The Saudi Paradox: Spreading God and Terror in Iraq
By Amir Madani
18 June, 2014
By its furious act of terror and mass murder, the ruthless beheading machine ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) has linked the Iraqi civil war to the Syrian bloodbath with a plan to establish a medieval caliphate in the desert region between the two countries. ISIS, its ranks enlarged with Ba'athists left over from the Saddam regime, now occupies the important political and economic hub city of Mosul as well as large swaths of the so-called Sunni triangle, and is pushing south toward Baghdad as 500,000 Iraqis flee their homes. Despite all the regional threats and internal divisions; despite the systematic violence; despite their plans years; despite their control of some oil fields (while the oil companies and the industrialized world are intent on keeping prices down); and despite the changes that have occurred in the tactics of waging war; despite all this, ISIS has picked a fight it cannot actually win.
The governing coalition based on a Shia-Kurdish alliance, which also includes realist and moderate Sunnis, emerged from the election, is backed by the international community and will hold. It is of such importance that the US and Iran are exploring cooperation on Iraq.
That said, the Iraqi government is clearly in need of reform -- especially greater power sharing, more inclusiveness and anti-sectarianism. Or, conceivably there could be a Sunni autonomous region where Sunnis will decide if they would prefer to live under the harsh rule of a terrorist group.
Provoking Sectarian War
Despite the panic reaction to the apparent overflow of ISIS Jihadi, the battlefield will remain limited essentially to the desert regions of the so-called Sunni triangle where almost 18 percent of the populace would be spread over 48 percent of Iraqi national territory, and where the ISIS/Ba'ath cadres and their local supporters are looking to provoke a sectarian war. Following the indications of the first head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi, whose letter of 2004 to bin Laden (intercepted by Western intelligence agencies) reads in part: "If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis, as they feel imminent danger." Yet the facts do not show a great success: If the war is primarily sectarian in character as the headlines scream in leading international newspapers, then why are the Kurds -- the vast majority of whom are Sunnis -- not fighting alongside ISIS/Ba'ath, but rather enthusiastically against them?
Moreover, despite significant regional strength, ISIS and its supporters have neither the mind-set nor the experience required to govern; ISIS remains essentially a terror group. ISIS's rule in the Syrian province of Raqqa is based on absolute control of resources, of making the populace dependent on it, in effect a de facto quasi-slavery, harshest as usual for women, and minorities. Rule is enforced with public beheadings and crucifixions, amputations of suspected lawbreakers and systematic repression of any dissenting voices. Any diversion from ultra is doomed to silence or it eradication.
Who is funding ISIS in Syria? Who is funding ISIS in Iraq?
Yet as ISIS has swept from Syria into Iraq, its stark fury has magnetized Jihadi from the world basin (including Europe and the Americas) and raised legitimate fears of more bloodbaths to come, not only in the Middle East, but around the world. Since ISIS is organizationally split off from, but ideologically aligned, with al-Qaeda, the question arises: Who is ideologically behind ISIS and similar groups? Who is funding ISIS in Syria, who is funding ISIS in Iraq? And how did ISIS succeed in permeating eastern Syria and western Iraq with terror cells from Baghdad to Aleppo and acquire the capacity to bring the Iraqi Army, armed and trained by the US, to its knees in Mosul?
Jihad by Petrodollars
Italian journalist Loretta Napoleoni in her book, Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars behind the Terror Networks, states: "According to several estimates, Islamic organisations, many of which are linked to armed groups, can draw from a pool of money ranging from $5 billion to $16 billion; the Saudi government alone donates $10 billion via the ministry of Religious Works every year."
The generous distribution of petrodollars by the Saudis can be gauged from the shocking Wikileaks cables, which show U.S. diplomats arguing that Saudi donors are among the chief financiers of al Qaeda. A document that went out over Hillary Clinton's signature, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide" declared, "More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups." Saudi Donors, have notoriously played a fundamental role in creating and maintaining Sunni terrorist groups in the Middle East and worldwide, including the perpetrators of 9/11.
Gerald Posner's bestselling book, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11, explaining the history of Abu Zubaydah, reveals the secret connections between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden. Posner documents how various Saudi princes were involved in the 9/11 tragedy.
Those supported by wealthy donors eventually assume the outlook of such donors. The beheaders in Syria and throughout the Middle East and terrorists worldwide refer to Wahhabism http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/634039/Wahhabi, as the ideological foundation and dogmatic pillar of the House of Saud, and beyond their own occasional income of smuggling, kidnapping and extortion they are systematically funded by donors from Saudi Arabia and the associated Sheikdoms of Qatar and some other members of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
According to Elizabeth Dickinson in her Saban Centre analysis paper: "Today, there is evidence that Kuwaiti donors have backed rebels who have committed atrocities and who are either directly linked to al Qaeda or cooperate with its affiliated brigades on the ground."
Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring
From the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia has acted to prevent the demand for citizens' democratic rights, using any means necessary to thwart situations favourable to such rights: Suppressing protests at home, and sending troops abroad under the auspices of the GCC, as in Bahrain, to repress the people's just demands for civil rights and the rule of law. Saudi Arabia gave asylum to the dictator ben Ali of Tunisia, and until his last days sought to prop up Mubarak. Saudi Arabia wasted no time in offering immediate support for the so-called postmodern coup undertaken by General al-Sisi. In Syria, the initial demands for democratic rights degenerated into a bloodbath instigated by Salafi jihadist factions linked to Saudi Arabia and its associates in the Saudi-led GCC, such as Qatar.
Extending the Bloodbath For Regional Ambitions
Now, donors in the Kingdom and the sheikdoms within its sphere are working to extend the Syrian bloodbath into Iraq by lending support to the Jihadi-Ba'athist coalition seeking to overthrow the coalition government elected by a vast majority of Iraqi voters. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has sought to put an end to the "Middle East Spring" with petrodollars, terrorism and military intervention. And in a stark show of force, Saudi Arabia rattles new Chinese long range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear war head. Moreover, according to the BBC, quoting NATO sources, the Saudis have nuclear weapons "on order" from Pakistan. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24823846. Saudi Arabia justifies all this in the name of danger coming from Iran; but in Iran there is a solid and growing movement of civil society linked to international reality that combat courageously to recreate Iran as a modern civil state based on the rule of law, and the government is engaged with the "5+1" (5 members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) to curtail its nuclear project, already monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Most likely, Simon Henderson is right when he states: The battle for Iraq is a Saudi war on Iran.
The Historical Roots of Extremism
In 1744, Muhammad al-Sa'ud the founder of the core of what is now Saudi Arabia, signed a pact establishing the dogmatic religious creed of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, author of Kitāb at-Tawḥīd ("Book of Unity") promulgating the teaching of the ultra-extremist doctrine of ibn Taymiyyah and a group of fighters from the desert of Najd known as the Ikhwan (brothers). This pact represents the pivotal ideological moment -- the establishment of an alliance between ultra-orthodox dogma and a call to arms. Thus was established the intimate alliance between religious and temporal powers, which holds even unto the present day. The clerical legitimization of the rule of the House of al-Sa'ud reinforces its absolute monopoly on all the levers of power, for which the regime reciprocates by guaranteeing the deeply ultra-orthodox dogmatic Islamic character of secular power in the Kingdom. So the absolute belief in the oneness of God (Tawhid) devolves into the justification for absolute political power. In the name of absolute obedience to an absolute God, in reality what is demanded is an absolute obedience to ruling family.
Thus, theological and political absolutism is intrinsic to the Saudi power structure. Any diversity is interpreted as "an affront to Islam" and considered heresy. This absolute approach gives birth to Takfirism, according to which any believe different than it, is heresy and as such deserves to be eliminated). Al-Qaeda and all groups organizationally or ideologically related to it such as ISIS are born in the bosom of Wahhabism, and in reality belong to the deepest soul of Arab-Islamic societies under Wahhabi influence. Such societies are unable to recognize the democratic legacy of modern states based on citizenship rights and the rule of law. In the case of Saudi Arabia and the related sheikdoms, there is a refusal to recognize democracy tout court. The ruler of the Kingdom, despite demands by the Saudi people -- especially women and urban youth -- for openness and the rule of law has come to avoid or fail to recognize any aspect of universally acknowledged democratic rights. Although Saudi Arabia combats the various al-Qaeda affiliated groups within its borders, by exporting Wahhabist ideology it perpetuates abroad what it opposes at home.
Transforming Religion into a Political/Geopolitical Tool
The Holy book of Muslims defines God as the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. For most Muslim believers, the message of the Prophet of Islam is based on peace and justice. According to many Muslims, Wahhabism has turned His message into a pile of fearsome rules and a tool of terror to defend its very familiar secular power.
Thus, we have a fundamentalist regime that leverages its huge oil revenues to influence groups and regimes world-wide; a geopolitical player impossible to ignore, and one capable of altering the course of international legality. Nonetheless, this powerhouse is the major funder (along with its associated sheikdoms) of worldwide jihadist movements.
What future democratic legacy can human civilization expect? In Saudi Arabia, where beheading is a penalty foreseen by the law and still practiced and even driving is forbidden for women, no form of democratic legitimacy (as elections, free speech, civil organizations, etc.) is recognized. In the name of absolute obedience to God perpetuated by the Salafi mufti, an absolute power is imposed, while all rights are denied -- women's rights in particular -- while the privilege of the ruling family burns public resources and causes deep social inequality. All this alongside a cultural backwardness yields a population with a large youth unemployment, who then become susceptible to fundamentalist-jihadi propaganda.
According to Christopher M. Davidson, "The sheiks of the Persian Gulf might not face the fate of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt next year, but the system they have created is untenable in the longer term and it could come apart even sooner than many believe."
That may prove prophetic; but for now, the complacent Bedouin autocratic familiar-tribal plutocracy that are the Saudi-led sheiks of the Persian Gulf continue their paradoxical mix of God and Terror, while millions of innocent people in the Middle East and around the world pay a heavy tribute of blood .