Friday, January 29

A return to "Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West"

“If this is purely a conversation about counterterrorism cooperation, and if the Saudis are a big part of the problem in creating terrorism in the first place, then how persuasive of an argument is it?”
-- from the hair-raising New York Times investigative report, U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels; January 23, 2016

As the Times report makes clear, the U.S. government has been relying heavily on Saudi money for a long time to covertly finance highly questionable operations in other countries that the American public has had to learn about the hard way. So I think we might all benefit from a review of our ally Saudi Arabia. I'd recommend a book published in 2005, Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West by Laurent Murawiec (1951-2009), who was a defense analyst.

In a briefing in July 2002 to the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Murawiec said, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldiers, from ideologist to cheerleader."

Yet the strong words hardly state the threat, as you will see when you read the book, parts of which are available in a free preview from Google Books. He introduces readers to the men who since the 1960s plotted and methodically executed a plan to bring about the destruction of human civilization -- although of course the Saudis wouldn't put it that way. 

That the Saudis might fail in this enterprise would be due, I think, to overplaying their hand. They became alarmed at President Obama's attempt at rapprochement with Tehran, his willingness to see Hosni Mubarak overthrown, and the speed with which fracking became a major industry. I think the alarm pushed them into overt actions of aggression -- in Yemen, in Syria -- which has brought unprecedented scrutiny to their actions.

Even so, with the European Union contemplating the prospect of collapse and swaths of the Middle East and Africa in chaos, it's still a toss of the coin as to whether the plan will succeed.

I caution that Murawiec makes no attempt to mask his dislike for the Saudis -- forgive him, he was French -- so I'm not sure the book could be published today, given that political correctness is at the zenith and many historians obsessively avoid statements that could be interpreted as reflecting the bigotry of Western colonialism.

Or it could be that Murawiec's words, when they were translated into English, seemed harsher than he intended. Everything sounds nicer in French. But I also think his scathing contempt is a bracing offset to commentators who try to find some good about the Saudi regime and view the Saudis as upholding stability both in the Middle East and the world. Yes, stability they wanted while they seeded societies around the world with people who would at some point overthrow their governments and install Wahhabist ones in the place. 

And in the wake of 9/11 Murawiec was intent on delivering the strongest warning he could to the American defense establishment about the Saudis. This led him into trouble while he worked at RAND corporation. His 2002 briefing to the Pentagon, which explicitly called for the removal of the Saudi regime or an ultimatum delivered to them by the U.S. government (it's not clear which from the Wikipedia article about him) was leaked to the public. He was fired from RAND.

Yet in light of unfolding events his warnng was prescient. Just this week news broke that a former imam at Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque had explained there was no daylight between the Saudi interpretation of Islam and that of Islamic State.

However, it's likely the imam's frankness went over with the Saudi government like pork roast on the menu; they've been reeling since last year from bad publicity coming from many quarters and are trying hard to counter with positive news.  On the January 24 Al-Masdar News reported Saudi regime bans all books written by Salafi scholars:
The Saudi Ministry of Education has ordered the ban of all scholastic books written by the Salafist cleric Salman Al-Awda and his Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, including the infamous Egyptian Salafi cleric Yousif Al-Qaradawi.
According to Saudi publication “Al-Hayat”, the Ministry of Education has banned books that the regime deems to be promoting “terrorism” and misrepresenting Islamic Shari’ah Law. So far, 80 books issued by the Muslim Brotherhood have been banned by the Saudi Ministry of Education across the country; this number is likely to increase in the coming days, as the regime cracks down on the Salafi movement inside of Saudi Arabia.
The Muslim Brotherhood is primarily backed by the Al-Thani regime of Qatar – they are considered a terrorist group inside of Saudi Arabia, despite the warm relations the Al-Thani and Al-Saud families share.
So the headline is a little misleading; not all books by all Salafist scholars have been banned, just ones associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly others the regime views as promoting terrorism and misrepresenting Sharia. As to whether this is just a cosmetic move remains to be seen but I don't look for the kingdom to turn away from Wahhabism.  

As to whether the idea of removing the Saudi clan from the rule of Arabia should be dusted off -- we've have quite enough regime change for the early part of this century, don't you think? And none of it has worked out. Instead of trying to change others Washington might try changing its own behavior because it's written nowhere that the United States must maintain a close relationship with Al Saud.



DocJim65 said...

Wife's Italian grandfather had a succinct summary: Treachery, treachery, treachery."

Pundita said...

Hi Jim - That most certainly sums it, and of course the Italians would know. The Saudi princes would have fit right in with the Venetian princes.