The Saudi monarchy was always Osama bin Laden’s primary target. He believed that if he hit the United States, Washington would sever its ties with Riyadh and the Saudi monarchy would collapse. In fact, the opposite happened; the security relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States became extremely close. There is a two-pronged strategy to defeating Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The US has done much to defeat the two organizations militarily. But Americans tend to over focus on organizations, which can dissolve and then reform. There is an ideological component that must be addressed which is driven, in large measure, by Iran’s use of radical Shia sectarianism to threaten Sunni populations who then look for someone to defend them. This is where Al-Qaeda and ISIS enter the picture. We see this in Yemen and Iraq, for example. In this way, the Trump Administration’s decision to stand up to Iran’s destructive sectarian policies complements military efforts to defeat Sunni jihadist groups. Unlike the Middle East and the US which are Al-Qaeda and ISIS’s primary and secondary targets respectively, Europe has an immigrant alienation problem which is morphing into terrorism. What has saved America from a similar fate is that America integrates immigrants better than any other country. The idea that Saudi Arabia, by “exporting Wahhabism,” was the source of terror, is flawed; the highest number of terrorists came from secular Arab countries. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia does have a problem with extremism and intolerance. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken a very bold step in going after the clergy. Some of the measures he has employed have been authoritarian; but implementing such radical change in such a short period of time required this.

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