- Back on May 8th, 2015, while we were in Montreal, Canada, I wrote a piece on ISIS (here). In it, I confessed I was mystified by many things about ISIS. Such as where did it come from, how did it get so powerful, how did it have so much money and why did the west’s response to it seem so muted.
- In the last day, I’ve read two articles have significantly enlightened me.
- The first is entitled, “You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia” and which was penned by Alastair Crooke writing in The World Post
- The second is entitled, “Why ISIS fights” by Martin Chulov writing for the Guardian in the U.K.
- I highly recommend that you read them. They are a bit long and dense with history and information but will be well worth your effort. If you can only read one, then I recommend the first.
- I am going to cut-to-the-chase, as they say, and tell you what I’ve gotten from reading them. If you don’t like spoilers, then go read the articles now before you continue. This will be a good thing to do because then you will be able to see if you come to the same conclusions as I have.
- The central thread that comes out of these articles is the long-standing and pervasive influence of Wahhabism (Wiki article on this here) in the Middle East and most especially in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Wahhabism is considered to be a branch of Sunni Islam and it is a very conservative form of that faith which traces it roots to the 18th century and a man named, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.
- The fortunes of this branch of Islam and those of the Saud family, have waxed and waned in Arabia for nearly 150 years since al-Wahhab first began preaching.
- It is key to note that Wahhabism is the variety of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia today and that the Saud family became, and has been for many years, the Saudi Royal Family.
- ISIS today is a reinvigorated version of Wahhabism. A version that has reinvented itself to be true to its original tenants.
- Pure Wahhabism is a very conservative faith and its ISIS practitioners strongly feel that the version of Wahhabism practiced now in Saudi Arabia has lost its way due to the influence of oil, the west and the Saud family itself. They also feel that anything other than pure Wahhabism is simply wrong and such people only deserve killing.
- And many very wealthy Saudis have sympathy for these fundamentalist Wahhabian views and herein lies the source of the vast wealth that underlies ISIS.
- It gets worse.
- Saudi Arabia, where these donors live, is a major ally of the United States in it struggle against other disruptive forces in the Middle East. Struggles against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, for example and against the growing threat and influence of Iran.
- So, for the U.S. and the west to go to war aggressively against ISIS is tantamount to confronting the most conservative elements in Saudi society and could unravel or seriously weaken the U.S.’s alliance with Saudi Arabia.
- So, there we are. If the U.S. and/or the other western powers seriously try to crush ISIS, other parts of the house of cards we’ve built in the Middle East, beginning with our alliance with Saudi Arabia, may well crumble and who knows where that will lead?
- As just one factor, Saudi Arabia controls a serious percentage of the world’s oil.
- And the Saudis have been well-armed (by the west, of course).
- But, given ISIS’s monomaniacal focus to push unrelentingly for an Islam (their version of Islam) that dominates the world, a confrontation with them is going to be a hard confrontation to avoid. Witness what just happened with the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris in which 129 people died.
- But at least I understand now where they’ve gotten their enormous supply of money and why the west has been slow off the mark to crush them.
- But this problem is not going to go away.
– research thanks to Colette M., Piers L. and Kierin M.