by Lexander Magazine Political Staff Writers, with additional research and reporting by Abdul Hasson al-Mesri in Saudi Arabia and James Fraser in Doha, Qatar.
The Price of Terror
Terrorism is big business, and a highly profitable one at that. Most intelligence sources estimate that Al Qaeda and its various affiliates (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, etc) have cash reserves totaling well in excess of $30 billion US dollars—about five to fifteen percent of that comes from drug and human trafficking across the globe in concert with various organized crime syndicates and drug cartels, while the rest comes from the royal families and elites of the Salafist Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, of course, tops that list, followed closely by Qatar, then Abu Dhabi, the remainder coming from Dubai, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
It is a common fallacy to assume that the primary motivation of the ideologues of Salafist terrorism is religion or religious duty. The reality is that their primary motivation is territorial and economic domination over both the Muslim and non-Muslim spheres. This is best exemplified in the founding manifesto of Al Qaeda, which claimed that their only goal was to fight for the freedom and sovereignty of oppressed Muslim peoples, whereas in truth this was a ruse to obfuscate their real intention, which was and is to assert a Saudi-led Salafist dominance over the region in opposition to American, European, and Iranian military, political and economic influences. A core aspect of Al Qaeda’s strategy in the 1990s was to foment violent discord between the United States, Israel, and Iran by launching terrorist strikes against targets in Saudi Arabia (such as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing) and abroad (the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli embassy and AMIA in Argentina) and blaming them on Iranian proxies such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, with the desired result being US and Israeli strikes against both Iran and Lebanon with the hope that this would lead to the collapse of the Iranian government, as well as the forced dissolution of Hezbollah in Lebanon, leading the way for a covert Saudi takeover of the Lebanese government through its own local Sunni agents.
When these early operations did not result in any US or Israeli retaliation against Iran, the Al Qaeda strategy shifted to usurping the Taliban in Afghanistan via the Pakistani military and intelligence services under Benazir Bhutto (ironically herself a Western-educated woman) and using them as a vehicle to draw Iran into a years-long conflict, as had been done with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Originally founded as a radical Deobandi (which is a somewhat lightversion of Safalism) political movement opposed to the widespread rape and brutality of the Afghan warlords in the wake of the collapse of the former regime after the Soviet withdrawal and the inability of the subsequent Rabbani government to assert its authority and provide stability to the country, the Taliban officially joined forces with Al Qaeda after Sudan was forced to continue providing Osama bin Laden with refuge in 1996, after which he was welcomed with open arms by the Taliban, which needed far more economic and military resources than what it was being provided with by Pakistan.
Thereafter, Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri became the chief architects of Taliban policy, training Taliban commandos and instigating the 1998 murder of eight Iranian diplomats based in Afghanistan, which was aimed at provoking Iran into making a full scale invasion of the country which nearly occurred when, at one point, Iran had deployed somewhere between 70,000 to 200,000 troops along the Afghan border. However, this strategy also failed, as the Clinton administration helped defuse the situation through backdoor negotiations via the United Nations. Had Iran invaded Afghanistan in 1998, the net result would have been potentially as disastrous for them as it had for the Soviets and years later, the United States.
Today, the Saudi quest for global economic and political expansionism continues to be hindered by its regional arch-rival Iran, which has long far outpaced the Kingdom and its Gulf satellites technologically and scientifically, and now is developing into an economic powerhouse on the world stage. The various sanctions and embargoes imposed on Iran by the United States and its European allies have failed to significantly damage the Iranian economy into the long-term and the US has recently begun to acknowledge—albeit indirectly—that attempting to cripple the Iranian economy has had a detrimental effect for the wider region, as evidenced by the resurgence of Salafist militancy in Iraq and the continuing Sunni insurgency in Syria, which itself has almost become totally taken over by Saudi-aligned Salafists thanks to incompetence in the American, British, French, and Canadian governments, which—perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not—helped fund and arm Al Qaeda cells.
Exactly how Western governments fell for this scam and whether or not they are consciously complicit in cooperating with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi remains an open question. What is even more alarming is the alliance that Israel has begun to forge with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, an unprecedented development in the history of the State of Israel, which has long considered the Salafist Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf to be its foremost existential enemies. Under Netanyahu, the Israeli government has, to its own detriment, increasingly attempted to undermine the Iranian government by helping the Gulf Salafist regimes fund, train and arm Al Qaeda insurgents in not only Iraq and Syria, but also the Baluchistan region of Iran. It is worth noting that virtually every Israeli prime minister and high military official since Netanyahu’s first premiership in 1996 has viewed him as reckless and his policies as an existential danger to the domestic security of Israel. Ariel Sharon became disgusted with the Netanyahu faction’s viewpoints and policies to such an extent that he left the neoconservative Likud to start a new centrist party, Kadima. Yitzhak Shamir, considered Israel’s greatest right-wing statesmen, would certainly have been appalled at Netanyahu’s treacherous alliance with the Salafist regimes and would undoubtedly have labeled him a traitor to the Israeli people.
