By Ramtanu Maitra
Volume 41, Number 34, August 29, 2014
The sudden emergence of another organized militant Islamist-terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or simply IS, along the Iraqi-Syria borders, was not really “sudden” at all. A series of West-organized military actions, particularly the Iraq invasion of 2003, invasion of Libya in 2011, and arming and facilitating the passage of Islamists and terrorists, in the garb of freedom fighters, to Syria to dismantle the Assad regime, has served to bring together thousands of hardcore Islamic terrorists, from as many as 50 countries, who have for years been funded and indoctrinated by the Saudis, Qataris, and Kuwaitis, with the “kill them all” Wahhabi-Salafi vision of Islam, to establish what ISIS calls the Islamic State.
That state currently encompasses a swath of land stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad in the east, to the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria, bordering Lebanon and Turkey, in the west. Estimates of the number of fighters that might be affiliated with ISIS vary from more than 10,000, to as many as 17,000.
While many policy errors have contributed to creating this horror, there is one centre of evil with the intention of spreading such brutal sectarian warfare, which destroys civilization and nation-states alike. This centre is in London, often dubbed “Londonistan,” for its role as a centre for incubating international terrorists. As we review the history of the creation of ISIS below, keep in mind the reality that we are dealing here with a London imperial project being carried out through Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, and sundry British tools.
Setting up Sectarian War
Although this large group of Wahhabi-Salafi terrorists in Iraq and Syria, who are killing Shia’s, and grabbing large of tracts of land for setting up a Wahhabi-Salafi Caliphate, has been much better organized and trained over the decades, it is not altogether different from the London-organized, Saudi-funded, and Pakistan-trained Mujahideen in the 1980s, who showed up in Afghanistan to drive out the invading Soviet military. While the objective of the Mujahideen brought in by Western powers was to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and then become terrorists-for-hire, ISIS is busy setting up a Caliphate in Southwest Asia.
It is perhaps because of this distinction that the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told reporters on Aug. 24, on his way to Afghanistan, that he believes ISIS is more of a regional threat, and is not currently plotting attacks against the U.S. or Europe. He also pointed out that there is no indication, as of now, that ISIS militants are engaged in “active plotting against the homeland, so it’s different than that which we see in Yemen.” In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has attempted attacks against Western countries.
There is no doubt that the threat that ISIS poses, as observed by General Dempsey, is a regional threat, and is primarily directed against Iran, Iran’s allies, and Shia’s in general. But it also poses a serious threat to all Arab monarchies and countries such as Lebanon.
The objective of ISIS became evident from its actions in Iraq and Syria. It is clear that the staunchest promoters of anti-Shi’a ideology, which is aimed at undermining Shiite Iran, are the Saudi monarchy, the Qatari monarchy under the al-Thanis, and the Kuwaiti monarchy under the al-Sabahs. These monarchies are exporters of the Salafi-Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, which does not accept Shia’s as Muslims, and considers them to be heretics who should be annihilated in order to purify Islam.
Saudi Fears and Cover-ups
Nonetheless, the rise of the ISIS and its military prowess, seen in its securing a large tract of land not too-distant from the Saudi Arabian borders, has evoked an existential fear in the House of Saud. In addition, the presence of thousands of Western Jihadi fighters who could raise hell upon their return to their home countries, has also made the Americans, the British, the French, and some other European governments—friends of the Saudi-Qatari-Kuwaiti axis—a bit uneasy. In order to assuage their Western friends’ fears, the Saudis have begun a propaganda campaign to convince others that they do not fund ISIS.
The West, with its vested interest in Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf nations, has continued to defend Saudi Arabia; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went on record praising the Saudi Kingdom for donating $100 million to the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre.
Riyadh is also spewing out the lie that the ISIS militants are not adherents to Wahhabism. In a statement to the Aug. 23 London-based Saudi news daily Asharq al-Awsat, a spokesperson for the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London said: “Saudi Arabia wants the defeat and destruction of ISIS and other terrorist networks. Terrorist networks are as abhorrent to the government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as they are to the governments and peoples of the rest of the world…There have been suggestions that ISIS followers are members of some sort of Wahhabi absolutist sect. Indeed, certain UK media outlets often refer to Muslims within Saudi Arabia as Wahhabists. The unsubstantiated use of this invented connotation must end because it is untrue. Wahhabism is not a sect of Islam.”
“Muhammad [Ibn] Abd Al-Wahhab was a scholar and jurist of the 18th century who insisted on the adherence to Qur’anic values and the teachings of the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad,” the statement added. The Saudi spokesperson criticized Western media attempts to draw comparisons between Wahhabism and extremist ideology.
But some Western news media are not buying these denials by Riyadh and Washington about the Saudi-Qatari-Kuwaiti connections to ISIS. The British weekly The Spectator, on Aug. 21, alluded to the common ideology of the Saudi and ISIS Wahhabists: “Saudi Arabia is a close ally of Britain and a keen customer of our killing machines, and like most of the Arab states is hostile to lunatic elements like ISIS and Hamas. Yet they are part of the problem; like many Islamists, including those in Britain, the Saudis are happy to condemn ISIS in what they do but not their basic ideology, largely because it mirrors their own.”
The article pointed out that “the Saudi hostility to ISIS could even be described in Freudian terms as the narcissism of small differences. ISIS is dangerous to them because for those raised in the Saudi version of Islam; the Islamic State’s even more extreme interpretation is not a huge leap.”
Wahhabi ‘Peaceniks’ of Yesteryear and Today’s ISIS
In 1744, Muhammad ibn Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab swore a traditional Muslim oath, in which they promised to work together to establish a state run according to Islamic principles. Until that time, the al-Saud family had been accepted as conventional tribal leaders whose rule was based on long-standing, but vaguely defined, authority. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab labelled all those who disagreed with him are heretics and apostates, which, in his eyes, justified the use of force in imposing both his beliefs and his political authority over neighbouring tribes.
This in turn led him to declare holy war (jihad) on other Muslims (neighbouring Arab tribes), an act which would otherwise have been legally impossible under the rules of jihad.
In 1802, the Wahhabis captured Karbala in Iraq, and destroyed the tomb of the Shi’ite Imam Husayn. In 1803, the Wahhabis captured the holy city of Mecca. The Ottoman Turks became alarmed, and in 1811, dispatched Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt, to challenge the Wahhabis. He succeeded in re-imposing Ottoman sovereignty in 1813. Nearly a century later, in 1901, with Wahhabi help, Saudi emir Abd al-Aziz al-Saud recaptured Riyadh. Al-Saud’s sovereignty over the Arabian Peninsula grew steadily until 1924, when his dominance became secure. At that point, the Wahhabis went on a rampage throughout the peninsula, smashing the tombs of Muslim saints and imams, including the tomb of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima. Saudi Arabia was officially constituted as a kingdom in1932.( 1)
In Newsweek July 8, Lucy Westcott wrote, “The Islamist militant group ISIS has been destroying Iraq’s Shiite mosques and religious shrines as it continues to put pressure on the country and further its extreme agenda. The AFP reported that four shrines that commemorated Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed, while six Shiite mosques were demolished.
The destruction seems to have been limited to Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, including militant-held Mosul. One local resident told Al-Arabiya that members of the group had also occupied the Chaldean cathedral and the Syrian Orthodox cathedral, both in Mosul, removing their crosses and replacing them with the black flag of the Islamic State.”
There is another hallmark that ties Wahhabism with ISIS like an umbilical cord. Human Rights Watch reported recently that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 19 people since the beginning of August. Some confessions may have been gained under torture, and one poor defendant was found guilty of sorcery. Beheading of Kafirs (in Arabic, a slur to describe non-believers) is also the high-profile act of both ISIS and al-Qaeda under Sheikh Osama bin Laden, another group that was a beneficiary of Saudi money and wide-ranging Gulf support.
ISIS beheaded the American journalist James Foley recently in Iraq; while another American journalist, Daniel Pearl, was beheaded in 2002 in Pakistan. In both cases, videos of the beheadings were widely circulated to rev up emotions among the Wahhabis.
The Financing of ISIS
In 2011, in Syria, when President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and President François Hollande joined forces to remove Syria’s elected President Bashar al-Assad from power, and thus deal a body blow to the Russians and the Iranians, who acknowledge Assad’s legitimacy, not-so-militant groups within were bolstered by attaching them to well-trained Salafi-Wahhabi terrorists from a number of countries. While the Western countries were quite generous with arms, and worked with the neighbouring countries to facilitate entry of arms into Syria, the bulk of the money came from the Salafi-Wahhabi bastions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.
Despite denials issued from Riyadh and Doha to quiet gullible Westerners, the funding of various Sunni groups seeking to establish Salafism and Wahhabism in a number of countries has long been well-documented.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, who is keen to see Assad, and the Russian influence over Syria, vanish altogether, praised the Saudis and Qataris for financial help lent to the Syrian “rebels,” in a discussion on CNN, in January 2014, “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the Senator repeated at the Munich Security Conference in late January. McCain praised Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Assad in Syria. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces.(2)
But McCain was a bit off the mark. At the time he was bloviating on CNN, the “rebel” power in Syria was already firmly in the hands of ISIS—now an enemy of the U.S. Indeed, in Syria, where the moderate Friends of Syria (those who, according to what the White House conveyed to the American people in 2011-13, were the recipient of arms thanks to American and other Western largesse), Jabhat al-Nusra (a faction of al-Qaeda), and ISIS worked together in the early stages of the West-orchestrated and Saudi-Qatari-Kuwaiti-funded anti-Assad militancy. These groups used to carry their flags together during militant operations against Damascus; but that changed, and the Salafi-Wahhabis, having seized arms and ammunition from their earlier collaborators, became the powerhouse.
Now, it is evident that ISIS has enough killing power to loot and extort funds to sustain itself, and even grow.
How Saudi Money Created Foreign Wahhabi Terrorists
In 2010, Britain’s news daily The Guardian citing Wikileaks, Dec. 5, 2010, quoted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)—but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money. Both the Afghan Taliban and the LeT espouse the Wahhabi version of orthodox Islam. “More needs to be done,” wrote The Guardian, “since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups, says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups world-wide,” she said.
Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them. The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds, and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.
In other words, a small fraction of the Saudi money may have gone directly to ISIS, but it is definitely Saudi money that armed and trained terrorists in Russia’s Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Ingushetia; in Pakistan; along the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders; in the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan belt in Central Asia and also in Europe, particularly in Britain’s Londonistan. These militants have come in droves to the Syrian theater with their expertise to boost ISIS’s killing power.
In short, the Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus, just as they’re doing now in Syria. In Chechnya, Saudis such as Ibn al-Khattab, Abu al-Walid, and Muhannad (all norms de guerre) indoctrinated, armed, and trained militants who mired the Chechens in an endless war that killed some 160,000 people, while forcing Chechen women into Saudi-style isolation, and throwing Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia into turmoil. Many of these jihadis are now on full display in the Syria-Iraq theatre on behalf of ISIS.
In Afghanistan, Saudi money, and the Pakistani military, backed by Saudi money and support, have created a relatively small, but hardcore, Wahhabi capability in a number of provinces. Although these Afghan Taliban were not notably visible in either Syria or Iraq, they have helped facilitate movement of Saudi-funded Wahhabi terrorists coming down from the north to participate in the Caliphate-formation war in Iraq and Syria.
In Pakistan, myriad Saudi-financed Wahhabi and anti-Shi’a terrorists are growing in strength, and trying establish inroads into the Pakistani military; while in Afghanistan, the Saudi- and opium-funded Taliban, spewing Wahhabi venom, are trying to seize power again. In addition, Saudi money is also being distributed to build bases in several nations for recruitment and training of jihadis for future operations. It is evident that such a widespread operation cannot be carried out in stealth for years; it is therefore fair to assume that such base-building is done in collaboration with the targeted nation’s intelligence community. These recruits remain available for use by the mother-nation.
This became visible when the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group (LIFG) was used to dismantle the Libyan state and kill Colonel Qaddafi. Pakistan and Britain are two important centers where the Saudis operate hand-in-glove with those nations’ intelligence apparatus.
Britain in the Spotlight
Take, for instance, the recent beheading of the American photo-journalist James Foley by a British Jihadi working with ISIS. Whether the British Jihadi actually carried out the execution, or not, it was evident that ISIS was keen to project its strength, boasting that it has muscle in developed countries, such as Britain. And, indeed, it has.
The identified British Jihadi was a product of the East London Mosque, situated at the heart of Londonistan, in the borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. Londonistan is a world unto itself, where British intelligence recruits and trains Saudi-funded radical and criminal Sunni Muslims to kill and assassinate, and then deploys them wherever needed to serve the “Empire’s interest.”
Tower Hamlets is where the Shi’a-hating radical Saudi cleric and head Imam of Mecca, Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani (who last year was refused entry into Britain) went to meet local council leaders for a “private meeting” in 2008. He was the guest of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutf ur Rahman, a fanatic Islamist who heads the Saudi-funded Jamaat-e-Islami in Britain. According to a Bangladeshi journalist, Tower Hamlets has been converted into the “Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets” under the mayor. That statement was right on the mark.
On Aug. 9, The Guardian reported that some 20 Asian youths had gathered around the Tower Hamlets gates, where a black flag, resembling that of ISIS, was hoisted. The flag was subsequently taken down by a Catholic nun.
Tower Hamlets is one of many centres where the Saudis breed their Wahhabi recruits. In 2013, when Sheikh al-Kalbani was denied entry to the U.K., followers of radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary, spokesman for the Islamist group Islam4UK, led a demonstration in London in May against Shi’a Muslims, three years after Islam4UK was officially proscribed, on Jan. 14 2010, under the U.K.’s counter-terrorism laws. In other words, the proscription of Islam4UK is a paper job to cover up that group’s activities.
It is also evident that the Saudi funding for Wahhabi-indoctrinated Jihadi fighters has not gone to waste. Among the ISIS foreign fighters, the Londonistan-created jihadists are the largest and most dominant group.
The Telegraph, in an Aug. 21 article, “More British Muslims fight in Syria than in U.K. Armed Forces,” cited Khalid Mahmood, the Member of Parliament from Birmingham, another recruiting and training centre of Londonistan, saying that “1,500 British Muslims have gone to wage jihad since 2011, as opposed to the 400-500 the government estimates and the 650 serving in the British armed forces.”
1. Ted Thornton, “The Wahhabi Movement, Eighteenth Century Arabia,” Islam Daily, Dec. 7, 2004
2. Steve Clemons, “Thank God for the Saudis: ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback,” The Atlantic, June 23, 2014.