decision to write off this country completely from the map. It was not a passing thing either, to resolve to move to liberate Kuwait, with all the needs and measures this required. Yet that dangerous decade only paved the way for a more dangerous one to follow. The attacks of September 11 dealt a blow to the symbols of America’s prestige and success. It was no secret here that Saudi Arabia, with its stability and relations, was the big target for the assailants. Resounding strikes came soon thereafter, and the people of the region saw the regime of Saddam Hussein collapse. After that, they also went on to see al-Qaeda holing up in some parts of Iraq, and the first sparks of Sunni-Shiite strife. Before the eruption of the Arab spring, Yemen was drowning in the wars of the Huthis, and Lebanon was writhing from the assassinations and attempted coups against traditional roles in the region.
Amid all this, Saudi Arabia, by virtue of its Arab and Islamic position, was concerned with and sometimes even directly targeted by those incidents. The storms would blow close to its borders, or in arenas that impact the safety of both its borders and domestic theater.
Saudi Arabia was targeted because of its political and economic weight, and moderate policy; the sides that planned for coups in the region moved to limit its role or undermine its stability. Prince Nayef had to remain vigilant to protect the targeted Saudi homeland and borders.
The past decade was the most dangerous. Terror moved its battle to the heart of Saudi Arabia, after extremism managed to attract youths whose visions, choices, and understandings became muddled, while this sometimes affected non-youths as well. A firm approach was necessary, but Prince Nayef chose the path of full confrontation, as the war on extremism must not be limited to the security aspect alone. Extremists and extremism must both be confronted. In the second battle, rehabilitation and reconciliation for those who repent and refute false ideas is a must, and theorists for extremism must be prevented from going far in their ways. The battle was cruel and decisive. The full confrontation proved successful after it took place in the streets, homes, rostrums and prisons, and its goal was to win hearts and minds. The plan was to address Saudi citizens to do their part, and to be guards for their country before the security services. There is no doubt that al-Qaeda was dealt a fatal blow when it lost all sympathy from the people, before it lost its ability to operate militarily. The success of this experience inspired other nearby and faraway countries, and confirmed the conviction that confronting extremism must take place both at the intellectual and security levels at once.
The battle for security and stability was important and crucial. Its success has enabled Saudi Arabia to continue its march of development, construction and progress, as well as modernization of infrastructure and the economy, and educational advancement. As much as Prince Nayef oversaw Saudi security, he was also preoccupied with fortifying the security of GCC countries, offering counsel and expertise which he never withheld at the meetings of Arab Interior Ministers. And beside his efforts in counterterrorism, he was also engaged in a battle against drugs.
From Prince of Riyadh, to Minister of Interior, to Crown Prince, Nayef bin Abdulaziz was a vigilant statesman who watched over the security of the country and its citizens. His firmness in taming storms went hand in hand with his open arms in rehabilitating those who went astray. Indeed, firmness does not shut doors. He was a statesman with exemplary loyalty and faithfulness, and offered solace to the King in his grief. It is the year of two losses. Nayef now passes away after Sultan departed. The King overcomes his grief, armed with faith, achievements and the love of the people.