And now, a further turn for the absurd...
While it’s still far from common knowledge among the Western public that Washington’s closest allies in the Mid-East are funding, arming, and otherwise enabling the Sunni extremists (including ISIS) battling for control of Syria and working to destabilize Iraq, the massacre that unfolded earlier this month in San Bernardino has managed to focus some much needed attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in promoting extremism.
As we noted in the immediate aftermath of the California mass shooting, the fact that Tashfeen Malik spent 25 years in Saudi Arabia living with a father who, according to family members who spoke to Reuters, adopted an increasingly hardline ideology as time went on, underscores the fact that the puritanical, ultra orthodox belief system promoted by the Saudis is poisonous. That’s not a critique of Islam. It’s a critique of Wahhabism and the effect it has on the minds of those who are inculcated by Saudi culture.
Here’s an excerpt from "Saudi Arabia Is Underwriting Terrorism. Let’s Start Making It Pay," by Charles Kenny:
For years since 9/11, U.S. and Western officials have mostly looked the other way at all this ideological support for extremism: Saudi oil was just too important to the global economy, even though many of these Saudi petro-dollars were underwriting repression at home and the growth of Salafist fundamentalism abroad.
This support for radicalism abroad should come as little surprise given that Islamic State is an ideological cousin of Saudi Arabia’s own state-sponsored extremist Wahhabi sect—which the country has spent more than $10 billion to promote worldwide through charitable organizations like the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. The country will continue to export extremism as long as it practices the same policies at home.
More, from "Saudi Arabia: An ISIS That Has Made It," by Kamel Daoud:
Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.
Consider that, and consider the following headline from Reuters which surely qualifies as the most tragically ironic thing you'll read all day: "Saudi Arabia announces 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism"
That's right ladies and gentlemen, you no longer have anything to fear from Sunni extremists because the undisputed king of promoting Sunni extremism is on the case. "The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations," a statement from state-ruun SPA said.
But it gets better. Much better.
"The countries here mentioned" of course include Turkey and Qatar. Qatar is a well known sponsor of extremist groups battling in Syria. Recall the following from The New York Times (ca. 2014):
Standing at the front of a conference hall in Doha, the visiting sheikh told his audience of wealthy Qataris that to help the battered residents of Syria, they should not bother with donations to humanitarian programs or the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
“Give your money to the ones who will spend it on jihad, not aid,” implored the sheikh, Hajaj al-Ajmi, recently identified by the United States government as a fund-raiser for Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
Sheikh Ajmi and at least a half-dozen others identified by the United States as private fund-raisers for Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise operate freely in Doha, often speaking at state-owned mosques and even occasionally appearing on Al Jazeera. The state itself has provided at least some form of assistance — whether sanctuary, media, money or weapons — to the Taliban of Afghanistan, Hamas of Gaza, rebels from Syria, militias in Libya and allies of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region.
Now, however, Qatar is finding itself under withering attack by an unlikely alignment of interests, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel, which have all sought to portray it as a godfather to terrorists everywhere. Some in Washington have accused it of directly supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — an extremist group so bloodthirsty that Al Qaeda has condemned it — a charge that Western officials, independent analysts and Arab diplomats critical of Qatar all call implausible and unsubstantiated.
As for Turkey, well, we've covered Ankara's connections to ISIS exhaustively, but suffice to say you don't pull in $500 million or more per year in oil sales without a state sponsor and for Bakr al-Baghdadi, that state sponsor looks to be Turkey. And the oil story only scratches the surface of Erdogan's complicity when it comes to aiding and abetting extremism in Syria.
Of course Iran is excluded from the new "coalition." Here's Reuters again:
Shi'ite Muslim Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia's arch rival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen.
This would be infuriating if it weren't so comically absurd. Obviously Tehran has some blood on its hands when it comes to promoting international terrorism via the Quds and via Hezbollah. However, that pales in comparison to the Saudis role in creating a world view that indocrinates the masses with an ideology that aligns almost perfectly with that espoused by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their offshoots.
Further, the IRGC and Hezbollah are actually on the ground fighting the same terrorists the Saudis are talking about. So while Riyadh issues press releases, Iran risks its soldiers. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is busy fighting to restore a puppet government (of course Iran is in many ways battling to restore what some might call a puppet of Tehran in Syria, but you get the point).
The obvious question here is this: is this the precursor to Saudi, Qatari, UAE, and (more) Turkish boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq, just as Iraqi Shiite politician Hanan Fatlawi predicted last week? It certainly appears so. Here's a headline that crossed the wires earlier today (from Reuters):
- SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER JUBEIR SAYS TALKS ONGOING WITH REGARD TO SAUDI ARABIA, OTHER GULF STATES SENDING SPECIAL FORCES TO SYRIA
With that in mind, we close with one last quote, this one from 30-year-old deputy crown prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman: "There will be international coordination with major powers and international organizations ... in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq."