Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

“Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone.”

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

That’s the headline on this Hisham Melhem piece on the comprehensive failure of the entire Arab world.

The jihadists of the Islamic State, in other words, did not emerge from nowhere. They climbed out of a rotting, empty hulk—what was left of a broken-down civilization. They are a gruesome manifestation of a deeper malady afflicting Arab political culture, which was stagnant, repressive and patriarchal after the decades of authoritarian rule that led to the disastrous defeat in the 1967 war with Israel. That defeat sounded the death knell of Arab nationalism and the resurgence of political Islam, which projected itself as the alternative to the more secular ideologies that had dominated the Arab republics since the Second World War. If Arab decline was the problem, then “Islam is the solution,” the Islamists said—and they believed it.

At their core, both political currents—Arab nationalism and Islamism—are driven by atavistic impulses and a regressive outlook on life that is grounded in a mostly mythologized past. Many Islamists, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (the wellspring of such groups)—whether they say it explicitly or hint at it—are still on a ceaseless quest to resurrect the old Ottoman Caliphate. Still more radical types—the Salafists—yearn for a return to the puritanical days of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. For most Islamists, democracy means only majoritarian rule, and the rule of sharia law, which codifies gender inequality and discrimination against non-Muslims.

And let’s face the grim truth: There is no evidence whatever that Islam in its various political forms is compatible with modern democracy.

A few pieces of Melhem’s piece are erroneous: “As terrorist organizations, al Qaeda and Islamic State are different from the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative movement that renounced violence years ago, although it did dabble with violence in the past.” That’s only because the Egypt’s military forced them to refrain from large-scale violence on pain of death. We saw how quickly this restraint was cast aside when Morsi assumed power. The only differences between al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are of degree, tactical choice, and certain Islamic Eschatological doctrinal differences as to exactly what sort of oppressive Islamic theocracy imposing Sharia law are the ideal end-state.

But those flaws aside, it’s still an admirably clear-eyed distillation of the horrific, bloody, dysfunctional nature of the Arab world. Read the whole thing.

More on ISIS

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

For those who haven’t been following every twist and turn of the Syrian Civil War, the sudden rise of Islamic State of Syria and Iraq probably came as quite a shock. Yesterday you’d never heard of them, and today they’re capturing Mosul and Tikrit and advancing on Baghdad. No terrorist or guerrilla force grows that quickly without some sort of major financial backing. My suspicion that they were bankrolled by the Saudis and some of the other Sunni oil sheikdoms appears to have been more or less accurate.

Over at The Daily Beast, Josh Rogin says that wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are funding ISIS.

Under significant U.S. pressure, the Arab Gulf governments have belatedly been cracking down on funding to Sunni extremist groups, but Gulf regimes are also under domestic pressure to fight in what many Sunnis see as an unavoidable Shiite-Sunni regional war that is only getting worse by the day.

“ISIS is part of the Sunni forces that are fighting Shia forces in this regional sectarian conflict. They are in an existential battle with both the (Iranian aligned) Maliki government and the Assad regime.”

And therein lies the rub. The Syrian Civil War had already undertaken the character of a Sunni/Shia conflict that was drawing in Iran and Lebanon (and, by financial proxy, Saudi Arabia); their swift success in Iraq widens the scope of the war, but not the essential nature. Sunnis and Shiias have hardly needed an excuse to slaughter each other at the drop of a hat; indeed, the far more difficult task has always been to keep them from slaughtering each other.

For what it’s worth, the exceptionally cynical and always-entertaining War Nerd says that ISIS has already peaked:

This is one of those dramatic military reverses that mean a lot less than meets the eye. The “Iraqi Army” routed by ISIS wasn’t really a national army, and ISIS isn’t really a dominant military force. It was able to occupy those cities because they were vacuums, abandoned by a weak, sectarian force. Moving into vacuums like this is what ISIS is good at. And that’s the only thing ISIS is good at.

ISIS is a sectarian Sunni militia—that’s all. A big one, as militias go, with something like 10,000 fighters. Most of them are Iraqi, a few are Syrian, and a few hundred are those famous “European jihadis” who draw press attention out of all relation to their negligible combat value. The real strength of ISIS comes from its Chechen fighters, up to a thousand of them. A thousand Chechens is a serious force, and a terrifying one if they’re bearing down on your neighborhood. Chechens are the scariest fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world.

But we’re still talking about a conventional military force smaller than a division. That’s a real but very limited amount of combat power. What this means is that, no matter how many scare headlines you read, ISIS will never take Baghdad, let alone Shia cities to the south like Karbala. It won’t be able to dent the Kurds’ territory to the north, either. All it can do—all it has been doing, by moving into Sunni cities like Mosul and Tikrit—is to complete the partition of Iraq begun by our dear ex-president Bush in 2003.

Also this: “Insurgent groups go through leaders like Spinal Tap went through drummers.”

This analysis of the situation strikes me as just cynical enough to possibly be true, especially given his thoughts on our non-friends the Saudis. But the fact that ISIS probably won’t be able to take Baghdad doesn’t mean they won’t try. And there’s no reason the Sunni/Shia civil war can’t widen and drag even more countries into it.

Which is not to argue that we should be intervening at this point. Indeed, someone who was especially cynical might suggest that years of Sunnis and Shias killing each other might be just the thing to distract them from killing us…

LinkSwarm for November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

I’m guessing a lot of people will be traveling or furiously cleaning their house today, so here’s a small pre-Thanksgiving LinkSwarm for the distracted:

  • Dear America: In case you didn’t notice in the ObamaCare meltdown, the economy is still screwed.
  • Current estimate for people losing their employer health insurance thanks to ObamaCare: 80 million.
  • Abbott Labs CEO: ObamaCare provides “clear incentives for companies to drop their health care plans and move people onto the exchanges.”
  • Noted right-wing white supremacists Al Sharpton and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter say the Knockout Game is real. (Hat tip Jammie Wearing Fool.
  • Israel is not the only country upset over Obama and Kerry’s Iranian cave-in; the Saudis are pissed, too.
  • The pro-Amnesty lobby thinks they can punish politicians for agreeing with the will of American voters. Fuzzy, feel-good “immigration reform” polls well right up until voters realize what they’ll actually get is illegal alien amnesty.
  • Leander ISD is bankrupting its children.
  • This Week in Jihad

    Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

    I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Now back to a less happy task: rounding up jihad-related news over the last week:

    (Hat tip: The usual suspects under “Jihad” on your right.)

    As a side note, I would be interested to hear if anyone actually finds these weekly roundups useful. I put these up and get very little feedback on them…

    This Week in Jihad

    Thursday, November 18th, 2010

    Jihad waits for no man, so here’s another roundup of news:

    (Hat tips: Jihadwatch, MEMRI, Michael Totten, etc.)

    This Week in Jihad

    Thursday, November 4th, 2010

    Just because the U.S. has an election doesn’t mean Islamic fundamentalists rest. So here’s a roundup of Islamic- and Jihad-related news from around the world.

    Obama Administration Gives OK to $60 Billion Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

    Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

    Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but I didn’t notice that the Obama Administration had approved a $60 billion (with a B) arms sale to Saudi Arabia until Instapundit linked to that Jonathan Tepperman piece.

    I have mixed feelings about the deal.

    • The Saudis are not our friends. The ties between the House of Saud and fundamentalist Wahabbist Islam go back over two centuries, and Wahabbism is (along with the fundamentalist Shia of Khomeinist Iran, and the teachings of Hassan al-Banna and his followers in the Muslim Brotherhood) one of the chief sources retrograde radicalism in modern Islam, an influence that the Saudis have continued to support with their petrodollars to this very day.

    • My impression (and if someone has any contradicting evidence, feel free to share it in the comments below) is that the Saudi’s continuing support for Wahabbism is one of manipulative cynicism rather than deep religious belief. The Saudi ruling class is happy to swill alcohol and enjoy other forbidden Western pleasures behind closed doors, but continues to support Wahabbism as both a means of controlling their own country’s populace, and of maintaining their influence in the Ummah, the worldwide community of Islamic believers. Whether this makes them more or less evil is a matter of interpretation.
    • Despite their outward hostility to Jews and ostensible support of Palestinian nationhood, one of the biggest open secrets in the Middle East is that the Saudis are in regular secret communication with Israeli leadership about matters of mutual interest. (Also, the Saudis, much like the vast majority of Arabs everywhere, don’t really give a rat’s ass about the Palestinians.)
    • Their biggest area of shared concern is a nuclear armed Iran, which both view as an existential threat to their existence (albeit it of different types). This is why, as the Atlantic piece notes, Israel hasn’t lifted a finger to stop the arms sale.

    On that basis, the arms sale should probably be approved. But it’s no substitute for actually taking out Iran’s nuclear program, or the mullahs pushing it.