ISIS: The monster that grew in plain sight of Washington and Riyadh

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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal (C) arrives for an international conference on Islamic State at the French Foreign ministry in Paris on September 15, 2014. The international conference in Paris on September 15 that gathers some 20 countries from the anti-Islamic State coalition will seek to divide up the roles between nations with often diverging interests. (Photo: AFP-Alain Jocard)

By: Sabah Ayoub

Published Monday, September 15, 2014

The Islamic State (IS/ISIS) did not become the monster it is today by accident. The Western media and governments bore witness to the inception, growth, and expansion of this radical jihadi group, with funding from the Arab Gulf, sectarian agitation, and political blessing, until ISIS became a monster.

When the Saudi king charged Bandar bin Sultan with handling the Syrian file, as the latter was appointed chief of Saudi intelligence in 2012, Western analysts saw the move as an indication that Saudi Arabia was stepping up its involvement in Syria and of its intention to play a greater role there. But what role could that have been? No one identified the nature or type of this escalation.

“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, we're starting to see a little bit of reversal there [in Syria],” said Republican Senator John McCain to CNN in January. The senator restated his gratitude at a security conference in Munich later, with a new twist. He said, “Thank God for the Saudis, Prince Bandar, and our Qatari friends.”

Between 2013 and February 2014 – that is, throughout Prince Bandar’s handling of the Syrian file – press reports covered extensively the rise of al-Nusra Front and ISIS in Syria, and how they became the dominant opposition forces along the battlefronts in the country. But where did the two groups get their cash and weapons? According to investigative reports, wealthy people from Saudi, Qatar, and Kuwait have been financing the radical groups, though these reports did not name the regimes of those countries as being involved because “there was no clear evidence” to this effect.

In November 2013, The New York Times ran a report that said huge amounts of money were being transferred from banks in Kuwait to support opposition fighters in Syria. Ghanim al-Mteiri, a Kuwaiti in charge of one the campaigns raising funds for the armed groups in Syria, told the NYT, “Once upon a time we cooperated with the Americans in Iraq (in 1991). Now we want to get Bashar out of Syria, so why not cooperate with al-Qaeda?”

“Qatari support for Syrian fighters”; “Wealthy Saudi and Kuwaiti sponsors”; “through banks in Kuwait”: These revelations and more were mentioned repeatedly in most Western articles investigating the source of al-Nusra and ISIS funding, in addition to enumerating other sources such as seizure of weapons caches, robbing banks, and looting of other assets in Syria.

Recruitment for the “jihad” began in earnest, overtly and through the Internet, using religious and material inducements, with logistical facilities on the border. The Western press covered extensively how jihadis crossed the Turkish border to fight in Syria.

The radical jihadi monster thus grew in plain sight of everyone. In the meantime, Bandar was lobbying U.S. representatives and senators to support a US military strike on Syria. Bandar’s self-confidence reached such an extent that he started criticizing Barack Obama’s Syria policy publically.

Syria was drowning in weapons but the American military strike never came. Bandar was removed from his post at the helm of Saudi intelligence and the Syrian file in February 2014. US officials and analysts came out to say that a new less extreme Saudi phase would begin in Syria, and that Bandar had “gone too far” in supporting Syrian fighters. What does “too far” mean in this context? No one has yet explained it. Bandar’s involvement in Syria and the region was stopped. But the ISIS monster had already become bigger, stronger, and richer.

In June 2014, ISIS formalized this by declaring itself a state, not only in Syria, but also in Iraq.

The silence of the media

As ISIS went public with its expansion into Iraq followed by a succession of reports about its takeover of Iraqi cities and towns, in parallel with mass executions against civilians, the Western media was stunned. Several editorials raised questions about ISIS’ funding and support. On June 13, officials at the US Treasury Department said Saudi Arabia was “on the same wavelength” as the United States, with both sides agreeing on the need to put an end to the radical group’s operations.

In June as well, Lori Plotkin Boghardt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote, “At present, there is no credible evidence that the Saudi government is financially supporting ISIS. Riyadh views the group as a terrorist organization that poses a direct threat to the kingdom's security.” She continued, “Many governments in the region and beyond sometimes fund inimical parties to help achieve particular policy objectives. Riyadh has taken pleasure in recent ISIS-led Sunni advances against Iraq's Shia government, and in jihadist gains in Syria at Bashar al-Assad's expense.”

Boghardt added, “Today, Saudi citizens continue to represent a significant funding source for Sunni groups operating in Syria. Arab Gulf donors as a whole – of which Saudis are believed to be the most charitable – have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including to ISIS and other groups.”

At around the same time, Boghardt’s colleague at the Washington Institute Andrew Tabler said candidly, “Everybody knows the money is going through Kuwait and that it’s coming from the Arab Gulf. Kuwait’s banking system and its money changers have long been a huge problem because they are a major conduit for money to extremist groups in Syria and now Iraq.”

In addition to the issue of funding, the tone of some articles as concerns Saudi Arabia specifically changed over the recent period. Some analysts went back to the US ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda in the 1980s in Afghanistan, while others called on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Gulf nations, and Turkey to put an end to their involvement immediately.

Some journalists and writers in the mainstream Western media finally broke their silence. Headlines were saying it more candidly now: Saudis must stop exporting extremism, as an editorial by Ed Husain declared in NYT a few weeks ago. Husain wrote, “ISIS atrocities started with Saudi support for Salafi hate.” Husain said that it was not enough for Saudi to give $100 million to the UN fund for counterterrorism, but that it must stop supporting all extremist Salafi groups around the world, and stop promoting extremist Salafi ideas and teachings among Saudis and Muslims elsewhere.

The writer, who had declared himself to be a Sunni Muslim at a meeting organized by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, explained at length the danger the Wahhabi ideology poses to the region and the world, saying, “I'd say the Iranians haven't been as vociferous. Yes, they've funded Hezbollah and, yes, they've funded the Assad government, but neither have the level of dislike and hatred of Sunnis that the Saudis have pumped into their institutions, their syllabi in various mosques and madrassas that they control that has led to real hatred of Shia Muslims from Pakistan to the Caucasus to parts of Africa to Afghanistan to mostly in the Middle East.”

For its part, The Washington Post recently decided to re-highlight the issue of human rights violations in the kingdom, in a front-page editorial rather than in the international section.

Meanwhile, WP contributor David Ignatius, who is close to Saudi’s allies in the region, recalled in a recent article Bandar’s “unpredictable” policies in Syria. Ignatius conveyed timidly accusations against the Saudi prince of having supported al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria “unintentionally.” He wrote, “U.S. officials were relieved when Bandar was removed as steward of the Syrian opposition.” Ignatius also described Bandar as an “untrustworthy operator,” as per the view held by some US officials, and as “flamboyant” and a Saudi “wild card.”

Last month, The Atlantic quoted a senior Qatari official as saying that ISIS was a Saudi project. The magazine also said that the radical jihadi group was an essential part of Bandar’s covert strategy in Syria.

Patrick Cockburn in the British newspaper The Independent quoted the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, who in turn was quoting what Bandar told him personally shortly before 9/11, as saying, “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'.” Dearlove pointed out that the Saudi and Qatari regimes had turned a blind eye to the funds being sent to ISIS, and explained that ISIS’s takeover of areas in Iraq and the extent at which the group had grown could not have happened “spontaneously.” Dearlove said what Bandar had told him and subsequent events in the region were “chilling.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

finally a strong independent Islamic State free of western corruption based not on mans law but Allaahs law. may Allaah preserves and protect the caliph. ameen

It's called Persian Gulf. Get it right

Q:- have you see these headlines ?
are they true ?

Entire Leadership of ISISI Opposition Wiped Out by Unexplained Explosion in Syria.

Nearly 50 senior commanders of a major coalition of Islamic 'moderates' opposed to ISIS in Syria have been killed by an explosion at their secret command bunker............
The blast in the Northwest region of Idlib, Syria on Tuesday killed senior members of ( AaS) including leader Hassan Abboud & 45 other ............

"this monster
the Islamic State
the Western media & governments bore witness
with funding from the Arab Gulf"
Saudi government supporting ISIS

I have been saying for the last 3 years now, that the U.S. will be rid of the primitively gaudy, medieval, danse du ventre that is The House of Saud.
After all a millstone around your neck is just that.
If you go to bed with the devil eventually you have to submit in some way . ..................

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