I wonder if the American administration would ever care to rein in Saudi Arabia, one of the two key centers of radical Islamism in the Middle East, the other being Iran . Knowledgeable sources say Saudi religious establishment and some Gulf charities have invested billions of dollars into like-minded organizations around the world in order to wipe out the pluralism of original Islam and install in its place some dark order . In the 9/11 episode 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Several thousand Saudis have of late joined the Islamic State . The Saudi government has allegedly funded some notorious Islamic State’s fighters too.
More importantly, the Kingdom has always functioned as a terror entity to its own citizens, women and minorities in particular. It extends to its minorities no rights in the state. In its continuing crime against humanity , the Kingdom conducted the mass execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others in January this year. Riyadh carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the country in two decades.
The sources say Washington is unlikely to act against Saudi Arabia. In the second half of the twentieth century the semi-feudal Saudi Arabia emerged as an “economic power without any military strength.” Since then the successive American administrations have treated its security as “crucial” . Besides, the administrations have found the Saudi regime by its side on several important international issues .During his war on the dictatorial Saddam Hussein regime, American President George W Bush had Saudi support.
Presently, Washington seems to calculate new Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his son and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman Saudi Arabia may be useful in its diplomacy towards Syria . In the recent past U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter repeatedly emphasized the U.S. was looking for “the rest of the world to step up” and for the “Gulf countries to do more” in solving the Syrian crisis. He must have appreciated when, speaking to CNN on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (February 12-14), Saudi Foreign Minister’s Adel al-Jubeir announced: “We are saying we will participate within the U.S.-led coalition, should this coalition decide to send ground troops into Syria, that we are prepared to send special forces with those troops.”
Also, Washington might be aware of the importance of the Saudi clout with other Gulf states. It may be recalled that when the Saudis decided severing its ties with Iran after Iranian demonstrators set afire its embassy in Tehran in protest over the execution of the Shiite preacher, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Sudan all followed suit . Washington might also have liked that in the current Syrian crisis the Saudis have been ready to send fighter jets to support the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria. The Saudis (along with the Emiratis, Qataris, and Bahrainis) also pledged to send their own ground forces.
I hope Israel would not gloss over the fundamentals in the foreign policy behavior of Saudi Arabia (and its close allies) and take all appropriate measures to defend itself. It must bear in mind constantly that the very existence of Saudi Arabia depends upon the spread of Wahhabi Islam under its leadership around the world. And that means the continued Saudi and allies’ support, overt and covert, to Wahhabi terror groups against Israel– and all other liberal democracies.
Knowledgeable sources warn Israel against entertaining any false hope out of the recent reports of hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Recently, the 22- member Arab League took a decision in Cairo to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization (Only Lebanon and Iraq expressed “reservations” over the decision) . The Cairo decision may have been taken in view of their fear of Iran. Iran-supported Hezbollah has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This has pitted Hezbollah against Gulf states which backing the rebels in the region. The two confront each other to some extent in Yemen, too.
The sources say the Sheikhs are veterans in pure power politics. Back in the 1960s and 70s, they were aligned with Iran’s Shah against radical Arab nationalists led by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and the pan-Arab Ba’ath party in Syria and Iraq. They may be calculating now that after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, the Khomeini regime has promoted a mix of Shi’ite empowerment and broader Islamic opposition to the ruling conservative pro-Western Sunni Arab regimes. Since the end of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, Iran’s power projection has grown in the region – in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, among disaffected Shi’ite populations in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province (who constitute 10-15 percent of the country’s total population), Bahrain and Kuwait. Iran has also proceeded with its nuclear program. Given its age-old imperialist aspirations, Iran may seek to subdue Saudi Arabia and allies in the future.
The fearful mind of Riyadh and allies can be discerned in what Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa reportedly said in an interview with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV the other day. Al Khalifa said that Iran was currently the coastal kingdom’s “biggest problem.” He even indicated that he considered Iran today as ” more dangerous than Israel to the Gulf states.” He said, “We wish to have good relations with both, but under the current circumstances and challenges, the Iranian danger is what we see before our eyes.”
The sources suggest Jerusalem should not expect anything also from the Saudi Arabia- U.S joint action (April 2, 2016) against two groups and four individuals suspected of supporting al-Qaida and the Taliban in their operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Lashkar-e-Taiba that targets India. Jerusalem must constantly bear in mind there is hardly any dilution in Saudi Arabia’s role as a radical Islamic leader in the world.
The terror strikes at Brussels’ airport and metro station last month may serve as yet another reminder to Israel and the world as to the kind of damage the religious radicalism that emanates from Saudi Arabia can do to our civilization. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Brussels strike and various other attacks across the world. This group derives its ideological sustenance from the Saudi-backed Wahhabi version of Islam.
Jagdish N. Singh