Saudi Crown Prince Vows "Iron Fist" Against Extremists Targeting Western Interests

On Wednesday of this week a terror attack targeted a World War I commemoration event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia resulting in several people wounded. The ceremony was attended by Western diplomats at a French Catholic cemetery on the occasion of European countries observing Armistice day or Remembrance day, November 11, which this year marked 102 years since the end of the war.

The Islamic State terror group has since claimed it was behind the IED attack, with its propaganda arm Amaq describing the attack which "primarily targeted the French consul". However, there's been nothing that's clearly validated that ISIS conducted it. Two weeks prior to this, a guard protecting the French consulate in Jeddah was injured during a knife attack which appeared "retaliation" for controversial statements made by President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of recent terrorism targeting French citizens.

In response, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has vowed to strike at extremist targets with an "iron fist".

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, image via PBS.

"We will continue to confront any extremist... behavior and ideas," MbS told a gathering of the Shura Council, considered the highest government advisory body. The Thursday remarks also come after MbS, next in line to become king and already considered de facto ruler, has for years sought to present himself as a "reformer". 

He's also tried to restored his severely damaged reputation and international standing following the October 2, 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate on Turkey, widely believed to have been personally ordered by the crown prince. 

"We will continue to strike with an iron fist against all those who want to harm our security and stability," MbS said in this latest address. He further vowed "painful and severe punishment" for jihadist militants caught in the kingdom.

On the very same day (Thursday) there was another incident, but this time targeting the Saudi embassy in The Hague. A Dutch man was arrested after firing multiple gunshots and the diplomatic compound, which lightly damaged the building while causing no injuries. 

Terror attacks inside Saudi Arabia on Western targets remain relatively rare, and signal domestic groups are likely stepping up efforts to sow chaos inside the kingdom, potentially disrupting Riyadh's economic and diplomatic initiatives with the West.

Riyadh's prime security interests have also been to protect the kingdom given any major terror attack could severely disrupt deepening Western economic ties and major infrastructure projects on Saudi soil.