The Great Game Over Africa
For years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Africa has become the prime target in the crosshairs of the global Salafist octopus, beginning with Osama bin Laden’s refuge in Sudan and his patronage of the Sudanese government through funneling billions of dollars of donations from wealthy Salafist patrons in the Gulf regimes into the country with the assistance of Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
Al Waleed bin Talal is a particularly key figure in this whole sordid affair and also happens to personally be the second-largest voting shareholder in News Corp, which owns the notoriously pro-Israel and anti-Iranian neoconservative hawkish propaganda outlet, Fox News.
“The Sunni Muslim is very much anti-Shiite, and very much anti-, anti-, anti-Iran … Look, Iran is a huge threat, historically speaking,” he said. “The Persian empire was always against the Muslim Arab empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel. This was a great empire ruling the whole neighborhood. I’ll tell you something — they are in Bahrain, they are in Iraq, they are in Syria, they are with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, which is Sunni, in Gaza. They are intruding into these areas. King Abdullah of Jordan had a good statement on this — he said that a Shiite crescent begins from Iran, through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and goes down to Palestine, to Hamas.”
— Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud ¹
A real live walking, talking contradiction, Bin Talal is one of the most bizarre figures in modern geopolitics. Despite paying lip service to the Palestinian cause every now and then, he serves as Saudi Arabia’s unofficial ambassador to Israel, mainly during the two periods of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership in the 1990s and in the present, and has been said to be close enough to the Netanyahu camp that Bibi often consults Bin Talal on financial and business matters. According to a high level source within the IDF, Ariel Sharon reportedly was so disgusted with Netanyahu’s covert friendship with Bin Talal and other Gulf Arab royals that he considered the man little more than a self-hating Jew and collaborator.
It is often surprising to those new to Middle Eastern geopolitics when they first discover that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf satellites have long sought to seek a strategic alliance with Israel, considering the Palestinian question. However, what is often ignored is the fact that Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have had no base of influence among the Palestinians since the assassination of King Faisal in the 1970s, who was the last Saudi ruler to have sincerely supported Palestinian statehood and also the last to take a hard political line against Israel without pushing things too far. Each subsequent Saudi ruler has consistently taken the opposite approach, claiming to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians while at the same time failing to provide them with any legitimate support or financing, let alone practical solutions to their dilemma, and essentially attempting to use them as pawns in the complex Byzantine game being played out between the Saudi regime, Israel, Iran, Russia, and the United States.
Iranian influence in overwhelmingly Sunni Palestine is so entrenched that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi have not been able to even find any sort of foothold into Gaza and the West Bank, namely due to the fact that what little financial support the Salafist Gulf regimes are willing to provide the Palestinians comes with an extremely contentious caveat: forcibly converting the Palestinian population to Salafism and opening Palestine up to the intrusion of foreign Al Qaeda fighters and cells. Whatever one’s position on the Palestinian cause, there can be denying that there is no willingness among the vast majority of Palestinians for the Salafist cause of Al Qaeda and the Saudi regime, nor any tolerance for the local implementation of deviant distortions of Islam as Salafism. The highly compartmentalized position of Palestine in between Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt has likewise made it almost impossible for Al Qaeda to make any serious inroads into the territory.
While Palestine offers little opportunity for the Saudi regime and Al Qaeda, Africa is a different story. From the Maghreb all the way across to Egypt and down below to Sudan and Somalia, Salafism has been able to make a foothold due to the chaos and turmoil that has enveloped the continent in the post-Soviet era, beginning with Somalia and then Sudan, and continuing today toward West Africa and the Maghreb, the latter most especially after the Western-backed overthrow of the Muammar Gaddaffi regime of Libya which, like the Ba’ath regime of Saddam in Iraq, stood as a bulwark against the infiltration of Salafist terror cells. Without strongmen like Saddam or Gaddaffi to maintain the balance, the borders of Libya and Iraq have since been wide open to Al Qaeda and its numerous global affiliates as far west as the UK and Canada and as far east as Indonesia and the Philippines.
Over the past decade Iran has substantially increased its investments in Nigeria, with over thirty Iranian firms currently operating in the country, particularly in the crucial energy and mining sectors. This mirrors a similar trend throughout the rest of West and Central Africa, as Iranian investors have long recognized the fact that as sub-Saharan Africa continues to slowly stabilize, these countries will begin to play a pivotal role in the global economy. Nigeria, in particular, has become the strongest and most powerful economy in Africa and is poised to become one of the top twenty world economies within the next twenty years.
It is not a coincidence that as Nigeria’s economy has rapidly advanced to become the strongest economy of Africa and one of the region’s foremost military and political powers that a once fringe and poorly armed terrorist organization called Boko Haram, whose fighters were so poorly trained that they were barely considered a serious long-term threat, has suddenly emerged with seemingly limitless funds and armed to the teeth, with a massive infusion of new fighters who are professionally trained and a thousand times more vicious than the previous generation. All this, in spite of the fact that it is supposedly led by a clearly delusional lunatic who fancies himself the next Osama bin Laden. How is any of this possible and how did it all come to pass?
It certainly doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
Coming up in Part III: The rise of Boko Haram post-9/11 at the hands of Saudi intelligence operatives and Prince Al Waleed bin Talal as an even more insane method of countering growing Iranian influence and Shi’a proselytism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, and how the overall Saudi gambit against Iran will ultimately lead to an endgame witnessing the internal collapse of the current Saudi regime if left unchecked.