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How U.S.-Saudi Marriage Gave Birth to Jihad

Chatting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November 2016, Barack Obama mentioned Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood back in the 1960s. The country, he noted, was a changed place. Where Muslims once adopted elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, and animism, a more austere version of Islam had taken hold once Saudi Arabia began pouring money into Wahhabist madrassas in the 1990s. Where women had formerly gone about with their heads uncovered, the hijab began to spread.


But why, Turnbull wanted to know, was this happening? “Aren’t the Saudis your friends?” To which Obama replied, “It’s complicated.”

That c-word covers a lot of territory, not only with regard to Wahhabism, the ultra-fundamentalist Saudi ideology whose impact is now felt across the globe, but also with regard to the United States, the Saudis’ chief patron, protector—and enabler—since World War II. Like any imperialist power, the United States can be a bit unscrupulous in the partners it chooses. So one might expect it to look the other way when its Saudi friends spread their militant doctrines into Indonesia, the Philippines, the Indian subcontinent, Syria, and numerous points beyond.

But Washington did more than just look away. It actively encouraged such activities by partnering with the Wahhabists in any number of hotspots. They include Afghanistan, where American- and Saudi-armed jihadis drove out the Soviets in the 1980s. They also include Bosnia, where the two countries reportedly teamed up in the mid-1990s to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms into Alija Izetbegović’s Islamic republic, today a stronghold of Wahhabist Salafism. Other notable examples: Kosovo, where the United States joined forces with “Afghan Arabs” and other Saudi-backed jihadis in support of the secessionist movement of Hashim Thaçi; Chechnya, where leading neocons such as Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Midge Decter, Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen, and R. James Woolsey championed Saudi-backed Islamist rebels; Libya, where Hillary Clinton personally recruited Qatar to join the effort against Muammar Qaddafi and then said nothing as the Wahhabist kingdom funneled some $400 million to rebel groups, many of them Islamists who proceeded to turn the country upside down; and of course Syria, where Sunni head-choppers backed by the Saudis and other oil monarchies have turned the country into a charnel house.

The United States pronounces itself shocked—shocked!—at the results, while pocketing the winnings. This is evident from a famous 1998 interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, as Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, did as much as anyone to invent the modern phenomenon of jihad. Asked if he had any regrets, Brzezinski was unabashed:

Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap, and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war….What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?

Or, as Graham Fuller, former deputy director of the CIA’s National Council on Intelligence and later a RAND Corporation analyst, put it a year later:


The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.

What could possibly go wrong? Less a specifically Saudi phenomenon, the great Wahhabist offensive of the last 30 or 40 years is best understood as a joint venture between oil imperialism and neo-medieval Islamic revivalism. On its own, such an austere doctrine would never have made it out of the badlands of central Arabia. Only in conjunction with outside powers, first Britain and then the United States, did it turn into a world-altering force.

Still, a bit of pre-history might be helpful. In order to know how Wahhabism arose, it’s necessary to know where it arose. This is Nejd, a vast plateau in central Arabia that is nearly the size of France. Ringed on three sides by desert and on the fourth by the somewhat more fertile Red Sea province of the Hejaz, it was one of the most isolated and barren spots on earth until oil was discovered in the 1930s. Less isolated now, it remains extremely barren. The English explorer Lady Anne Blunt described it in 1881 as consisting of “vast uplands of gravel, as nearly destitute of vegetation as any in the world,” dotted with occasional settlements that were nearly as cut off from one another as they were from the outside world. It was one of the few third-world countries still uncolonized by the 19th century, not because it was unusually strong or well organized but because it was too poor, wild, and inaccessible to be worth the effort.

It was a land that no one else wanted. It also was home to an ideology that no one else wanted. This was Hanbalism, the most severe and unforgiving of the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. It arose in Baghdad in the 9th century and within a few decades was wreaking havoc as adherents plundered homes to confiscate liquor, musical instruments, and other forbidden items; raided shops; and challenged men and women walking together in the street. Expelled from the metropolis, Hanbalis found themselves relegated to the most primitive and distant outposts, Nejd most notably. But then, in the mid-18th century, they found themselves under attack by a wandering preacher named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, for whom Hanbalism was not severe enough.

Moving from village to village, “the Luther of Mahometanism,” as Lady Blunt described him, denounced such folk practices as worshiping at saints’ graves and praying at sacred trees. Theologically, Wahhab’s great contribution was to take the concept of shirk, or association, which traditionally referred to the worship of any deity in conjunction with Allah, and expand it to include anything that distracted from the single-minded focus on the one true god. Seeking the intervention of a saint, wearing a good-luck charm, even adorning the interior of a mosque—all were shirk. The goal was a religion as bare as the landscape, one that allowed nothing to come between man and God.

Presumably, Wahhab was not the first mullah to inveigh against superstition. But what distinguished him was his energy, his fanaticism—he made a name for himself by ordering the stoning of an accused adulteress—and an alliance he made in 1744 with a tribal leader named Muhammad bin Saud. In exchange for military backing, al-Wahhab provided bin Saud with the legal writ to rob, kill, or enslave anyone who refused to bow down to the new doctrine. Backed by fanatical Bedouins known as the Ikhwan, or Brotherhood, Saud and his sons set about conquering the desert interior.

A new dynasty was born. The Saudi-Wahhabi alliance amounted to a “constitution” of sorts in that it laid down basic rules that the new kingdom would have to follow. The al-Saud gained untrammeled economic and political authority. But the clan also acquired the religious obligation to support and defend the Wahhabiyya and struggle against practices that they regarded as un-Islamic. The moment it faltered, its legitimacy would vanish.

This explains both the strength and weakness of the Saudi state. At first glance, Wahhabism would seem to be the most untamable of ideologies since the only submission it recognizes is to God. But after being briefly toppled by the Ottomans in 1818, the al-Saud could only claw their way back by garnering outside support. The regime’s survival therefore hinged on balancing a fierce religious establishment against international forces that, as the dynasty knew too well, were infinitely more powerful than any horde of desert horsemen.

The tidal wave of oil money that washed over the kingdom in the 1970s compounded the problem. Not only did the al-Saud dynasty have to balance off the Wahhabiyya against the United States, but it also had to balance religious austerity off against modern consumerism. In the 1920s, mullahs had raged against foreign travel and telephones. A member of the Ikhwan once even struck a royal servant of the king for riding a bicycle, which the Wahhabists denounced as “Satan’s carriages.” But now the mullahs had to contend with Rolls Royces, Land Rovers, shopping malls, cinemas, female newscasters, and, of course, the growing ubiquity of sex.

What was to be done? The answer became clear in 1979, when three epochal events occurred. In January, the shah of Iran fled by plane to Egypt, paving the way for Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumphant return to Tehran two weeks later. In July, Jimmy Carter authorized the CIA to begin arming the Afghan mujahideen, prompting the Soviet Union to intervene several months later in support of the embattled left-wing government in Kabul. And in November, Wahhabist militants seized control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, holding it for two weeks before being dislodged by French commandos.

The last was particularly shocking because it was quickly apparent that the militants enjoyed widespread clerical support. Juhayman al-Otaybi, leader of the assault, was a member of a prominent Ikhwan family and had studied under the grand mufti, Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. While the Wahhabists condemned the takeover, their language, according to the journalist Robert Lacey, “was curiously restrained.” Support for the royal family was beginning to waver.

Plainly, the Saudi royal family needed to mend relations with the Wahhabiyya while burnishing its Islamic credentials in order to fend off criticism at home and abroad. It had to reinvent itself as an Islamic state no less militant than the Persian one across the Persian Gulf. But the burgeoning conflict in Afghanistan suggested a way out. While the United States could funnel aid to anti-Soviet forces, it obviously could not organize a proper jihad on its own. For that, it needed the help of the Saudis, which the kingdom now hastened to provide.

Out went the multiplexes and female news presenters, and in came the religious police and 75 percent discounts on Saudi Arabian Airlines for holy warriors traveling to Afghanistan by way of Peshawar, Pakistan. Thousands of bored and restless young men who might have caused trouble for the kingdom were shipped off to a distant land to make trouble for someone else. Saudi princes could still party as if there were no tomorrow, but now they had to do so abroad or behind closed doors at home. The homeland would otherwise have to remain pure and unsullied.

