Sunday, January 11, 2015

Our Schizophrenic War on Terror

Ah, yeah, right.

It's tough to win a war when you have to ally yourselves with both sides.  That injects an element of schizophrenia in your policies and planning.  It results in a fatal lack of coherence, a narrative that is hopelessly confused.  And that is what confronts us in our struggle with radical, extremist, murderous Sunni Islam.

But it's unfair to blame the West for this incoherence when the major Arab players gave rise to it and were first afflicted.  They still are and they're dragging us down with them.

We associate our by now familiar enemies - al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and similar groups - with radical Islam often known as Wahabbism.  That's fair enough.  Yet the monied branch of Wahabbism that funds the operational, murderous branch, is our ally.

On Thursday, The Middle East Monitor, ran an op-ed, "If terrorist groups are to be defeated, Saudi Arabia must stop funding those it favours."

...Perhaps contradictorily, the country is blamed widely for the rise of ISIS. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the government in Riyadh has been funding Islamist groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad. It was these groups that gave birth to ISIS.

Saudi Arabia has a long and complicated relationship with Sunni terrorist groups. On the one hand, the kingdom, which denies outright that it funds terrorism, is engaged in a regional cold war with Iran, a Shia state, and as such seeks to strengthen opposition to Shia leaders in the Middle East. As Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6 has said, Saudi Arabia is "deeply attracted to any militancy which can effectively challenge Shiadom." The country practices and is run according to Wahabbism, an extreme interpretation of Islam that many Sunni militant groups also follow. On the other hand, Riyadh's rulers feel personally threatened by the ascendancy of groups such as Al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, or ISIS today. This is because they fear that these groups might seek to replace the Saud family with even more extreme Wahabbi leaders. Saudi Arabia is home to Islam's two holiest sites in Makkah and Madinah and as such is always a potential target for fundamentalist groups, which might seek to take over the cities. ISIS propaganda, for instance, vows "to liberate the 'Land of the Two Holy Mosques'."

As a strictly controlled police state with a wealthy state apparatus and an all-powerful monarchy, Saudi Arabia is far better equipped to tackle the internal terrorist threat than most of its neighbours are. However, the root problem will not disappear until Riyadh stops funding, encouraging and nurturing militant groups overseas whenever it suits Saudi interests to do so.

If you can't believe that the Saudis and their Gulf state cousins are playing both sides of this struggle and losing badly at both, you should read this eye-opener published by The Independent in mid-July, 2014.

Thanks to Wikileaks blowing the cover on Hillary Clinton's messages it's obvious that Washington has known since 2009 that the Saudis have been funding the worst terrorism the Middle East has seen.

Petro-states tend to breed incompetent, indulged leaders who sometimes sit upon vast wealth and wonder what to do with it.  Combine that sort of wealth and idleness with fundamentalist religious extremism and it breeds a succession of Islamist extremist terror movements such as al Qaeda and, more recently, ISIS.

The Gulf princes are like Dr. Frankenstein.  They unleash monsters to attack their perceived rivals but when those creations instead also turn on them well then it's time to call in the cavalry, the West.  In the result we'll battle al Qaeda for 15, 20, maybe 50 years, ISIS for who knows how long, and, if we do manage to knock them down, we'll be drawn in to tackle the next terrorist organization our allies, the Gulf oil princes, decide to fund.

So long as we dutifully collaborate with Sunni extremists like the House of Saud, we may never get out of this.  We keep boasting how we have no time for "state sponsored terrorism" and yet we keep showing that is simply untrue.  We know the very worst terrorism sponsoring states and we actually consider them our allies even as they spawn murderous gangs that would be only too happy to attack us.

You don't like monsters?  Then take out Dr. Frankenstein - all the Dr. Frankensteins.  If you don't, your war on terror is nothing more than pissing into the wind.


Toby said...

The other state playing both sides of the terrorism coin is, of course, Pakistan.

You are right, Mound, the West has to stop treating these countries as allies. They are not. We also have to stop selling them weapons.

The Mound of Sound said...

Can you imagine Harper ripping up a $15-billion deal to sell Canadian armoured vehicles to a state sponsor of terrorism?

Steve said...

Sucking and blowing!