TIME Jordan

Jordan’s King Abdullah Says the War Against ISIS ‘Is Our War’

"It has been for a long time," he tells CNN

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has intensified his rhetoric in the kingdom’s fight against ISIS.

“It is our war. It has been for a long time,” King Abdullah told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during an interview that aired on Sunday.

The King went on to describe the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s fighters as “outlaws” of Islam and said ISIS had set up an “irresponsible caliphate to try to expand their dominion over Muslims.”

ISIS forces captured Royal Jordanian Air Force fighter pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh last December and later burned him alive during a notorious video that they published online. The killing sparked retaliatory attacks from Jordan led by King Abdullah personally.

Read more at CNN

TIME Egypt

Egypt Launches Air Raids Against ISIS Bases in Libya

Islamic State Copts
Hassan Ammar—AP Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by ISIS militants gather in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, Egypt, on Feb. 13, 2015

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the right to punish “those inhuman criminal killers”

Egyptian warplanes launched fresh sorties against militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Monday after the jihadists released a gruesome video showing the apparent execution of more than a dozen Egyptian hostages over the weekend.

Egypt’s air force reportedly targeted ISIS training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya at dawn, reports Reuters.

“The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases,” read a statement released by the nation’s military on Monday.

Hours before the strikes began, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi promised during a televised address to retaliate against the militants responsible for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been working in Libya as laborers.

“Egypt reserves the right to respond at the proper time and in the appropriate style in retaliation against those inhuman criminal killers,” al-Sisi said, according to the BBC.

Fighters associated with ISIS have flocked to the group’s strongholds in eastern Syria and swaths of northern Iraq. However, years of instability in war-torn Libya have also allowed the group to expand its influence into pockets of North Africa.

TIME Yemen

U.N. Security Council Orders Rebels in Yemen to Retreat

U.N. Security Council votes in favor of a resolution demanding the Houthi militia's withdrawal from Yemeni government institutions, at the U.N. headquarters in New York
Mike Segar—Reuters The U.N. Security Council votes in favor of a resolution demanding the Houthi militia's withdrawal from Yemeni government institutions during a meeting at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on Feb. 15, 2015

The council also demanded the release of the Yemeni President and Prime Minister

The U.N. Security Council on Sunday ordered the immediate withdrawal of rebel forces from government institutions in Yemen, warning of “further steps” if insurgents do not cease hostilities in the Middle Eastern nation.

The demand was part of a British- and Jordanian-drafted resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, Reuters reports.

The resolution “deplores actions taken by Houthis to dissolve parliament and take over Yemen’s government institutions, including acts of violence,” referring to the Iranian-backed Shi‘ite Muslim militia that has overthrown the government and prompted increasing attacks from al-Qaeda and other Sunni terrorist groups.

Besides the withdrawal, the resolution also calls on Houthi forces to come to the negotiating table for a U.N.-brokered political settlement and release the Yemeni President, Prime Minister and other Cabinet members from house arrest.

[Reuters]

TIME Military

Obama Requests War Powers From Congress to Fight ISIS

US President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel hold press conference at White House
Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. on Feb. 9, 2015.

Obama said the Islamic State "poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and to U.S. national security."

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama asked Congress Wednesday to formally authorize military force against the Islamic State group, arguing the militants could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland if their violent power grab goes unchecked and urging lawmakers to “show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat.”

The president elected on a promise to end America’s wars is sending Congress a proposed joint resolution to authorize military force against the swift rise of Islamic State extremists, who are imposing violent rule across Iraq and Syria and have brazenly killed U.S. and allied hostages in brutal online propaganda videos.

In a five-paragraph letter to lawmakers accompanying the three-page draft resolution provided to The Associated Press, Obama said the Islamic State “poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and to U.S. national security.”

“It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller,” he said, listing the American hostages who died in IS custody. “If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.”

Obama plans to speak on his request from the White House Wednesday afternoon.

Obama’s proposal launches an ideological debate over what authorities and limitations the commander in chief should have in pursuit of the extremists, with the shadow of lost American lives hanging over its fate. Confirmation of the death of 26-year-old humanitarian worker Mueller on the eve of Obama’s proposal added new urgency, while the costly long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a caution to some lawmakers against yet another protracted military campaign.

Obama is offering to limit authorization to three years, extending to the next president the powers and the debate over renewal for what he envisions as a long-range battle. He is proposing no geographic limitations where U.S. forces could pursue the elusive militants. The authorization covers the Islamic State and “associated persons or forces,” defined as those fighting on behalf of or alongside IS “or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

Obama’s resolution would repeal a 2002 authorization for force in Iraq but maintain a 2001 authorization against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, although Obama said in his letter to lawmakers his goal is to refine and ultimately repeal that authorization as well.