It was a neat solution, but it still left a few strings untied. One was the problem of blowback in the form of hardened jihadis returning from Afghanistan more determined than ever to battle corruption at home. “I have more than 40,000 mujahideen in the land of the two holy mosques alone,” Osama bin Laden reportedly told a colleague. It was a claim that could not be entirely laughed off once al Qaeda bombs starting going off in the kingdom beginning in 1995. Another problem concerned whom the militants targeted abroad, a problem that initially didn’t loom very large but would eventually prove highly significant.

Still, the new partnership worked brilliantly for a time. It helped the al-Saud regime mollify the ulema, as the mullahs are collectively known, which had come to see the umma, or community of the faithful, as besieged on multiple fronts. As Muhammad Ali Harakan, secretary-general of the Saudi-sponsored Muslim World League, put it as early as 1980:

Jihad is the key to Muslims’ success and felicity, especially when their sacred shrines are under Zionist occupation in Palestine, when millions of Muslims are suffering suppression, oppression, injustices, torture, and even facing death and extermination campaigns in Burma, Philippines, Patani [a predominantly Muslim region of Thailand], USSR, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cyprus, Afghanistan, etc. This responsibility becomes even more binding and pressing when we consider the malicious campaigns being waged against Islam and Muslims by Zionism, Communism, Free Masonry, Qadianism [i.e. Ahmadi Islam], Bahaism, and Christian Missionaries.

The Wahhabiyya would overlook the princes’ many sins if they used their newfound wealth to defend the faith.

The arrangement also worked for the United States, which acquired a useful diplomatic partner and an auxiliary military force that was cheap, effective, and deniable. It worked for gung-ho journalists traipsing through the wilds of Afghanistan, who assured the folks back home that the “muj” were nothing more than “ornery mountain folk who have not cottoned to a foreign power that has seized their land, killed their people, and attacked their faith,” to quote William McGurn, who went on to prominence as a speechwriter for George W. Bush.

It worked for nearly everyone until 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudis, flew a pair of fuel-laden jetliners into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people in all. The 9/11 attacks should have been a wake-up call that something had gone seriously amiss. But instead of pressing the pause button, the United States opted to double down on the same old strategy. From its perspective, it had little choice. It needed Saudi oil; it needed security in the Persian Gulf, global commerce’s most important chokepoint; and it needed a reliable ally in the Muslim world in general. Moreover, the Saudi royal family was clearly in trouble. Al Qaeda enjoyed wide public support. Indeed a Saudi intelligence survey reportedly found that 95 percent of educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 had “sympathies” for bin Laden’s cause. If the Bush administration had walked off in a huff, the House of Saud would have become more vulnerable to al Qaeda rather than less.

Consequently, Washington opted to work on the marriage rather than splitting up. This entailed three things. First, there was a need to cover up Riyadh’s considerable role in the destruction of the Twin Towers by, among other things, suppressing a crucial 29-page chapter in a joint congressional report dealing with Saudi links to the hijackers. Second, the Bush administration redoubled efforts to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein, Washington’s latest villain du jour. Need “best info fast,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered while the towers were still burning, according to notes taken by his aide Stephen Cambone. “…Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time—not only UBL [i.e. Usama bin Laden]. Hard to get a good case. Need to move swiftly—Near term target needs—Go massive—sweep it all up, need to do so to get anything useful. Things related or not.” Washington needed a fall guy to get the Saudis off the hook.

Third was the need to prosecute the so-called “War on Terror,” which was never about terrorism per se but about terrorism unsanctioned by the United States. The goal was to arrange for jihadis only to strike at targets jointly approved by Washington and Riyadh. This meant, first and foremost, Iran, the Saudis’ bête noire, whose power, ironically, had grown after the U.S. invasion of Iraq had tipped the formerly Sunni-controlled country into the pro-Shi‘ite column. But it also meant Syria, whose president, Bashar al-Assad, is an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, and Russia, whose friendliness to both countries left it doubly marked in U.S. and Saudi eyes. Ideologically, it meant taking Wahhabist anger at Western powers such as America, Britain, and France and directing it at Shi‘ism instead. The doors to sectarianism were thus opened.

The “redirection,” as investigative reporter Seymour Hersh termed it in 2007, also worked brilliantly for a time. Hersh described it as the product of four men: Vice President Dick Cheney; neocon Elliott Abrams, at the time deputy national security adviser for “global democracy strategy”; U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, for 22 years the Saudi ambassador to the United States and now the kingdom’s chief of national security. In Lebanon the goal was to work closely with the Saudi-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to limit the influence of the pro-Iranian Shi‘ite militia Hezbollah, while in Iraq it entailed working more closely with Sunni and Kurdish forces to rein in Shi‘ite influence. In Syria, it meant working with the Saudis to strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni group locked in a ferocious struggle with the Baathist government in Damascus since the 1960s. Indeed a secret 2006 State Department memo made public by Wikileaks discussed plans to encourage Sunni fears of growing Shi‘ite influence even though it conceded that such concerns were “often exaggerated.”

The “redirection” program soon imploded. The problem began in Libya, where Hillary Clinton spent much of March 2011 persuading Qatar to join the effort against strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani eventually agreed and took the opportunity to funnel some $400 million to rebel groups, many of them Sunni Salafists who proceeded to turn the country upside down. The result was anarchy, yet the Obama administration stayed mum for years after. In Syria, the Defense Intelligence Agency determined in August 2012 that “events are taking a clear sectarian direction”; that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al Qaeda “are the major forces driving the insurgency”; and that, despite this fundamentalist surge, the West, Turkey, and the Gulf states still backed the anti-Assad uprising. “If the situation unravels,” the report went on, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria … and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion….” Eastern Syria, of course, became part of the Caliphate declared by ISIS—the recipient of “clandestine financial and logistic support” from both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, according to no less an authority than Hillary Clinton—in June 2014.

The war on terror turned out to be the longest route possible between Sunni terrorism and Sunni terrorism. Once again, the United States had tried to use Wahhabism to its own advantage, but with consequences that proved nothing less than disastrous.

What went wrong? The problem is two-fold. Wahhabism is an ideology of Bedouin zealots who may be adept at conquering their fellow tribesmen but who are incapable of governing a modern state. This is nothing new. It’s a problem discussed by Ibn Khaldun, the famous North African polymath, in the 14th century and by Friedrich Engels, Marx’s collaborator, in the late 19th, but the bottom line is an endlessly repetitive cycle in which nomadic fanatics rise up, overthrow a regime that has grown soft and corrupt, only to grow soft and corrupt themselves before succumbing to yet another wave of desert warriors. The result is anarchy piled on top of anarchy.

The other problem involves U.S. imperialism, which, in contrast to the French and British varieties, eschews the direct administration of colonial possessions for the most part and instead seeks to leverage U.S. power via innumerable alliances with local forces. Unfortunately, leverage works the same way in diplomacy as in finance—i.e., as a multiplier of both gains and losses. As part of its alliance with the Saudis, the United States encouraged the growth not only of jihad but of Wahhabism in general. It seemed like a good idea when the Saudis established the Muslim World League in Mecca in 1962 as a counter to Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. So how could Washington object when the kingdom vastly expanded its missionary effort in 1979, spending anywhere from $75 billion to $100 billion to spread the word? King Fahd, who ruled from 1982 to 2005, bragged about all the religious and educational facilities he built in non-Muslim lands—200 Islamic colleges, 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 2,000 schools for Muslim children, etc. Since the aim was to combat Soviet influence and promote a conservative view of Islam, U.S. fortunes received an immense boost.

It seemed like a good idea for some 15 to 20 years. Then bombs started going off, the 9/11 attacks rocked America, the United States rushed into the restless Middle East, and radical Saudi Wahhabism metastasized beyond its spawning ground. U.S. fortunes haven’t been the same since.

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique, and his articles about the Middle East, terrorism, Eastern Europe, and other topics appear regularly on such websites as Jacobin and Consortium News.

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "How U.S.-Saudi Marriage Gave Birth to Jihad"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 2, 2017 @ 5:31 am

This is missing several crucial perspective.

The Saudi Royal family has been fighting terrorists and various attempts to violently over throw them since the 1960’s or 70’s.

You skip the period in which the US and Great Britain pressed the Saudis to take on the Afghan crusaders of Afghanistan, they obliged which greatly expanded the threat to themselves, despite ending said groups among the hinterlands.

If in fact, this is a staple of Muslims in general indicated by the references to their inability to govern — then the Sunni emphasis is hardly an explanation. I would note; that the only successful government overthrows have been at the hand of western power or with the help of western powers. And each of those governments were moderate by the standard.

