Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia

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Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia

Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia in 2016

During 2016, the Saudi government continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks, although this has not been completely implemented and some textbooks containing derogatory and intolerant references to Shia and non-Muslims remained in circulation. Under the rubric of Vision 2030, the Ministry of Education worked to consolidate religious courses, increase the focus on modern educational needs, and improve the quality of instruction, including through the development of teacher training initiatives

The United States continued to support Saudi Arabia in reforms it is undertaking by facilitating Saudi nationals studying in the United States and promoting educational exchanges; encouraging increased bilateral trade and investment; urging Saudi Arabia to take actions necessary to attract job-creating partnerships with U.S. companies; and supporting programming in such areas as judicial reform and women's entrepreneurship, as well as the Ministry of Interior's well-developed extremist rehabilitation program, the Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, to reduce recidivism among former fighters charged with crimes related to terrorism.

Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia Developments

Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues, including its continued participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and reaffirmed its determination to address all aspects of the threat at the national, regional and international, levels. The Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from countering violent extremist ideology to media and terrorism

On July 20, 2016 Saudi Arabia co-led the Defeat-ISIS Global Coalition Communications Working Group in Washington, DC, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates; 28 other Coalition partners participated. The meeting focused on coordinated campaign messaging, the changing landscape of ISIS communications, and developing strategic partnerships between governments, the social media industry, and local actors.

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Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals continued to participate in joint programs around the world, including in Europe, the United States, and a GCC joint military exercise focusing on counterterrorism and border security drills in Bahrain. In addition to Saudi Arabia's bilateral cooperation with the United States, Saudi officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct counterterrorism operations and to exchange information. ISIS's continued threat to both Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states encouraged greater dialogue about information sharing, coordination of counterterrorism efforts, and the importance of strategic cooperation against terrorist groups seeking influence in the region

Saudi Arabia maintained a close and effective counterterrorism relationship with the United States, and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of both U.S. and Saudi citizens within Saudi territories and abroad. After the establishment of the Saudi-led Islamic Counterterrorism Coalition in December 2015, the government hosted its first meeting of military chiefs on March 27. Representatives from 39 countries focused on ideological, financial, military, and media aspects to counter terrorism. Oman became the 41st country to join the coalition in late December 2016.

Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia in 2016

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong bilateral counterterrorism relationship. Multiple high-level visits in 2016 deepened this relationship at the personal and institutional level and provided senior officials from both countries the chance to discuss means of improving counterterrorism coordination

During 2016, the Government of Saudi Arabia (SAG), working with the United States, continued to build and augment its capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremist ideologies, including al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Saudi Arabia maintained its long-term counterterrorism strategy to track and halt the activities of terrorists and terrorist financiers, dismantle the presence or reconstitution of al-Qa'ida (AQ)-affiliates, impede the ability of militants to operate from or within Saudi Arabia, and continued to implement laws against supporting terrorist groups and travel to conflict zones. Saudi Arabia reinforced its efforts as a key member and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as evidenced by its co-leading counter-ISIS finance efforts alongside the United States and Italy. The Saudi government enhanced operations against ISIS, condemning its activities and participating in coalition's military action to defeat the group in Syria and Iraq, and pursuing an aggressive campaign against ISIS at home. Saudi Arabia implemented United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 and 2199, and the UNSC ISIL (Da'esh) and al-Qa'ida sanctions regime; expanded existing counterterrorism programs and rhetoric to address the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters; and leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist Financing (CT Law) and Royal Decree A/44 to counter the funding of violent extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. In short, Saudi Arabia maintained a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of U.S. and Saudi citizens in both countries, and to enhance the security of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia critical to the global economy.

Counterterrorism Coordination With Saudi Arabia Developments

Saudi Arabia continued to cooperate with the United States to prevent acts of terrorism both through engagement in bilateral programs and through information exchange arrangements with the United States. During 2016, Saudi Arabia increased its public designations of individuals and entities for violating the Kingdom's laws criminalizing terrorist financing and support. In October, Saudi Arabia and the United States took joint action to simultaneously designate two individuals and one entity acting on behalf of Hizballah. In March, Saudi Arabia and the United States disrupted the fundraising and support networks of al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba by imposing financial sanctions on four individuals and two organizations with ties across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. In February, Saudi Arabia designated three individuals and four entities acting on behalf of Hizballah's commercial procurement network

Saudi Arabia sought to further expand economic, civic, and entertainment opportunities for its people. In April, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's plan to empower the private sector and lessen the fiscal burden on the state to provide jobs and social welfare; diversify the economy away from oil to decrease reliance on volatile oil prices; and increase the participation of Saudi nationals in the labor force, especially women and youth. The Saudi government has since taken several concrete steps to implement Vision 2030, including restructuring several ministries and public agencies, reducing public sector employees' compensation as part of an austerity program, and initiating a public relations campaign to underscore the need for large scale reform. The United States sent a high-level delegation to Saudi Arabia in October 2016 to show our support for Vision 2030 goals and continued to engage the Saudi government on economic and other reforms during high-level visits through the end of 2016.

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While some individuals not directly associated with the government reportedly made statements that promoted intolerant views and funded or engaged in activities overseas that allegedly promote violence in the name of Islam, the Saudi government itself took several steps to curb violent extremism. The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to train and more strictly regulate imams, prohibiting them from inciting violence, and continued to monitor mosques and religious education. The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue promoted tolerance and respect for diversity through its dialogue and awareness-raising programs. The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue) to counter internet radicalization. In 2016, Saudi Arabia launched a new Center for Intellectual Warfare designed to blunt ISIS's ideological appeal and counter violent extremist messages by discrediting what SAG officials characterized as “distortions” of Islamic tenets used in recruiting and ISIS propaganda

Saudi Arabia also improved oversight of proselytization and Islamic charitable activities, especially during Hajj. The Saudi government appointed new leadership in various Islamic organizations to bolster efforts to counter violent extremism and streamline these organizations' charitable activities to enhance compliance with counterterrorism finance regulations. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MOIA) announced restrictions on foreign travel of Saudi-based clerics for da'wa (proselytization) activities, requiring them to obtain the government's permission before traveling. Additionally, the MOIA promulgated regulations restricting Saudi clerics' internal activities, for instance, requiring clerics to obtain permission before making media appearances even on Saudi networks. These are all part of centrally-coordinated efforts driven by the Saudi government's leadership to limit the ability of individuals with questionable credentials or affiliations to propagate extremist messages at home and abroad, and to restrict their ability to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.

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