Saudi Arabia: ISIS’s NEXT TARGET?
“The Saudis are facing daunting challenges in 2016, including the costly war without end in Yemen and their largest budget deficit ever as oil prices continue to tank.
What’s the story with their new Islamic Coalition – the “Sunni “ Islamic Coalition to be precise ? Perhaps Riyadh hopes that their Islamic Coalition will silence criticism that the Saudis and their allies are doing too little against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the result of their ideological commitment to defeat the Houthi Shiites in Yemen. While this Saudi effort to form a coalition could provide a platform for more effective countermeasures in their “ other” ideological battle with the likes of ISIS, who are BTW their uber strict Sunni Wahhabi first cousins, the coalition’s sectarian bent is not surprising . It’s intended to face down Shiite Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” on one hand and uber strict Sunnis , such as ISIS and al Qaeda, on the other. As you know, the kingdom considers Iran ( Al Quds and its surrogate Hezbollah) , which is of course not a member of the coalition, as the leading sponsor of “terrorism” in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere . Certainly until now the Saudis have considered the battle against Shiite Iran a higher priority than the fight against their fellow Sunnis of ISIS and al-Qaeda , but circumstances in the coming year may force them to change priorities in the short run. .
A week ago ISIS’s self-appointed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi mocked the coalition and called on the kingdom’s citizens to “rise up against the apostate tyrants, and avenge your people in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.” So here we have one Wahabbi. Baghdadi, calling somewhat less strict Wahabbis “ apostates”. This is serious charge in Islamist’s vernacular, one which warrants beheadings. If you read the historical bit I sent yesterday regarding the fracture amongst Saudi Wahabbis, you will understand that there are indeed “citizens” in Saudi Arabia who are already on Baghdadi’ s wavelength, and notably almost all the “terrorists” put to death in Riyadh the other day were in fact Sunni Wahabbis ( linked to ISIS or AQ) – not Shiites as the lame stream press might have you believe , i.e. given the visibility they gave the Shiite Imam which has the Iranians all fired up today.
The United States and its allies expect Saudi Arabia with its new coalition to step up in the fight with ISIS and al-Qaeda, and in the end that’s how this coalition will be evaluated in Washington and European capitals whose current occupants see Iran as much less venal than ISIS. Meanwhile , the threat from ISIS continues to grow . They hold significant ground in Northern Iraq and Northwest Syria, the heart of their caliphate, are expanding their presence in Egypt ( Sinai) , Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, India, North Africa ( in particular failed state Libya ) and yes Saudi Arabia, and they have a cell network in Europe. (US?) The Saudi kingdom is not a “fragile” state the likes of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya ( failed) or Afghanistan, but neither is France or Belgium. The Saudis are continuing to work to uncover extant ISIS cells within the kingdom , some of which extend themselves well down into Yemen, but it is a relentless chore.
Unlike Syria and Iraq, which have ethnically and religiously diverse populations, Saudi Arabia’s population is 90% “Sunni Wahabbi” Muslim – the other 10% are “ Shiite Twelver “ Muslims who line up ideologically with Iran . Within that 90% there are a core of very hard liners, uber Wahabbis like ISIS, who live in the shadows and are ripe to come out. From Caliph Baghdadi’s standpoint Saudi Arabia with its Mecca and its oil represents the golden ring for his expanding caliphate, and what better target to rally his followers.
With this new overt Saudi sponsored coalition we could see another round of ISIS attacks on US/ Western and Saudi backed Opposition Forces in Syria . The Opposition Forces have been mostly preoccupied with fighting the Assad government since the last round of such attacks back in 2013-14 when ISIS fought them to establish dominance and to carve out its domain in NW Syria. Coupled with fighting Saudi backed forces in Syria once again and thereby expanding its reach within Syria , especially in light of the coming negotiations (Phase One – 6 months) and the supposed fight to destroy them ( Phase Two – 18 months), ISIS may try to take the fight to Saudi Arabia as well, even though the kingdom would prefer to focus on Assad and Iran. We shall watch closely as the Kerry negotiations unfold starting this month.” Dick Roberts