Saturday, December 19, 2015

Doubts About Saudi Arabia’s Antiterrorism Efforts

As noted in a recent post, one of the flaws in America's Middle East policy is that it relies in part on a false ally: Saudi Arabia, the number one financier of Islamic extremism across the globe.  Until Saudi Arabia is forced to take action to stop the export of extremism and to forcefully condemn Islamic fundamentalists - including sending troops to defeat ISIS - America will have a traitor in its coalition. To date no one, Democrat or Republican - seems willing to have a very blunt conversation with the Saudi royals.  With America now largely independent form Saudi blackmail through oil dependence, this conversation needs to happen.  Europe may be still subject to Saudi blackmail, so America needs to lead the way on the effort.  A main editorial in the New York Times looks at Saudi Arabia's dubious efforts to fight Islamic terrorism.  Here are excerpts:
One of the greatest weaknesses in the American-led fight against the Islamic State is the lack of competent regional forces to join in defeating the militants, especially on the ground. Saudi Arabia’s plans to organize a military coalition of 34 Islamic nations against terrorism could be a breakthrough, though there are many reasons to doubt how effective the plan will be.

As for the coalition, there is no clarity about what the group will actually do. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s inexperienced defense minister, said the coalition’s efforts would not be limited to fighting the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group, but would include a joint operations center established in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world. Just what that means is unclear, but it could be a license to find enemies everywhere.

[I]t is hard to see Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-led state, as a serious partner against the Islamic State unless it stops financing the Wahhabi religious schools and clerics that are spreading the kind of extremist doctrine that is at the heart of the Islamic State’s ideology. Although the Islamic State has pledged to destroy Saudi Arabia, Saudi leaders have so far been more concerned with opposing Shia-led Iran, which they consider their greatest adversary.

It’s also not clear which nations will be involved in the coalition. When the deputy crown prince announced the initiative on Tuesday, he identified some states, like Pakistan and Malaysia, as members, though they said they were unaware of the plans. Yet several key Muslim countries have been excluded, namely Iran and Iraq, another Shia-majority country, which Saudi Arabia views as an Iranian puppet. Also absent are Oman, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia that brokered the shaky cease-fire in Yemen that started this week, and Algeria, the largest Muslim country in Africa. Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority nation, is not on the list. . . . . 

Saudi Arabia, with one of the most modern arsenals in the region, has not been seriously committed to fighting the Islamic State. The proposal is at least partly a response to pressure from President Obama, who has argued that it and other Sunni states have done far too little to defeat a force that threatens them more than anyone else. It shouldn’t take long to see whether the proposal has substance or is just an attempt to divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s disastrous military intervention in Yemen and defer an overdue reckoning for its own role in spawning the kinds of extremists the coalition is supposed to counter.

If Republicans are really serious about national security, expanding alternative fuel sources, solar and wind power should be a priority.  Only then will oil, the sole support for Saudi Arabia influence, lose its value and that nation can slide back into being a worthless desert.

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