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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 4-Sep-2014
4-Sep-14 World View -- ISIS and Saudi Arabia in the Mideast realignment

Web Log - September, 2014

4-Sep-14 World View -- ISIS and Saudi Arabia in the Mideast realignment

ISIS and the resurgence of Saudi Wahhabism

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia cracks down on terrorists linked to ISIS


ISIS terrorists marching, carrying the ISIS black flag (AP)
ISIS terrorists marching, carrying the ISIS black flag (AP)

In yesterday's posting ( "3-Sep-14 World View -- Mideast realignment continues following the Gaza war"), I used a Generational Dynamics analysis to outline how the Mideast is realigning itself around a growing fault line separating Israel plus Egypt plus Saudia Arabia versus the Palestinians plus Qatar plus Turkey, with vitriolicly anti-American Iran increasingly aligning itself with America and the West. More needs to be said about the rise Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS), and its place in the Mideast realignment.

It probably wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that leaders in Saudi Arabia are becoming panicky about the rise of ISIS. It's estimated that 2,500 Saudis have joined ISIS, a number surpassed among Arab nations only by Tunisia, with 3,000. Saudi media are reporting almost daily on the discovery of signs of support for Isis most recently in slogans scrawled on the walls of schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city. It's believed that ISIS has received funding from Saudi sponsors in the past, fighting Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, and Saudi Arabia itself is split between supporters and non-supporters of ISIS.

However, the Saudi government has been very publicly and very firmly cracking down on ISIS recently. Last week, the Saudis announced the arrest of 88 people, days after an imam was jailed for glorifying al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Saudi Arabia's King, Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is becoming increasingly exuberant in warning the West about ISIS. In a statement at a recent gathering, he warned about the "evil" of terrorism:

"If we ignore them [terrorists], I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month. Terrorist knows no borders and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East."

In the continuing realignment of the Middle East, it seems increasingly likely that ISIS will play an important part. The conundrum is that ISIS is a bitter enemy of Iran, but it's also an enemy of the Saudi Arabian government. Whether the solution to the conundrum will be a war within Saudi Arabia itself remains to be seen. Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Guardian (London) and Canadian Broadcasting

ISIS and the resurgence of Saudi Wahhabism

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Saudi Arabia is part of an interesting group of countries -- countries that, like Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Russia, had a generational crisis war in the 1920s, but none since.

Saudi Arabia's last generational crisis war occurred in the 1920s between the Al Sauds tribes and the Wahhabi tribes. The two groups had (have) different interpretations of Islam, and Wahhabism may be thought of as a separate branch of Sunni Islam, following an austere interpretation (many Muslim scholars would say "misinterpretation") of the Koran. The more moderate Al Sauds defeated Wahhabi tribesmen in the 1920s and transformed Wahhabism into a socially conservative pillar of support for what soon became the country of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

However, the fault line between the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis never disappeared, and it's not surprising that violence along this fault line began to increase three generations later in the late 1970s, particularly with the Wahhabi seizure of the Grand Mosque at Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

There's little doubt that either this revolt or some subsequent revolt would have led to a full-fledged renewal of the war between the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis by now, if it weren't for Saudi Arabia's oil wealth, which permits it to spend large amounts of money to head off discontent.

ISIS's leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, has deliberately and intentionally adopted the Wahhabi doctrine as his own, according to Saudi scholar Fouad Ibrahim:

"Through its intentional adoption of this Wahhabist language, ISIS is knowingly lighting the fuse to a bigger regional explosion -- one that has a very real possibility of being ignited, and if it should succeed, will change the Middle East decisively."

In the past, when violence was threatened against Saudi Arabia's leadership, it was almost always completely internal violence. ISIS is a much more serious threat to Saudi Arabia, because it's an EXTERNAL threat. And since ISIS already has plenty of wealth, Saudi Arabia cannot buy off ISIS with oil money. S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Guardian (London) and Huffington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Sep-14 World View -- ISIS and Saudi Arabia in the Mideast realignment thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Sep-2014) Permanent Link
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