Sunday, November 16, 2014

ISIS Sets Sights on Saudi Arabia

Not Really a Good Time to be a Prince
"In a 17-minute audio message, purportedly from its elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group sets its sights firmly on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and the world's largest oil producer and exporter.
The speaker does not refer to it as Saudi Arabia, since this is a name derived from the ruling tribe, the al-Saud, whose authority ISIS does not accept.  Instead he calls it "the land of Haramayn", the land of the two holy places, meaning Mecca and Medina.
Reaching out to ISIS's growing number of Saudi followers, he sets out a target list for attack, starting with the Shia who make up a minority of Saudi nationals, living mostly in the oil-rich Eastern Province, and whom hardline Salafi radicals view as heretics.  So deep are the sectarian divisions opened up in the Middle East by the insurgency in Iraq that many Saudis view ISIS not as a marauding band of terrorists but as brave defenders of Sunni Islam against the encroaching forces of Iran and its Shia allies.
Saudi officials have long been warning that their country is the primary target of ISIS.
Having declared itself a caliphate this summer, it was inevitable that sooner or later the group would turn its attention to the largest and most important country in the region.  Saudi Arabia's supreme religious authority, the grand mufti, has branded IS as the "greatest enemy of Islam".
A recent op-ed written in the New York Times by Saudis close to the government said: "Saudi Arabia is the only authority in the region with the power and legitimacy to bring IS down."
Today the Saudis find themselves in an extremely uncomfortable position.  Their air force has joined the US-led coalition in conducting numerous air strikes against IS positions in Syria, yet this is deeply unpopular with many Saudis.  A prince who has flown sorties against IS in an F15 jet has reportedly received death threats. 
More than 2,000 Saudi nationals are estimated to have joined the ranks of ISIS, bringing with them an extreme brand of "takfiri" ideology that views large portions of the population with suspicion and intolerance."