Using the U.S.-Saudi Alliance to Keep Radical Islam out of India and Indonesia

Aug. 29 2017

Saudi Arabia spends some $4 billion annually to support mosques, imams, and religious schools abroad that uniformly teach the radical, fundamentalist Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. In part thanks to these expenditures, Muslim communities across the globe have grown more stringent in their beliefs and practices. So ingrained is Riyadh’s commitment to Wahhabism, writes Max Singer, that a major reversal cannot be expected. But U.S. pressure can still pay off:

One of the effects of the success [of Saudi-funded evangelism] has been a great increase in support within Muslim communities for Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who believe Islam is obligated to be at war with the infidel world and/or that the West is trying to destroy Islam. Obviously, the Saudi-funded program is not the only reason for this dangerous radicalization of the Muslim public, but it has been an important contributor.

The leaders of the Saudi royal family . . . and the Saudi government do not believe the Islamist war against the West is good for Saudi Arabia, and they are strongly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist organization. So why do they spend so much money exporting Wahhabism?

Two reasons. First, they started the program in 1979 after the Islamic revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in Iran. The Saudis felt they could not afford to allow Khomeini and the Shiites to dominate Islamic radicalism; a separate Sunni radical movement was needed to compete with Iranian influence. Second, their domestic political position was based on their long-term alliance with . . . powerful Wahhabi clerics. . . .

The U.S. cannot convince the Saudi leadership to stop spending so much money on exporting radical Islam around the world, because the program has too much domestic support. But now that the U.S. is working with the Saudi government against the Shiite challenge from Iran, Saudi leaders might be amenable to a suggestion about a fairly small change in their program that could make a big difference—particularly as they are at least somewhat ambivalent about some of the effects of that program.

The U.S. should urge the Saudis to drop Indonesia and India from the payroll. . . . So far, the Muslim communities of Indonesia and India—together over 400 million people, or close to one quarter of all the Muslims in the world—have not been radicalized, and both communities contain significant sources of resistance to radicalization by Arab groups. . . . These countries can be towering examples that Muslims can move into the modern world while continuing to be loyal to Islam. Their example could ultimately be the key to the outcome of the long-term clash within the Muslim world.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: India, Indonesia, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine