by Aram Mirzaei
In the previous articles, we explored the origins of the sectarian ideology in the early days of Islam, the Khawarij. We also examined surge of the Wahhabi mission, a similar Takfiri ideology that originated in the 18th century, one that continues to live until this day through the support of different imperial powers, the British Empire and the US. In this final part, we will examine the globalization of the Wahhabi ideology after the September 11 attacks and its ultimate peak in the terrorist organization that today plagues the world, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Political Islam and its different versions
The George W Bush era of presidency was marked by the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in what was called a global war on terror. Muslim resentment of the US imperial ambitions in the region has for long been an essential part of the politics of the Middle East, mainly due to the support for the state of Israel, which is regarded by the inhabitants of the region as a colonial foothold in the region by the big powers. Political Islam or Islamism which developed during the 20th century comes in a variety of forms. First, there is the Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood versions who target the Arab secular nationalist movements of the region, an enemy of the imperial powers who try to dominate the regions. These Islamist movements have for long relied on foreign assistance to depose of the indigenous secular nationalists where the Wahhabis have spread their highly sectarian doctrine to different parts of the Islamic world, and the Muslim Brotherhood who have launched several insurgencies mainly in Egypt and Syria. The second version of political Islam is represented in Iran, who developed a staunch popular anti-imperial stance towards the West as a result of the experience of a western-backed monarchy and the overthrow of a democratic secular government by a US coup in 1953 (see operation Ajax).
The latter version of political Islam has since 1979 been a thorn on the side of the US imperial ambitions as Iran quickly got involved in the Lebanese civil war by creating the powerful Hezbollah militia to counter both the Israeli invasion and to spread the ideals of the Iranian revolution. Hezbollah remains a powerful resistance movement in countering the Israeli threat in Southern Lebanon until this day, despite the requirements of all militias involved in the war to disband after the Taif Agreement in 1990.
The US was quick to use its then-ally Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980 by offering him a lot of military assistance, including what many in Iran believe was chemical weapons such as Mustad Gas, to use on the Iranian forces. The war ended in a disaster for both Iran and Iraq who suffered severe economic losses. The latter was later forced to invade Kuwait, a close US ally, in order to compensate for the drastically declining living standards the war with Iran had caused Iraq. Thus, Saddam Hussein was no longer an ally of the US, but an enemy. Again, the US and the Saudi Wahhabis stood side by side in countering the same person they had previously backed only a few years earlier against the revolutionary Iran.
As explained in the previous article, the US-Wahhabi partnership was crucial in the efforts to bleed out the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan. The end of the cold war was thought to begin a new era in the Middle East, where the US and its regional allies could freely move to dominate the region. Multiple terrorist insurgencies ensued, mainly in the Caucasus and central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Chechen insurgencies), with all of them heavily funded by the Wahhabi state and its main backer, the US.
Iran however, with its staunch anti-imperial stance, was a new emerging threat to the dominance of the US and the Saudis. In the 1990’s Iran managed to recover relatively well from the devastation caused by the eight-year long war with Iraq, it now posed a major threat not only to US imperial ambitions, but also to the Wahhabi mission. The Saudis felt that their position as the “Custodians of the two holy Mosques” was challenged by Shia Iran who gave support to various Shia Muslim organizations in the Islamic world, often in minority and harshly suppressed by the regimes in power, who not so coincidently were often US allies as well (see Pakistan, Bahrain and Yemen). This challenge to the Saudi position also posed a similar challenge to US hegemony over the region since the Wahhabis and the US had been close allies for decades.
The George W Bush era
The George W Bush era would further deepen the Saudi-US ties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Even though fifteen of the nineteen attackers were of Saudi descent, the blame for the attacks were put on Afghanistan and Iraq, with both countries being invaded. The official reason given for invading Iraq was that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was sponsoring terrorism despite no actual evidence being presented to back up any of these claims.
Iraq under Saddam had for the better part of two decades been useful in keeping Shia Iran in check, his hatred for Iranians and the Shias was seen as a reason for letting him keep his rule in Iraq, despite the confrontation between Iraq and the Saudis during the first Gulf War. The view of the Iranians was that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq served to actually encircle Iran, rather than combatting terrorism, which in many Iranians view was created and fomented by the US itself (See the Taliban and Al-Qaeda). Another reason to depose of Saddam was the fact that he held deep animosity towards Israel, threatening them several times with missile strikes and in the views of Iran, the safety of Israel is and has always been the US most crucial interest in the region. Despite the deep enmity between Iran and Saddam, Iran along with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad opposed the US invasion in 2003.
The US along with its regional allies had hoped to replace Saddam with a western friendly government by “introducing democracy” to Iraq. The policy back then was to give power to the Shia majority of the country, who for long had been oppressed by Saddam and his regime. What the US however had failed to understand was the deep ties between the Shia population in Iraq and the Shia nation of Iran. The “reconstruction of Iraq” was not only marred by the Sunni insurgencies in western Iraq, but also by the hostile confrontations by the Shia militias such as the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army.
The Shia population of Iraq did not welcome the occupiers as the US had hoped they would, instead several years of insurgency led by prominent Shia leaders such as Muqtada Al-Sadr and backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Sepah-e Pasdaran), prolonged the US occupation and put them in a difficult position.
