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Arabia's Civil War
danielpipes.org ^ | 5/14/2003 | Daniel Pipes

Posted on 05/14/2003 12:53:16 PM PDT by PogySailor

From www.danielpipes.org | Original article available at: www.danielpipes.org/article/1098

Arabia's Civil War by Daniel Pipes Wall Street Journal Europe May 14, 2003

The four bombings in Saudi Arabia Monday, which killed dozens, including 10 Americans, are symptomatic of a deep fissure in that country. The argument is over religion, politics and foreigners—and it goes back a long way. The West must react by helping the Saudi family win this dispute, while putting pressure on it to reform.

Saudi Arabia's origins lie in the mid-eighteenth century, when a tribal leader named Muhammad Al Saud joined forces with a religious leader named Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab. The first gave his name to the kingdom that (with the exception of two interim periods) still exists; the second gave his name to the version of Islam that still serves as the kingdom's ideology.

On first appearance, the Wahhabi version of Islam was seen as wildly extreme and was widely repudiated. Its fanatical enmity toward other Muslims and its rejection of long-standing Muslim customs made it anathema, for example, to the Ottoman rulers who dominated the Middle East. The Saudi kingdom disappeared twice because its military and religious aggressiveness made it so loathsome to its neighbors.

The current iteration of the Saudi kingdom came into being in 1902 when a Saudi leader captured Riyadh. Ten years later, there emerged a Wahhabi armed force known as the Ikhwan (Arabic for "Brethren") which in its personal practices and its hostility toward non-Wahhabis represented the most militant dimension of this already militant movement. One war cry of theirs went: "The winds of Paradise are blowing. Where are you who hanker after Paradise?"

The Ikhwan served the Saudi family well, bringing it one military victory after another. A key turning point came in 1924, when the father of today's Saudi king captured Mecca from the great-great-grandfather of today's Jordanian king. This victory had two major implications. It vanquished the last remaining rival of the Saudis and established the family as the leading force on the Arabian peninsula. And it brought under Saudi control not just another town but the holiest city of Islam and a cosmopolitan urban area that hosted divergent interpretations of Islam.

These changes turned the Saudi insurgency into a state and brought a desert movement to the city. This meant the Saudi monarch could no longer give the Ikhwan and the traditional Wahhabi interpretation of Islam free reign, but had to control it. The result was a civil war in the late 1920s which ended in the monarchy's victory over the Ikhwan in 1930.

In other words, the less fanatical version of Wahhabism triumphed over the more fanatical. The Saudi monarchs presided over a kingdom extreme by comparison with other Muslim countries but tame by Wahhabi standards.

Yes, the Saudi state deems the Koran to be its constitution, forbids the practice of any religion but Islam on its territory, employs an intolerant religious police, and imposes gender apartheid. But it also enacts non-Koranic regulations, employs large numbers of non-Muslims, constrains the religious police, and allows women to attend school and work.

The Ikhwan may have lost the fight in 1930, but its way of thinking lived on, representing the main opposition to an ever-more grandiose and corrupt Saudi state. The potency of this alternative became startlingly evident in 1979, when an Ikhwan-inspired group violently seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca. On a larger scale, the Ikhwan spirit dominated jihad efforts against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s. And the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan in the period 1996-2001 embodied the Ikhwan in power.

Osama bin Laden, a Saudi who spent formative years in Afghanistan, is the leading representative of the Ikhwan movement today. He wants to depose the corrupt and hypocritical Saudi monarchy, install a Taliban-like government, evict non-Muslim foreigners, and return women to the harem. His vision has real appeal in Saudi Arabia; it's widely reported that in a fair election, he would handily defeat the current ruler, King Fahd.

Thus, the recent violence in Riyadh ultimately reflects not just a hatred of Americans but a titanic clash of visions and a struggle for power; in this, it recapitulates the civil war of the 1920s. Is Saudi Arabia to remain a monarchy that at least partially accommodates modernity and the outside world? Or is it to become the Islamic Emirate of Arabia, a reincarnation of the Taliban's completely regressive rule in Afghanistan?

For the outside world, the choice is clear; however unattractive, the Saudi monarchy is preferable to the yet worse Ikhwan alternative. This implies a two-step approach: help the monarchy defeat its Ikhwan-inspired enemy and put serious pressure on the kingdom to reform everything from its school system to its sponsorship of Wahhabi organizations abroad.

From www.danielpipes.org | Original article available at: www.danielpipes.org/article/1098


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alwahhab; bushdoctrineunfold; clashofcivilizatio; danielpipes; wahhabism; warlist; waronterror

1 posted on 05/14/2003 12:53:16 PM PDT by PogySailor
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To: PogySailor
Pipes is wrong. There's another alternative. Walk away and leave the corrupt House of Saud to their own devices. Let them hire some mercenaries or something.

We no longer need the House of Saud.

2 posted on 05/14/2003 1:02:17 PM PDT by big gray tabby
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To: PogySailor
The Saudi kingdom disappeared twice because its military and religious aggressiveness made it so loathsome

Third time lucky?

3 posted on 05/14/2003 1:02:59 PM PDT by alnitak ("That kid's about as sharp as a pound of wet liver" - Foghorn Leghorn)
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To: PogySailor
Yes Daniel, we've always known that that is the choice, the question is how? SA has to be drug into the 21st century and with most of the population poisoned with hate, how is this done? How do you undo years of propaganda? How do you get extremeist clerics out of positions of power?

Perhaps one of the best ways would be to convene a group of scholars to study the issue, and to tell the people just how far away from God they have gone by following this ugly message. But where do you find respected Islamic scholars who are not already tainted?

4 posted on 05/14/2003 1:10:26 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: McGavin999
Only the most respected scholars will be able to dislodge the mad mullahs. That's where this must be attached first, in the mosque.
5 posted on 05/14/2003 1:12:14 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: PogySailor
Those who threaten the House of Saud are funded by extremists within the House of Saud (among others).

To say we must support the kingdom when it is responsible for it's own demise id absurd.
6 posted on 05/14/2003 1:33:36 PM PDT by sharktrager
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To: McGavin999
One of the reasons that King Charles I of England was beheaded by a rebellious Paliarment was due to the English people's view that the King was lacking in good English values and Protestant religous convictions.

Unfortunately Oliver Cromwell was a tyrant.

It took the dreadful experience of a living hell for the English to realize that a fey King with a Parliarment to check and balance his royal powers was far better government than a tyrannical religious nut.

I suspect the Arabs will have to experience the same thing (like the Iranians and the Iraqis) before they finally understand that a representative govenment with personal liberty isn't evil.

7 posted on 05/14/2003 1:36:04 PM PDT by goody2shooz
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To: PogySailor
It would seem wise of the Saudi regime to enlighten the populace and lead the people away from this religious extremism. It also seems that the Saudis would have far more resources to be used for this than would the Wahhabis.

Does the extended Saudi royal family believe the fanatical Wahhabi religion, and is this the reason why they do not attempt to lead the people away from it?

Do the Saudis fear that any attempt to lead the people away from Wahhabism would result in their overthrow?

Do the Saudis derive their power and the stability of their throne from their commitment to Wahhabism?

What would happen if the Saudis openly condemned Wahhabism and outlawed it?

Do the Saudis fear eternal damnation or the overthrow of their regime or both?

8 posted on 05/14/2003 1:39:22 PM PDT by Savage Beast ("Liberalism" is decadence. It has nothing to do with liberalism.)
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To: goody2shooz
Maybe not in this case. Abdullah is (I've heard) a good and pious man who lives simply and morally, it's many in the family that are corrupt. If the good part of the family can root out black sheep there is a possibility that they can spare the people the pain of finding out the hard way. I've always thought that the battle for SA would not be among the people but within the royal house.

My problem with this whole thing is that I don't know which ones are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys. Every time I think I have it figured out, they do something or say something that completely throws me off track. Of course, it doesn't help that all their names sound alike, but then how original can you get when you're trying to name your 100th son?

9 posted on 05/14/2003 2:17:15 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: PogySailor; *war_list; W.O.T.; *Bush Doctrine Unfold; Dog Gone; Grampa Dave; blam; Sabertooth; ...
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10 posted on 05/14/2003 2:29:49 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Iran will feel the heat from our Iraq victory!)
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To: sharktrager
I think we need to get out of the way and then put a hammerlock on the winner.
11 posted on 05/14/2003 3:47:49 PM PDT by ThanhPhero
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To: Savage Beast
YES.
12 posted on 05/14/2003 3:49:18 PM PDT by ThanhPhero
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To: McGavin999
If the good part of the family can root out black sheep

Historically, things have not generally happened that way. In such a situation it takes a single strong charismatic leader to arise. I think in this case we may just pull out and let them go at each other. The winner then will face us. If the Sauds manage to trounce the Wahhabis then we can lean heavily on the Sauds. If the crazies win we may have to squash them.