In reality, modern history would indicate that there are Muslim successful governments — Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Arab Emirates, Said Arabia, Qatar, and others.

You ignore what seems to be a universal beef of Muslims regardless of various sectional groups they inhabit — the Israeli relations with the Palestinians.

While, you and I may find the spread of Islam problematic, I am not sure how the proselytizing mission of Islam could be halted or how one would hold the Saudis responsible for an ethic that is part of the religion itself.

The Saudis are not responsible for the Iranian Islamic revolution or the Muslim Brotherhood who early work includes the assassination of Pres Anwar Sadat.

The indictment here is really broad brush and not evidence that the Saudis unique are responsible for 9/11 or radical Islam use of violence.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 2, 2017 @ 5:37 am

As for Shia expansionism,

I am unclear how we roll back the removal of Pres Hussein. Nearly everything we are dealing with now twenty fold is the result of that action.

And we cannot ignore the meddling of our covert operations that have now armed thousands of various individuals vying for power.

Scapegoating the Saudis may be convenient, but I am not sure it is accurate.

#3 Comment By Mario Diana On November 2, 2017 @ 9:09 am

I understand the connection between the Saudi regime, Wahhabism, and Islamic terrorism; as well I understand that we in the U.S. are fools for working with the Saudis. That said:

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique, and his articles about the Middle East, terrorism, Eastern Europe, and other topics appear regularly on such websites as Jacobin and Consortium News.

I must say, but the above is not exactly a résumé I am sympathetic towards. To the editors: You couldn’t find an actual conservative to complain about Saudi Arabia?

#4 Comment By Stephen J. On November 2, 2017 @ 9:35 am

When one sees all the bowing and scraping by America and its “allies” to those that are reportedly funding terrorism. The question must be asked” Has America been Saudi-mized”? More info at link below:
September 7, 2013

#5 Comment By What’s Missing On November 2, 2017 @ 10:21 am

I agree with EliteCommInc above: you’ve missed the big stuff.

“Consequently, Washington opted to work on the marriage rather than splitting up. “

Except that Washington was working on two marriages. Not one.

And that was the real problem. In important ways, our Middle East problems stem from regarding these sick, one-sided relationships as “marriages” or “friendships” rather than as foreign policy relationships between a patron (us) and increasingly parasitic clients (Saudi Arabia and Israel).

“The 9/11 attacks should have been a wake-up call that something had gone seriously amiss. “

Yes, but not just to reassess our involvement in Saudi “jihad”, obviously. As Bin Laden told us, he attacked us on 9/11 because of our Israel relationship, which by the end of the Clinton administration had spun out of control.

And that is the great defect of this article. It’s missing any account of the incoherence of and explosive contradiction between our sick relationship with Saudi Arabian jihad and our sick relationship with Israel, in the course of which we reified nearly every dire prophecy made by our own Founding Fathers regarding “foreign entanglements”.

Re-read your own Harakan quote (with some helpful ellipsis):

“Jihad is the key to Muslims’ success and felicity, especially when their sacred shrines are under Zionist occupation in Palestine […]. This responsibility becomes even more binding and pressing when we consider the malicious campaigns being waged against Islam and Muslims by Zionism […]”

This is the foundational problem. It seems to be an intractable problem. And we are almost uniquely exposed to its consequences by the character of our stupid involvements over there.

#6 Comment By Terence Gore On November 2, 2017 @ 10:34 am

“the United States opted to double down on the same old strategy.”

after 911?? I find that to be an impossibility, if I think of the shock, horror, the embarrassment that should have occurred to all in defense/security state.

#7 Comment By Professor Nerd On November 2, 2017 @ 10:36 am

@Mario Diana,
What is an “actual conservative?” Especially in terms of foreign policy? Bush? Rumsfeld? Trump?
I come to this magazine because it invites smart dialogue regardless of partisan affiliation.

#8 Comment By Stephen J. On November 2, 2017 @ 11:34 am

There is evidence that a number of governments have been supporting terrorists while pretending to fight them. Which raises the question why are some powerful people not being arrested? These people could be called: “The Heinous Hypocrites and Their Fancy Titles.” Much more information at links below;
“Under U.S. law it is illegal for any American to provide money or assistance to al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups. If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Yet the U.S. government has been violating this law for years, quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaeda, ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al Sham and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.[i]… Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, December 8, 2016,Press Release.

#9 Comment By Michael Kenny On November 2, 2017 @ 11:46 am

Islamic terrorism is caused by Israel’s existence and will cease only when Israel disappears. Since there’s nothing the US can do to cause Israel to disappear, there’s nothing it can do to stop Islamic terrorism. The rest is just an attempt to sweep that elephant in the room under the carpet (so to speak!). Remember also that just because there are Islamic terrorists doesn’t mean that Muslims in general lose their human rights, be it in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya or anywhere else.

#10 Comment By Hassan On November 2, 2017 @ 11:52 am

One of the best articles this magazine has seen in the past two years.

#11 Comment By MEOW On November 2, 2017 @ 11:52 am

I worked in the Middle East. The pro-American types said that they understood we were controlled by elements of the Israeli regime. And thus excused us for this one-sided behavior. There is no excuse and the sooner we unbundle Israel as our guiding mentor in all things pertaining to war, the better. We are a laughing stock of the entire planet for our subservient behavior to this small foreign country. Keep sending our youth as cannon fodder and our wealth into winless wars?

#12 Comment By Murali On November 2, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

I agree to the premiss of this article that we helped the spread of Wahabism in all its glory across the world. Some of the commentators feel that Zionism ( Israel ) is a contributor to the spread of wahabism, I don’t agree because none of these arguments. I don’t see any Wahabists calling for Jihad against Israel as they are against the secular/moderate regimes (independent of US) in the Middle East. When these Jihadists are getting medical treatment and the Syrian Army gets bombed by US/Israel when they are cornering Jihadists that should tell us something.

#13 Comment By Will Harrington On November 2, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

“I am unclear how we roll back the removal of Pres Hussein. Nearly everything we are dealing with now twenty fold is the result of that action.”

Not really. This view would let our politicians and bureaucrats off the hook to easily. It was not Saddam Hussein’s removal that resulted in the current mess, but the complete incompetence of the following occupation.

#14 Comment By hooly On November 2, 2017 @ 12:50 pm

I don’t know about this. Consider the times. So the West used Wahhabism to fight Communism, pitting one totalitarian ideology against another. It seems like sound strategy to me actually, using chemo against cancer. It’s an old strategy actually and to be shocked that the USA would resort to this tactic is a bit naive don’t you think??

And by the way, we won the Cold War right? We gave the Soviet commies a bloody nose in Afganistan (thereby revenging Vietnam) which helped to destabilize the USSR to a certain extend, certainly amongst the abandoned Soviet Afghan veterans. So maybe just a little gratitude for these nasty Islamic fanatics is in order perhaps? Maybe just a little??

#15 Comment By Sean On November 2, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

There’s a straight line from Bush Sr. to 9/11. His garrisoning of Mecca and Medina is the reason Saudis took revenge, once they realized Bush’s perfidy.

#16 Comment By Nelson On November 2, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

We should have let Sadam take the Saudi oil fields. He wasn’t a particularly good man, but at least he wasn’t a Wahhabist.

#17 Comment By no do-overs On November 2, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

@Nelson :- “We should have let Sadam take the Saudi oil fields. He wasn’t a particularly good man, but at least he wasn’t a Wahhabist.”

We shouldn’t have “let” anyone do anything.

We should have butted out.

No interventions, no “mediations”, no foreign aid, no arms sales. None of it.

We should have minded our own business and bought oil from whoever was selling it.

No terror attacks, no foreign lobbies and special interests corrupting our politicians. And no dead Americans, in case anyone pays attention to little things like that any more.

#18 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 2, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

“It was not Saddam Hussein’s removal that resulted in the current mess, but the complete incompetence of the following occupation.”

My long winded response.

First, I think there is some merit in the observation. Sec./Gen Powell advocated that we ever the head of the chicken or snake (whatever ones preference for the metaphor). He was over ruled. The opportunity in the wake of 9/11 was for wholesale regime change to foster a new system. Since a new system and revenge was the goal – no writhing snakes or headless chicken would left to cause a mess. The civil war in Iraq which has yet to completely set sail occurred immediately upon the arrival into Iraq by U forces –regardless of the fact that Pres was ostensibly out of power — the wheel began to wobble off any stable shift. Maintaining the Baathists might have helped prevented the a huge mess, but I suspect that the civil conflict would just have been more organized.

Second, A successful occupation of Iraq if such was possible would have required three times the troop strength in my view and force for which we had no moral valid claim to exercise. The best analogy for what I mean I not one I am willing to use —
The marines rolling into the Baghdad airport were told to stand down when they considered interfering in the civil war.

The one wrong lesson that the insanity of anti-Vietnam rhetoric has taught us is that the US public has no stomach for dead bodies. So the choice to maintain troop in the green zone to limit casualties is indeed a mistake. But without a mean of clamping the country down — civil conflict was going to undermine any real goal of democracy attainment.

The invasion without cause, or strategic benefit, in my view remains the primary causation. My view at the time of 9/11 was, since Iraq had no part in in the act, was to approach her with a more important goals in mind. Easing sanction for certain returns

a. seeking out the culprits and others who might be so prone in general

b. easing some central authority

c. adhering to oil prices set by OPEC for the immediate future

d. dropping any claims that Iraq was out of bounds in seeking the the death of pres Bush Sr. A a matter of war, both congress and the president are legitimate targets. It seems a childish position to hold a grudge for such universal war strategies. simply forgiving Iraq – for being like everyone else.

Instead we have had twenty years of roving factions because we needlessly toppled the government of Iraq, minus a revolution, there was no other way in my view. And I am unaware of how we roll back the consequences of the choices we made.

#19 Comment By MEexpert On November 2, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

Mr. Lazare, there is a fifth School of Jurisprudence. It is called Jafari School. You should look it up and try to learn about it. Wahhabism is not a recognized School of Jurisprudence but a doctrine.

With all the terrorism and Jihad around the world (by the Sunnis/Wahhabis), it is amazing that all the columnists lament about is the Shia influence in the Middle East. There are more than 60% Shias in Iraq, so why should not they govern it?

For those who are sympathetic to the Saudis. believe me when I say that they are the main cause of terrorism and sectarianism in the world, aided and abetted by the US and Israel. The depiction of the Saudis by the author fairly accurate.

#20 Comment By Jared\ On November 2, 2017 @ 5:05 pm

“Muslims’…sacred shrines are under Zionist occupation in Palestine”, “millions of Muslims are suffering suppression, oppression, injustices, torture, and even facing death and extermination campaigns…consider the malicious campaigns being waged against Islam and Muslims by Zionism, Communism, Free Masonry, Qadianism [i.e. Ahmadi Islam], Bahaism, and Christian Missionaries.”

*rubs eyes. blinks*

…Zionism, Free Masonry…Christian. Missionaries.

That’s quite the paragraph there.

#21 Comment By To Be Clear On November 2, 2017 @ 5:20 pm

“His garrisoning of Mecca and Medina is the reason Saudis took revenge, once they realized Bush’s perfidy.”

Not according to Osama bin Laden.

According to Osama bin Laden, the number one reason he attacked us is because of our Israel relationship, siding with Israel against the Palestinians. Bases in Muslim holy land was secondary.

#22 Comment By Winston On November 2, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

EliteCommInc Connection goes back to Dulles, and yes Muslim Brotherhood was part of it.

[5] Article42271.html
The CIA Said ‘Find An Islamic Billy Graham’

[6] itics/2006/01/americas-devils- game-extremist-islam/
America’s Devil’s Game with Extremist Islam
A Timeline of US-Cold War Politics and the Rise of Militant Islamism

#23 Comment By DrivingBy On November 3, 2017 @ 2:10 am

Muslims were taking Americans hostage in the 1790s. Before that they were taking Christians from Europe to be used as slaves.

I do not know whether the author is naïve or duplicitous. But he is not correct.

#24 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2017 @ 4:44 am

“Connection goes back to Dulles, and yes Muslim Brotherhood was part of it.”

Before I comment, I jut want to observe that this is a change of subject of sorts. But to the matter,

the US is always going to looking for the bet means of advancing her defense of the state. That may mean upholding various individuals in power – that in my view is SOP. And I have no doubt that we may decide it I better to dump the practice and risk losing some inside track to foreign policy advances. There no way to guarantee that today’s best choices won’t be the gift of blowback at some later date. If I step back from the myopia of the advance being put forward since 9/11, I think we can find many a choices that have come back to haunt us.

