US leaders almost always justify their foreign policy with words about “democracy” and “human rights.” Especially when talking about the Middle East, the insincerity of such words are blatantly obvious. While US leaders criticize Iran and Syria for alleged human rights violations, the entire world can see that the US allies in the region are serial human rights violators.
Israel has been widely condemned for its treatment of Palestinians. Saudi Arabia is a country where even the basic notion of human rights does not exist. The Kingdom is an absolute monarchy where people can still be executed by beheading or crucifixion in the 21st century. Crimes punishable by death under the Saudi regime include “sorcery” and “insulting the King.” Under Saudi law, the people are not citizens with rights, but rather “subjects” who are essentially the King’s property.
Qatar is yet another repressive regime. Like Saudi Arabia, it is an absolute monarchy, where a King serves as the unelected autocrat.
Bahrain is known not only for its lack of democratic structures, but for its repression of the Shia Muslim majority who frequently take to the streets, demanding their rights.
The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, and almost every other US-aligned regime in the Arab world has a primitive political system, centered on an autocratic monarchy. These regimes are known to torture, behead, flog, repress free speech, oppress religious minorities, and do all kinds of things US leaders claim to oppose.
This does not prevent the United States from selling weapons to these regimes, or from purchasing their oil. This also does not prevent the USA from establishing military bases on their soil, and otherwise coddling them.
In fact, the Financial Times describes how the United Arab Emirates is becoming a beloved “tax haven” for the rich and powerful in the western world. While western leaders love to talk about human rights, they have no problem with autocratic emirates handling their money.
The Roots of Wahabbi Terrorism
More shockingly, the involvement of these regimes in terrorism has not deterred US support. It took 15 years for the classified 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report to be released. The pages revealed that Saudi government officials had collaborated with the 9/11 hijackers. It furthermore revealed that Saudi Arabia had been uncooperative and offered minimal support to US officials with their investigations during the aftermath of the attacks.
The Saudi Royal family owes its reign to the British Empire. During the 1800s the British discovered that the House of Saud were useful allies against the Ottoman Empire, and were more than willing to sell their oil at a reasonable price. The Saudi monarchy professes a particularly conservative brand of Islam known as “Wahabbism.”
While not every Wahabbi has been involved in terrorism, Al-Queda, ISIS, Al-Nusra, Osama Bin Laden, Omar Mateen, and nearly every Middle-Eastern or Central-Asian terrorist who has menaced the world in recent years has been an adherent of Wahabbism. Wahabbism is particularly anti-Western and anti-American. Opponents of the Saudi ideology it often call it “Takfirism,” a term that refers to Wahabbi’s willingness to kill other Muslims with whom they disagree.
The relationship between Wahabbi fanatics and Britain’s wealthy has not ended. A recent article in the Financial Times describes how British Houses of Finance now specialize in “Islamic Banking.” While many Islamic scholars describe the very concept as fraudulent, many financial institutions are accommodating sultans, emirates, and princes who adhere to strict Wahabbi laws. Islam forbids lending money for interest, so many financial institutions have invented loopholes with hidden fees, investment returns, and other mechanisms that can accommodate strict adherents.
During the 1980s, the CIA worked with the heir of a wealthy Saudi construction dynasty to build a Wahabbi army. Osama bin Laden was sent to Afghanistan to build an army of “Mujihadeen” to topple the People’s Democratic Party. The USA worked closely with the fanatical Wahabbi terrorists to battle the Marxist government of Afghanistan and their Soviet allies.
Currently, the United States works with Saudi Arabia to fund a Wahabbi insurgency against the secular Syrian Arab Republic. ISIS and Al-Nusra are known to be terrorists inspired by the Saudi ideology. The Saudis have been caught directly helping them out. Among the US backed “moderate rebels,” many Wahabbis can also be found.
Most of the various US-aligned autocracies in the Middle East can be linked to Wahabbi forces in Syria. Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and other regimes have made the goal of “regime change” in Syria a priority, and many ISIS fighters have emerged from their respective populations.
Is The Tide Turning?
While the past three presidencies of Bush, Obama, and Clinton have involved massive coddling of the Saudi regime, Donald Trump often spoke against Saudi Arabia during his Presidential campaign. Furthermore, in a recent move, the US Congress dramatically overrode Barack Obama’s veto, and passed the controversial JASTA bill, allowing victims of terrorism to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in US courts.
While Trump often appealed to ignorant and Islamophobic sentiments among Americans, he also appealed to an isolationist desire to stop meddling around the world. Trump made fighting ISIS, the Wahabbi extremist group unleashed amid US-Saudi regime change efforts, a key plank of his campaign.
Will Trump live up to his words? Will the USA end its alliance with Pro-Wahabbi autocratic regimes that are linked to terrorism?
Though Trump spoke against the Saudis and talked of fighting ISIS, his campaign included reckless denunciations of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trump’s speeches often seemed to lump Iran in with ISIS, ignoring the fact that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are on the battlefield each and every day, risking their lives to defeat ISIS.
Iran is greatly threatened by ISIS terrorism. ISIS and most Wahabbis consider the Islamic Republic of Iran to be led by “Shia Apostates.” ISIS and other anti-government forces in Syria have recruited fighters from around the world on the basis of toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad because of his Alawi faith, which Wahabbis consider to be a variation of Shia apostasy.
Contradictory Middle East Positions
For too long, the USA has been targeting secular, nationalist governments like the Baathist regimes of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Gaddafi’s Libya. In doing so they have been passively helping and strengthening the bloodthirsty Wahabbi fanatics who these regimes have held back, and whose ideological foundation is promoted by Saudi Arabia.
If Trump is serious about stopping ISIS and the surrounding wave of Wahabbi terrorism, he will immediately end the US financial and military relationship with the Saudi regime, as well as the nearby, pro-Wahabbi autocracies.
Furthermore, Trump will need to end his irresponsible demonization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and join with the Iranians, the Russians, the Syrian government, and China in the fight against ISIS terrorism.
If Trump were to do this, it would be one of the most dramatic shifts ever seen in US foreign policy.
During his campaign, Trump has taken two somewhat contradictory positions in relation to the Middle East. While he has denounced Saudi Arabia and talked about how US “regime change” policies have strengthened terrorism, he has also repeated the anti-Iranian talking points of Netanyahu, and spoken with great admiration for Israel.
Israel has been the greatest direct beneficiary of the US policy in the Middle East. Each regime the US has targeted in the region–Syria, Iraq, and Iran–have been outspoken opponents of Israel who directly support Palestinian resistance. Meanwhile, the Wahabbi-linked autocrats denounce Israel in words, but do very little to threaten its existence or strength.
Israel’s primary enemies, Iran and Syria, are also the primary target of the Wahabbi fanatics and the Saudi monarchy. Israeli and Saudi Arabia may denounce each other, but their foreign policies both center on hostility to what the Saudis call “the Shia crescent.”
Regarding the Middle East, the new President will be forced to decide whether he seeks to continue aligning US and Israel foreign policies, and targeting Iran and Syria, or whether he wants to end Wahabbi terrorism, and stop cooperating with the regimes actively linked to it.
Trump is often perceived as quite unpredictable. Whichever choice he makes, it is likely to surprise many people.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.