Empowering the Saudi regime is the root cause of Islamist terrorism, says DAVID LOWRY
DURING his press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem last Tuesday, US President Donald Trump offered these words to the people of Manchester: “I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack, and to the many killed, and the families — so many families — of the victims.
“We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom. So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life.
“The terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever. This wicked ideology must be obliterated — and I mean completely obliterated — and innocent life must be protected.”
Three days earlier in Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh, Trump signed off a $110 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia — effective immediately — which could expand to $350 billion over 10 years. The deal includes tanks, combat ships, missile defence systems, radar and communications, and cyber-security technology.
On the same day Trump, without any apparent irony, jointly established with the Saudis a new Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology.
He told political leaders at the Arab Islamic American Summit: “This groundbreaking new centre represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalisation, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.”
How is the record of the Saudis in combating extremism?
In October 2014, Britain’s Major-General Jonathan Shaw (who retired as assistant chief of defence staff in 2012) told the Daily Telegraph that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were “primarily responsible for the rise of the extremist Islam that inspires [Isis] terrorists.”
The newspaper added that “the two Gulf states have spent billions of dollars on promoting a militant and proselytising interpretation of their faith derived from Abdul Wahhab, an 18th-century scholar, and based on the Salaf, or the original followers of the Prophet.”
General Shaw emphasised: “This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.”
He forcefully added that the British and US air campaign against Isis would not “stop the support of people in Qatar and Saudi Arabia for this kind of activity,” stressing “it’s missing the point.”
Nearly a year later, Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Saudi ambassador in London disingenuously wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Saudi Arabia has also had to contend with disingenuous allegations concerning the kingdom’s role in the war against terrorist groups such as so-called [Isis] and al-Qaida.
“The fact is that no nation is more invested in the struggle against extremism than the kingdom, which remains the primary target of such organisations, even more so than Western nations.”
This naivety was also the line taken by foreign office minister Tobias Elwood in a written answer to veteran Labour backbench MP Paul Flynn in September 2015, when he asserted: “We work closely with countries in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, to counter the threat from terrorists and extremists across the region.
“Saudi Arabia is a key partner on a broad range of counter terrorism questions. The Saudi government is acutely aware of the threat from terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and [Isis] to their own and global security, and have been at the forefront of efforts to combat them.
“Saudi Arabia has a comprehensive set of laws in place to prevent terrorist financing, which we assess that it vigorously enforces.”
Saudi Arabia is a huge purchaser of British weapons as well as US military hardware in multi-billion pound deals.
Is this the reason ministers refuse to face up to the perverse reality of Saudi support for terrorism, both against Iran-backed Shia muslims in Syria and Iraq over the past decade, and innocent concert goers in Manchester this week, when murderously attacked by an Isis-supporting suicide bomber, whose very ideology is exported from, and funded by, the Saudis?
Dr David Lowry is a senior research fellow for the Institute for Resource and Security Studies.