Obama’s proposal bans “enduring offensive combat operations,” a novel term in military force authorizations. Its ambiguity is designed to bridge the divide between lawmakers opposed to ground troops and those who say the commander in chief should maintain the option.

Obama said his draft would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those deployed in the past to Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing those battles should be left to local forces instead of the U.S. military.

“The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership,” Obama said, using an acronym for the group. “It would also authorize the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.”

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he appreciated the president seeking the authorization and would quickly begin holding “rigorous hearings” on the White House request.

“Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat,” Corker said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the provision would allow special operations missions, such as potential raids targeting Islamic State leaders and the failed attempt last summer to rescue the 26-year-old Mueller and other hostages held by the group. “It’s impossible to envision every scenario where ground combat troops might be necessary,” Earnest said in the White House’s first interview laying out its case for the resolution.

“The president believes this sort of strikes the right balance of enforcing what he has indicated is our policy, while preserving the ability to make some adjustments as necessary,” Earnest told The Associated Press.

Obama’s draft resolution opens with a list of declarations against the Islamic State’s “depraved, violent, and oppressive ideology,” including its seizure of significant territory in Iraq and Syria, its intention and capability to expand its reach, mass killings of Muslims who don’t subscribe to its beliefs, genocide against other religious groups and violence against women.

Obama argues the congressional authorizations President George W. Bush used to justify military action after 9/11 are sufficient for him to deploy more than 2,700 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces and conduct ongoing airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria. Critics have said Obama is overstepping outdated authorities to target the new threat from militants imposing a violent form of Sharia law in pursuit of the establishment of an Islamic state.

Obama cast the vote as an important message to America’s allies and enemies. “I can think of no better way for the Congress to join me in supporting our nation’s security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL,” he wrote to lawmakers.

Presidential aides have consulted privately with lawmakers from both parties ahead of unveiling the plan publicly in hopes of lining up support, despite the political divisions that have deadlocked Washington in Obama’s second term. In anticipation of debate and attempts to amend the resolution, Earnest called the offer a “starting point for conversations to take place.”

Earnest said the language limiting ground troops was designed not just for domestic political considerations, but to take in the viewpoint of leaders in Iraq and members of the U.S.-Arab coalition targeting IS uncomfortable with the idea of a large deployment of U.S. forces. He also said the lack of geographic limitations will allow pursuit of the extremists beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. “We wouldn’t want to leave them with the impression that they could go somewhere else to get a safe haven,” he said.

Earnest also argued the three-year window would give the military time to carry out its strategy before Congress starts debating a renewal. The spokesman said the White House hoped the authorization would serve as a model for the next president and a new Congress when that time comes.

“The language in here should not be construed as a belief by the president that we’ll have defeated and ultimately destroyed ISIL in three years,” Earnest said.

TIME Saudi Arabia

Prince Charles Will Raise Plight of Christians During Saudi Arabia Visit

Prince Charles visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Feb. 8, 2015.
Sam Tarling—Corbis Prince Charles visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Feb. 8, 2015.

The Prince of Wales is also likely to ask for clemency for a jailed Saudi blogger and two women arrested for driving

Prince Charles has spent much of his adult life feeling he can’t win. He’s often criticized for doing too much, “meddling” in issues of the day, yet his opponents are just as apt to accuse him of doing nothing useful at all. On Tuesday these apparently contradictory responses to the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom will crackle across the headlines and flare into scornful tweets and posts as he arrives in Saudi Arabia on a trip that has already taken in Jordan, moved on to Kuwait and will also include Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. His frequent sojourns in the Middle East rarely fail to spark controversy, and his visit to Saudi Arabia could scarcely come at a more delicate time.

The Kingdom, unlike his own, is grappling with the upheaval caused by the transition from a long-reigning monarch to a newcomer. King Salman has succeeded to the throne vacated by the Jan. 23 death of his older half-brother King Abdullah and is already rolling back some of the cautious reforms Abdullah implemented. The nation also sits at the center of the interlocking crises gripping the Middle East. It is both a wellspring of jihadism and a crucial bulwark against the march of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other militant groups. But it is Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights and freedoms that is likely to play loudest for the Prince. Two cases, in particular, are causing outrage: Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for championing free speech in postings such as these, and Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, two women sitting in Saudi jails, originally detained for the offense under Saudi law of driving a car despite the accident of birth that made them female.