What I seriously take issue with and I am once again on the wrong side of history here, is that the Saudi government knowingly has fostered terrorists against the US. The case being made is primarily to often the field for legal sanction and a pivot to Iran.

I get it. I just remain dubious.

The following link reads familiar with the fatwah I am familiar with concerning why Bin Laden attacked the Us. Though the one I read seemed a lot longer and included anger with the Royal Family for not paying the Bin Laden family for services rendered.


#25 Comment By Hexexis On November 4, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

Coincidently, S.A. & the Ayatollah blamed U.S. for Grand Mosque attack in Nov. 1979; Pakistanis burned down U.S. embassy Islamabad.

#26 Comment By Winston On November 4, 2017 @ 6:29 pm

This started with Alexander Dulles and efforts to oust Nasser. Dulles’s romance with Wahhabis which Americans inherited after him started with efforts to oust Nasser as Miles Copeland has revealed and he was involved in it on the ground). Muslim Brotherhood was supported-and when they were kicked out were sheltered by KSA!

[5] Article42271.html
The CIA Said ‘Find An Islamic Billy Graham’

Oh look what is happening in Yemen:

Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda Unite in Yemen

Yemen: Backing Saudis = Unleashing Al Qaeda

Yemen: Backing Saudis = Unleashing Al Qaeda

#27 Comment By Winston On November 4, 2017 @ 6:34 pm

@EliteCommInc., Jihadis are the latest Frenemies. Before them were the Mafia (which likely still is). Using proxies requires having some common sense. US seems to not have it when it came to Saudi Arabia, which was created by using jihadis -The Ikhwan. That may also be so easy to resurrect!
You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

#28 Comment By Villainesse On November 5, 2017 @ 6:18 am

Thanks for a fairly obvious article. A very important historical fact was left out of how the Saudi tribe became the rulers of Arabia at the close of WWI.
The Brits, always appreciative of the power of terrorism, chose them over the moderate Hashemite rulers in Mecca as they completed their dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Emir Hussein abdicated, but his three sons (all of whom T. E. Lawrence had supported in uprising against the Ottomans) went on to lead Mecca, Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile ibn Saud’s Wahhabist Ihkwan brotherhood conquered all of Arabia with UK assistance. We Americans took over the UK Empire and their handy terrorist friends at the close of WWII. Brzezinski certainly appreciated their potency as his dependent president Carter was brought to initiate their infiltration into poor Afghanistan, ultimately taking down the great U.S. nemesis, the U.S.S.R..
Which did not fix the world,
or us.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 7, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

“You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.”


I have two short responses here.

1. There would be no ISIS had we not invaded Iraq.

2. That’s where their history begins. Trying to link ISIS to Al Quaeda is to create a false narrative. I response to the brutal recrimination of the Shia, Sunnis formerly art of the military took that experience local and regional. When any group of people are visited with tragedy as our invasion was — it i not uncommon for them to consider if the fault lies in their spiritual failing. As a result they turn to more conservative beliefs. This is not Osama Bin Laden’s group by another name. ISIS is something wholly different.

The birth of ISIS is the direct result of our invasion of Iraq, their need reinforced by our handing over the country to the Shia. They may be reaching for a more fundamentalist belief, , but that was not some spontaneous revelatory unction.

#30 Comment By HistoryBuff On November 12, 2017 @ 11:46 am

The article misses the most significant event that led to the bifurcation of Sunni and Shias across state lines by the British. British have been known to sow dissent and sectarianism by their policy of “Divide and Rule” and “Divide and Make them Independent”. There are two pieces that articulate this problem.

Saudi ARAMCO – Investor Risk Analysis (Look for the History Section)


The Viceroy’s House (Movie) – It depicts how British has already decided to divide India and Pakistan before they asked their helpless puppet to formally demarcate the line. The conflict lingers on as it does in the Middle East.


#31 Comment By Nightengalejml On November 27, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

Thank you for this marvelous article that documents actual events.
I posted this on Twitter. So many people were enlightened. They had their questions answered. Trying to find the truth amidst the US spin, rhetoric and lies is rather impossible.