Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC
July 2, 2014
Jihadi surge and Gains, Gulf oligarchies, women activists and Terrorism Laws
Commentaries and Analysis
The ISIS Jihadis Learned From “the Best”
CDHR’s Commentary: There is no one to blame for conceiving, nurturing and exporting lethal Jihadi terror groups, like the groups of which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria consist, more than Arab absolute rulers, their religious schools, mosques and zealot clerics. Some Arab and Muslim regimes have even integrated Jihadism/terrorism into their domestic and foreign policies and practices against their citizens, against each other and more so, against non-Muslims.
Now, the Jihadis have figured out that they can use the most cruel forms of physical and psychological violence to overwhelm their “creators” and to establish themselves as the “pure” Muslims who can and will implement “God’s laws” (Shariah) and defend Islam, Muslim lands and peoples. However, the lethal ISIS Jihadi movement’s long term objective goes beyond Iraq and Syria, as stated in its manifestoes. It’s only a matter of time before they replicate what they are now doing in Iraq and Syria somewhere else, especially in states like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran where extremism, which gave birth to the Jihadi movement, is deeply entrenched in the states’ institutions, traditions and ethos.
Although the Arab people are currently the primary victims of the rancorous Jihadi tactics which they learned from repressive Arab regimes, other societies, especially in the West, must not be complacent because they, their way of life and democratic values are the real targets of the Muslim terror groups. As stated elsewhere, some of the deadliest Jihadis are born and raised in Western countries and the number of these aspiring martyrs will likely return to their home countries to spread their lethal ideology through terror.
The Muslim Caliphate Jihadis on the Move
CDHR’s Commentary: No sooner had the news that the ruthless Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, had regrouped and scored a stunning defeat of the Iraqi army, took over Mosel (a major city in northern Iraq) and started to march toward Baghdad, than the Obama Administration, the Saudi rulers and many Western pundits blamed the policies of the incompetent sectarian Iraqi central government for the sudden surge of terrorism in Iraq. This is hypocritical to say the least.
The ISIS consists of Sunni Muslim groups who have been terrorizing and murdering innocent Shi’a pilgrims and worshippers on an almost daily basis for the last 10 years in Iraq. It’s not a secret that some components of ISIS are financed by and serve Saudi interests in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. In fact, the Saudi government seems to be encouraging ISIS’s ongoing slaughter in Iraq as demonstrated by the Saudi warning against any foreign interference to stop ISIS advances in Iraq.
One can understand the autocratic Saudi regime’s objectives in blaming the sectarian Iraqi Shia regime for the re-emergence of ISIS as a political player to be reckoned with in Iraq, but for the US to concur with the Saudi argument is ironic given that the 9/11 attackers, US embassies bombers in Africa in August 1998 and the Taliban terror groups are Sunni Muslims. As is well documented, most Muslim terrorist groups consist of Sunnis and are supported by oil rich Saudi and other Sunni regimes. This does not mean that the exclusionary policy of the Shia dominated Iraqi government is blameless in garnering support among Sunnis in and out of Iraq for the emergence of the brutal Caliphate-seeking ISIS whose objective reaches beyond the Muslim World.
It’s only a matter of time before the ISIS Jihadis replicate what they are doing in Iraq now somewhere else, especially in places like Saudi Arabia where financial and ideological supporters of Al-Qaeda, Nusra and other groups are well-documented. But Saudi Arabia won’t be the only country that will be targeted by the newly formed, well equipped and well financed lethal Jihadis. Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Yemen and the weak but oil rich Gulf States are likely to follow. These are countries where extremism is deeply entrenched in the states’ institutions, tradition and ethos.
The lethal Jihadi movement’s long term objective goes beyond Arab and Muslim lands, and given the current global environment, especially in the West, they may not have to wait for too long or work too hard to achieve their goals. Increasing numbers of the Jihadi recruits are born and raised in Western countries and many of these aspiring martyrs will return to their home countries to spread fundamentalist Islam via terror tactics, as President Obama and other Western leaders acknowledge. The West’s best defense against terrorism is not to trust the Saudi regime, but to act like the French did in Mali recently, except on a larger scale.
US-Saudi Cooperation to Stop Financing Terrorism
CDHR’s Commentary: If US officials have not been able to convince the Saudi ruling princes to cut off financial support for extremist and terrorist groups when the Saudi rulers were less threatened domestically and regionally than they are currently, it’s inconceivable that the US will be able to convince them now or in the foreseeable future. Having relied on religious extremists at home and in many Arab and Muslim countries in the past to promote its policies and achieve its objectives, the Saudi oligarchy is more likely now to increase its financial support for governments and groups who either share the Saudi anti-democracy and anti-all forms of expression or look the other way in places where pro Saudi religious groups and institutions operate, as in Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and in many states in Africa and elsewhere.
As exemplified by their support for the Sunni terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Saudis are becoming increasingly dependent on religious zealots and terrorists to silence their pro-democracy citizens and to achieve their objectives abroad. During a recent visit to Saudi Arabia by the US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, it was reported that “Saudi Arabia and the US discussed ways to further enhance their existing cooperation on efforts to disrupt the financial and support networks of terrorist organizations...” This visit came on the heels of the ISIS advances in Iraq, an umbrella terrorist group some of whose members are supported by Saudi Arabia.