A similarly random accident of birth gives Prince Charles a platform and an influence among the upper tiers of the Saudi establishment. Royals feel comfortable with royals. Yet that’s not the only reason the Prince has become, in the words of an official from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “a huge asset” to British diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. He has assiduously been building on that innate advantage since 1993, when he delivered a speech just before embarking on a trip to Saudi Arabia. His words — startling at the time in their acknowledgment of Christianity’s own muddy history and his call for closer ties between Islam and the West — established his status as a friend of Islam; elsewhere it sowed silly rumors that still flourish in corners of the Internet, holding him to be a secret Muslim.

He has continued to reprise some of the themes of that first speech, most recently in a BBC interview just before his current travels during which he did his best to argue for religious faith as a unifying force rather than a divisive one. That view is pretty hard to marry up with the violent fractures in the region he is now touring, but it is to him an article of his own faith. That faith, despite the rumors, is Church of England Anglicanism but the Prince also believes in the common roots of religion and the interconnectedness of much more besides. “Islam — like Buddhism and Hinduism — refuses to separate man and nature, religion and science, mind and matter, and has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us,” he told his audience in his 1993 speech on Islam.

For all these reasons, his Saudi hosts will treat him with the highest respect when he comes calling. That may well mean more photo opportunities that rebound against him, such as his participation last year in a traditional sword dance that inspired predictably scathing responses on social media

What is far less certain is that he will be able to intervene successfully on behalf of Badawi, al-Hathloul or al-Amoudi, though he is likely to use his high-level meetings to communicate the anxiety of Her Majesty’s Government about their plight. He will also raise concerns about the suffering of Christian communities in the Middle East, as he has done before and with increasing urgency as the turmoil in the region has deepened. He may have the ear of Saudi royalty but little or no sway over the country’s judiciary or its religious leaders, who operate in uneasy and fragile balance with the Saudi monarchy but are not under its control.

The imagery from his trip will not reflect these realities, producing instead a series of vignettes of a monarch-in-waiting cosying up to fellow royals, lending support rather than issuing challenges to the harsh regime. The role the Prince has carved out for himself in the region relies on him wielding such influence as he does have in private.

Catherine Mayer’s biography, Born to Be King: Prince Charles on Planet Windsor, is published in the U.S. on Feb. 17 by Henry Holt.

TIME Middle East

ISIS Manifesto Depicts Its Grim Vision of the Role of Women

The newly translated document offers a glimpse into the true expectations for women under ISIS

Women should be married from the age of nine and only educated to the age of 15 according to a manifesto from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted to a jihadist forum.

The document was first posted by the media wing of the Khanssaa Brigade, an ISIS women’s group and was translated into English by the British think tank the Quilliam Foundation. It lambasts the “Western program for women” and lays out the expectations for the “sedentary” role of women under ISIS, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Haraqs Rafiq, the managing director of Quilliam, said in a statement that the manifesto provides a starkly different perspective on female life under ISIS than that projected by some of the hundreds of Western women who have traveled to the region.

“It allows us to look past the propaganda banded about on social media by Western supporters of ISIS, enabling us to get into the mind-set of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women who willingly join its ranks,” he said.

The manifesto, which Quilliam says was likely intended to attract women from the conservative Gulf region, discusses a female education focused on religion and says the “purpose of her existence is the Divine duty of motherhood.”

 

TIME Jordon

Jordan Launches New Airstrikes After Vowing ‘Harsh’ War on ISIS

Mideast Jordan Islamic State
Nasser Nasser—AP A Jordanian Air Force fighter jet flies over the village of Ai as Jordanian King Abdullah II visits to offer his condolences to the tribe of the slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh at their home village near Karak, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2015.

Jordan's king pledged to hit the militants "hard in the very center of their strongholds"

(AMMAN, Jordan) — Jordanian fighter jets have carried out new air strikes, the military said Thursday, a day after the country’s king vowed to wage a “harsh” war against Islamic State militants who control parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.

The army statement did not say which country was targeted. Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military coalition that has bombed IS targets in both countries since last fall, but until now Jordanian warplanes are only known to have carried out raids in Syria.

King Abdullah II pledged to step up the fight against the IS group after the militants burned a captive Jordanian pilot in a cage and released a video of the killing earlier this week. The images have sent waves of revulsion across the region.

On Thursday, warplanes roared overhead as the king paid a condolence visit to the family of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, in his village in southern Jordan. The king pointed at the planes as he sat next to the pilot’s father.

Abdullah has said Jordan’s response “will be harsh because this terrorist organization is not only fighting us, but also fighting Islam and its pure values.”

In a statement Wednesday, he pledged to hit the militants “hard in the very center of their strongholds.”

In Washington, leading members of Congress have called for increased U.S. military assistance to the kingdom. Currently, the United States is providing Jordan with $1 billion annually in economic and military assistance.

TIME Middle East

Hezbollah Faces Hard Choices Between Fighting Israel, Sunnis

Mideast Lebanon Hezbollah Israel
Bilal Hussein—AP Hezbollah fighters carry the coffin of Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, during his funeral procession in southern Beirut on Jan. 19, 2015

Hezbollah sent thousands of its members into Syria and Iraq and helped Shi'ite rebels win in Yemen

(BEIRUT) — Hezbollah’s ambitions are spreading far beyond its Lebanon home as the militant Shiite movement appears increasingly bent on taking on Sunni foes across the Middle East. It has sent thousands of its fighters into Syria and senior military advisers to Iraq, helped Shiite rebels rise to power in Yemen and threatened Bahrain over its abuse of the Shiite majority.

But the regional aspirations also are taking a heavy toll and threatening to undermine Hezbollah’s support at home. The group has suffered significant casualties, there is talk of becoming overstretched, and judging by the events of recent days, even a vague sense that the appetite for fighting the Israelis is waning.

In the recent confrontation, Israel struck first, purportedly destroying a Hezbollah unit near the front line of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Among the seven dead on Jan. 18 were an Iranian general, a top Hezbollah commander and the son of another former commander in chief. A heavy Hezbollah retaliation appeared inevitable.

Yet when it came last Wednesday, Hezbollah’s revenge was relatively modest: two Israeli soldiers dead, seven wounded. The choice of location — a disputed piece of land excluded from a U.N. resolution that ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel — suggested to some that Hezbollah’s mind remains focused on more distant fronts.

The Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, seemed to allude to criticism that Hezbollah’s taste for foreign adventurism is weakening its appetite for fighting Israel. In his speech Friday, Nasrallah said Israel had incorrectly thought that “Hezbollah is busy, confused, weak and drained. … The resistance is in full health, readiness, awareness, professionalism and courage.”

It is part of a complex equation for Hezbollah: On the one hand, many Lebanese resent the group for embroiling their vulnerable country in ruinous wars with Israel. But on the other, all shades of Muslim opinion see the Jewish state as a common enemy that Hezbollah forced, in 2000, to end an 18-year occupation in south Lebanon. In that sense even Sunnis, who along with Christians and Shiites make a third of the country’s population each, could see Hezbollah as a protector.

But that was then. Today, many increasingly look to Sunni-majority powers as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as their true backers.

“Increasingly, Hezbollah’s leadership perceives itself as a Shiite Arab regional actor, placing its commitment to the Palestinian cause on par with its mission as a defender of Shiite political and religious rights in the Arab region,” said Randa Slim, a director at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. “The consequence for Lebanon is that at some point the Shiite underpinnings of Hezbollah’s regional role will clash with the interests and demands of its non-Shiite, mainly Sunni compatriots.”

Hezbollah has room to grow as a leading defender of Shiites. But when Nasrallah has tried to make aggressive political proclamations, the results sometimes have backfired.

On Jan. 9, Nasrallah harshly criticized Bahrain over its crackdown on a Shiite-led uprising and its arrest of a leading Shiite cleric, Ali Salman. He compared Bahrain to his archenemy Israel, saying it was naturalizing foreigners to make the Persian Gulf island increasingly less Shiite.

Nasrallah then issued a veiled threat to Bahrain, although he said protests should remain peaceful. “Weapons can be sent to the most secure countries. Fighters and gunmen can enter and small groups can sabotage a country,” he said.

Hostile reaction swept the Arab world and Lebanon, where even some Shiites complained that threatening Bahrain could spur oil-rich Gulf nations to expel Lebanese Shiites from their soil. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called Nasrallah’s comments “hostile and irresponsible.” The 22-nation Arab League accused him of meddling in Bahrain.

Hezbollah’s largest and most visible commitment is in Syria, where thousands of Hezbollah members are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces against predominantly Sunni rebels.

When Hezbollah first sent fighters to Syria in late 2012, Nasrallah said their role was to defend Shiite holy shrines near the capital, Damascus. Their role expanded to the defense of predominantly Shiite Lebanese residents of Syrian villages. The group now says its main reason to be in Syria is to prevent Sunni extremists from moving into Lebanon.

Hardly a week passes without Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV airing funerals for fighters slain in Syria. Last year, a Hezbollah commander, Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj, was killed while on a “jihadi mission” in Iraq.

Hezbollah positions in Lebanon also face repeated attacks mostly by an al-Qaida-linked group, the Nusra Front, based on the Syrian side of the border. Their wave of bombings since late 2013 have killed and wounded scores of people, and obliged Hezbollah to employ stiff security countermeasures, including the deployment of plainclothes Hezbollah members around the clock in Shiite business districts south of Beirut.

In Yemen, security officials say Hezbollah, which has long had a presence, has dispatched increasing number of cadres to the impoverished country since Shiite Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, in September and later the airport.

The officials said before the takeover of the capital, Hezbollah had military and security advisers based in the Houthi’s stronghold of Saada province near the Saudi border, where the group’s leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, is based.

Analyst Rami Khouri recently wrote in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper that all the adventurism has come at a political price.

“Hezbollah was widely acclaimed in much of Lebanon and the region for leading the battle to liberate south Lebanon from Israeli occupation,” he wrote. “Today, the very polarized Lebanese see the party either as the nation’s savior and protector — or as a dangerous Iranian Trojan horse.”

TIME portfolio

Meet Saudi Arabia’s Special Security Forces

These forces don’t pull their punches

In March 2013, photographer Lynsey Addario, along with TIME‘s Africa Bureau Chief Aryn Baker, gained access to Saudi Arabia’s highly secure and secretive Special Security Forces’ training grounds. They witnessed how the elite soldiers’ intense exercise regimen has prepared them to face all forms of terrorism or threats in the Kingdom. Following the death of King Abdullah, Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef, who leads his country’s counterterrorism program and oversees these forces, was named Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He is now second-in-line to the throne.

Every country has its moment of reckoning. For Saudi Arabia, it was May 12, 2003, when heavily armed militants affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked residential compounds in Riyadh, killing 36, including nine Americans. That assault was just the beginning of a terror epidemic that unleashed car bombings, suicide attacks and targeted assassinations on a country that had known relative calm for nearly a decade. The number of attacks climaxed in 2004, when more than 60, including several foreigners, died throughout the country in a campaign of violence orchestrated by al-Qaeda militants bent on destroying the Saudi monarchy. The government responded by bolstering its Special Security Forces, crack anti-terror teams that work under the Ministry of Interior to root out terrorists in the Kingdom.

For three years, the Special Security Forces battled with militants in the country’s urban expanses, until the threat died down with the capture and killing of the al-Qaeda chief and hundreds of other militants in “pre-emptive” strikes in late 2006 and early 2007. Lessons learned from those early days now form the core of Saudi Arabia’s Special Security Forces curriculum. The forces, which number about 10,000, go through a rigorous training program designed to prepare soldiers for every possible contingency, from an attack on a VIP convoy to hostage search and recovery, bomb clearance, storming militant hideouts, pinpoint parachute landings, precision shooting and surveillance. In March 2013, TIME was granted rare access to a demonstration that put the newly trained recruits through their paces. “2003 to 2007 was a good lesson for us. The kind of training we have now reflects the new era of terrorism,” said Major Ahmad Hakimi, as he guided us through the purpose built facilities just outside Riyadh.

The facility boasts a massive, foam-covered and bullet proof shooting arena with adjustable housing configurations, to mimic urban house clearing. The adjoining warehouse features an entire airplane fuselage so commandos can practice combatting would-be hijackers. Outside recruits practice dropping from helicopters into fake compounds, in the style of the bin Laden capture. They climb up and rappel down water towers and practice hand-to-hand combat with designated “enemies.” They don’t pull their punches either—learning to take a gut punch is part of the training.

Basic military training lasts three months, followed by another month of basic security training and an additional specialization that can last for anything from two months to seven. There is a strong focus on explosives, and Hakimi seemed to take particular delight in having his visitors inadvertently set off pyrotechnic “bombs” triggered by every day objects, from the tab on a can of Pepsi to a doctored Koran or a small briefcase. None of the disguised bombs were invented, he explained. Militants had used each at one time or another in the Kingdom, to devastating effect. “It’s important to realize that anything has the potential to set off a bomb. We have to be aware,” he said.

Saudi society is strictly segregated along gender lines. Even when it comes to security issues, female police deal with women and male police, men. I asked if there were any women in counterterrorism training. Hakimi laughed, and pointed out that there would be no need in Saudi society. So what happens in the case of female terrorists? I asked. Hakimi, our voluble guide with an answer for everything, was momentarily stumped. “I guess,” he allowed, “we deal with terrorists as terrorists. It doesn’t matter when they are trying to harm our nation.”

Lynsey Addario, a frequent TIME contributor, is a photographer represented by Getty Images Reportage.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.

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