The country’s government was now heavily dominated by Shia politicians and leaders who refused to initiate hostile relations towards their brethren in Iran, despite US pressure. The US had failed to understand that many of the Iraqi politicians such as Nouri Al-Maliki were deeply affiliated with the Iranian political establishment, a fact that angered the Saudis. A Wikileaks cable revealed the Saudi dissatisfaction with Al-Maliki;
The King said he had “no confidence whatsoever in (Iraqi PM) Maliki, and the Ambassador (Fraker) is well aware of my views.” The King affirmed that he had refused former President Bush’s entreaties that he meet with al-Maliki. The King said he had met al-Maliki early in al-Maliki’s term of office, and the Iraqi had given him a written list of commitments for reconciliation in Iraq, but had failed to follow through on any of them. For this reason, the King said, al-Maliki had little credibility. “I don’t trust this man,” the King stated, “He’s an Iranian agent.” The King said he had told both Bush and former Vice president Cheney “how can I meet with someone I don’t trust?” Al-Maliki has “opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq” since taking power, the King said, and he was “not hopeful at all” for al-Maliki, “or I would have met with him.”
Indeed, the US had handed Iraq to Iran on a silver plate and created a close ally of Iran’s, much to the Saudis dissatisfaction. Fears were now growing in Riyadh and among their allies of the creation of a “Shia crescent”, a term coined in 2004 by Jordanian king Abdullah II in reference to the Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian axis and the powerful Hezbollah party in Lebanon.
The Arab Spring and the globalization of Wahhabism
How far were the Saudis willing to go to stop this perceived threat? According to the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence had told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis in Iraq and Syria wreaked havoc in the countries. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.
When the so called Arab Spring reached Syria, it was no coincidence that the Saudis were at the forefront of the opposition to President Assad’s secular rule, with Riyadh quickly providing arms and funds to the highly sectarian jihadist groups fighting the Syrian Army. This is where the US imperial project called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) enters the scene. From the onset of the Syrian “civil war”, the so called opposition was completely dominated by sectarian jihadists who share the same Wahhabi ideology as their sponsors in Riyadh, and who wished to wipe out the minority communities in the country and declare a Wahhabi emirate.
These Takfiris were often joined by thousands of other foreign Takfiris (groups in Syria such as Jaysh Al-Muhajireen Wal Ansar, a Chechen group and the Turkestan Islamic Party, consisting mainly of Uyghurs from China) who came from all across the globe, a testimony to how widespread the Wahhabi ideology had become.
Of course, this all became possible through the arming and funding of terrorists not only by the Wahhabi state, but also through the backing of the US and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, especially Muslim Brotherhood dominated Turkey, under the disguise of supporting a phantom moderate opposition to overthrow the Syrian government.
When taking a closer look at the rhetoric of the Takfiri militants operating in Syria and Iraq, it is not difficult to understand that their main enemies are the Shia populations of these countries, and ultimately the Shia bastion Iran. The fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant uses the term “the Safawiyya”, a reference to the Safavid dynasty of Iran who converted the country to Shiism in the 16th century, mainly used by Takfiris as a slur when referring to the Iraqi and Syrian armies, is a testimony of their hatred for the Shias. In their online magazine called “Dabiq”, ISIL clearly makes it point clear by declaring that the “Rafidah (a derogatory term for Shias) are apostates that must be wiped out through the most brutal means”. Furthermore, Saudi Muftis, illegally entering Syria have on several occasions declared that killing Shias is considered to be halal, and that all one needs to do is to utter the word “Bismillah” (In the name of God) before “cutting them down like dogs”. The Shias who fall victim to this terrorist group are always killed in the most brutal fashion as witnessed in Iraq mainly, but also in Syria, through beheadings, drownings, stabbings and so on.
This would however never have been possible without the tremendous support of the US. Documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) show that the US knew fully well that arming “moderates” would result in the arming of Takfiri terrorists, but chose to go on with the plan despite the catastrophic consequences. The documents read:
“AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media.”
“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime”
“ISIL could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.” reads the DIA report, dated August of 2012.
Furthermore, Joe Biden also admitted to the fact that their allies created the terrorist plague in the region by declaring that: “America’s “biggest problem” in Syria is its regional allies,
“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” he said, explaining that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad,” that in a sense they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” by pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” towards anyone who would fight against Assad. 
As ISIL’s slaughtering weakens both Iraq and Syria, inflaming sectarian tensions in a once-pluralistic Muslim world, it gives the US pretext to sweep in with its military and reoccupy the territories.
The ISIL project is being used to split Syria and Iraq into sectarian countries, much to the Wahhabi mission’s delight. It is no coincidence that the US today favours “Sunni tribes” in Iraq to do the main fighting against the ISIL terrorists in western Iraq on their behalf, and it is no coincidence that the US wants to arm them and the Kurds to their teeth, so as to one day pressure the Iraqi government to either relinquish control or face the threat of separatism in the Sunni dominated Anbar region of Western Iraq. A divided Iraq and Syria would break the Tehran-Damascus-Baghdad and Hezbollah axis and severely weaken the Iran in its fight against the Zionist occupiers in Israel, it would also give Saudi Arabia a lot of influence in the region and tighten its noose around the Shia population of the region.
The main enemy standing between the Wahhabis and total control over the Muslim world, are the secular people of the region and the Shia population, who for centuries have resisted the attempts by the Wahhabis to exterminate them. As the wars in Syria and Iraq continue, the Wahhabi state has set its sights on Yemen (where it is currently engaged in a massive campaign to destroy the Houthi Shias), Pakistan and Afghanistan as well, with sizeable Shia minorities who refuse to accept the Wahhabi ideology. Thus, the Wahhabi mission have become a campaign to destroy those deemed to be heretics, meaning anyone who does not support the Wahhabi mission to exterminate the Shias. Remember that this is all happening under the aegis of Washington.
- https://www.rt.com/news/192880-biden-isis-us-allies/ ↑