Secretary Lew seems to know things only he is privy to. “Lew said that Saudi Arabia is one of the most important partners of the US in combating terrorist financing. We discussed how we can further enhance our cooperation in fighting illicit financing, not just to groups operating in Iraq but also to groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan…” among others. This statement seems to contradict former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was quoted as saying “…donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”
The question is, why did the Obama Administration send Secretary Lew on a hopeless mission when it’s clear that the US and the Saudi regime are drifting further apart, partially because of continued Saudi support for terror groups, as in Syria and elsewhere, whose goal is the destruction of democratic societies, specifically Western democracies?
Choice for Arab Monarchs: “Do or Die”
CDHR’s Comment: After inheriting power and living in sumptuous isolation from their subjects and from the realities of the daily struggles with which many of their voiceless populations must contend to make ends meet, the kings and emirs of the wealthy Gulf Arab oligarchies cannot conceive of sharing power with their oppressed populations, let alone abdicating as European Kings do when it’s time to let others do a better job for their countries and peoples. The Gulf rulers believe that the lands and their natural resources belong to them by birth right. Given this mindset and the rulers’ self-proclaimed ownership of their domains, anyone who dares to challenge their absolute rule can be subjected to severe punishment under the multitude of laws they develop and implement to silence and punish those who criticize any member of their large families or who call for democratic reforms and social justice.
Having total control over the lands and their only natural resource, oil, the Gulf Arab monarchies can afford to purchase anything the money can buy, including paying powerful democratic nations to protect them from internal and external threats. They also pay billions of dollars to topple regimes, criminalize their competitors in the region and seek help from countries like Israel, which the Arab ruling dynasties have blamed for all Arab and Muslim ills and backwardness for decades.
Despite their indifference to their publics’ demands for political inclusion and participation, the rule of the Gulf Arab despots is steadily declining and their global influence is dwindling due to events they cannot control despite their desperate efforts. Given this reality, one wonders why the Gulf ruling dynasties remain blind and deaf to the unprecedented changes, including the ungracious overthrow of their dictatorial Arab allies and the threats they face internally and externally. One can assume that they are still counting on the West to protect them, especially at a time when the region is mired in bloody revolutions which are likely to continue for some time. This assumption is as dangerous as the ruling families of the Gulf States’ uncompromising policies of continuing to suppress and exclude a new generation of educated and aspiring citizens whose demands for freedom, social justice and for participatory political systems are irreversible.
Saudi Women Rights Activists “Harming” the Country’s Image?
CDHR’s Commentary: In a recent interview, one of the privileged Saudi women, Nahla Al Anbar, accused pro-social justice activists and defenders of women’s rights of being “traitors or enemies of the state” because they expose the Saudi government’s violations of women’s basic rights, such as the right to drive. She argues that Saudi women rights activists tarnish the country’s image when they talk to the Western media which she stated has no business in exposing the Saudi government’s violations of women’s rights, ‘What does the West have to do with Saudi women and their rights? Saudi women make headlines today in Western newspapers. This is not right and it should be stopped.’
Like many recipients of the system’s largess and defenders of its failings, Ms. Nahla Al Anbar indirectly advocates the application of a recently enacted draconian anti-terrorist law which has been domestically and internationally condemned because it criminalizes any criticism of the ruling family, religion (or the way it’s being used), the zealous religious establishment and government policies by anyone in or outside of the country.
The question that must be asked of Ms. Nahla Al Anbar and others like her who defend the oligarchy’s discriminatory and arbitrary policies against women, human rights activists and pro social justice advocates is: Who really tarnishes the country’s image? Is it those women’s rights activists or the system that institutionalizes bigoted policies against the female half of society because of their God given gender? It’s ironic that Nahla Al Anbar is an assistant to multibillionaire Prince Alwaleed Ibn Talal who has spoken out for women’s rights including the right to drive or are his public pronouncements purely window-dressing for the system of which he is an integral part.
Saudi Arabia’s Retroactive “Gotcha”
CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi ruling dynasty in collaboration with its dogmatic religious establishment and its zealot-staffed judicial system seem to think and behave as if things have not changed since the 6th century when Islam was established. In other words, almost 15 centuries have come and gone without any impact on the Saudi ruling elitists’ way of thinking, behaving or living. This is mind boggling given the fact that many members of the Saudi/Wahhabi ruling clans have been brought up and educated in countries where they can see, feel and live the tremendous transformative advances that have been achieved in the last two hundred years alone.
Creating and implementing intimidating laws after the fact to punish those who believe in and are willing to pay the price for promoting social justice and respect for human dignity is indicative of the Saudi ruling men’s duplicitous willingness to do whatever it takes to incriminate innocent citizens. For example Waleed Abu-Alkhair, a prominent Saudi human rights lawyer/activist, was accused of “harming the country’s reputation” under the provisions of a law that was ratified after he was charged with a crime the system could not punish him for until the government enacted a new law, known as anti-terrorism law.
Despite its deceptive title, the anti-terrorism law includes punitive clauses that can be applied to anyone who criticizes the government, the royal family, Saudi clerics and the arbitrary Shariah-based Saudi judicial system, regardless of whether a person is in or outside of the country. Waleed Abu-Alkhair and many Saudi pro social justice activists are victims of a system whose creators and operators still believe that only they have the right to rule the country however they see fit even if the laws they create and implement defy logic, common sense and due process as practiced in modern states.
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