13 posted on 05/14/2003 3:52:53 PM PDT by ThanhPhero
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To: ThanhPhero
Yeah, it's pretty obvious that all we can do is pull out, this is something they have to do for themselves. It's going to be a pretty tough fight because there has been so much poison fed to the people that it could be big trouble. BUT! I have a lot of faith in the basic goodness of people (no I'm not a liberal) and I think a lot of pious people have attended mosque and listened to the diatribes and just not bought into it. In every society, there are those who are born with a good moral compass and those who are not. We'll have to wait and see who wins out.
14 posted on 05/14/2003 4:15:55 PM PDT by McGavin999
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To: PogySailor
...and all this time I thought it meant "Southern Arabia" (not really).
15 posted on 05/14/2003 5:58:26 PM PDT by ElkGroveDan (Fighting for Freedom and Having Fun)
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To: *Clash of Civilizatio
Indexing.
16 posted on 05/14/2003 6:08:45 PM PDT by denydenydeny
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To: McGavin999
My experience with Arabs here in the USA has been mostly with professional engineers. These people tend to be genuinely pragmatic. Though occasionally one would make a statement completely diametric to a position for which I knew that he/she had already articulated passionate support.

How anyone can embrace two contradictory beliefs completely without delusion, well, I'll never understand.

Have you ever encountered this trait among Arabs?

17 posted on 05/14/2003 10:36:30 PM PDT by goody2shooz
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To: big gray tabby
Very bright. Then we will have the Taliban on Steroids With F-15s and Rockets in charge of the world's greatest oil reserves.

Very bright.

18 posted on 05/14/2003 10:40:22 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: PogySailor
Hmmm. If the Muslims want to have a Civil War, who are we to stop them?
19 posted on 05/14/2003 10:45:42 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Savage Beast
Maybe your questions are just rhetorical, but here are my answers anyhow:

Does the extended Saudi royal family believe the fanatical Wahhabi religion, and is this the reason why they do not attempt to lead the people away from it?

Some in the royal family probably do believe it, but those at the top do not, or they wouldn't live the way they do.

Do the Saudis fear that any attempt to lead the people away from Wahhabism would result in their overthrow?

Yes, definitely.

Do the Saudis derive their power and the stability of their throne from their commitment to Wahhabism?

In part, yes. They pay off the Wahhabists and turn a blind eye to the terrorism in their midst to maintain their power and stability, but mostly their power stems from their control of the Saudi oil fields.

What would happen if the Saudis openly condemned Wahhabism and outlawed it?

A revolution.

Do the Saudis fear eternal damnation or the overthrow of their regime or both?

Possibly both, but my bet is they're much more afraid of the overthrow of their regime.

20 posted on 05/15/2003 5:12:13 AM PDT by randita
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To: Travis McGee
Who cares how much oil they're sitting on? We have our own access now, and if they think they can sell oil at $30 a barrel while we're trading it at $25 they're idiots.

They can either be a part of the world energy market or they can starve. It's that simple. What's more, they know it.

As far as their arms go, they're no threat to us, and they'd have a tough time mustering enough pilots to be a threat to anyone else. I don't think they teach F-15 in Wahabbi school.

21 posted on 05/15/2003 5:38:25 AM PDT by big gray tabby
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To: ThanhPhero
....In such a situation it takes a single strong charismatic leader to arise...

Bandar

22 posted on 05/15/2003 7:29:54 AM PDT by bert (Don't Panic !)
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To: randita
Thanks, Ran. No, my questions were not rhetorical. I really wanted to know.

If the Saudis do not believe Wahhabism, the considering their enormous resources, it seems that they might find a way to mollify the fanaticism of the general population, perhaps through the intelligent use of propaganda, etc. What do you think?

23 posted on 05/15/2003 10:41:23 AM PDT by Savage Beast ("Liberalism" is decadence. It has nothing to do with liberalism.)
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To: Savage Beast
I believe that the Islamic clerics hold way more sway over the general populace that the royal family. If the royal family attempted a PR war which contradicted, made light of, or belittled the message of the clerics, I think they would hasten their demise.

The royal family would be wise to do everything possible to rid their country of and and all remnants of Al Qaeda and/or any other terrorists groups. This will be a formidable task as reports hold that terrorists have infiltrated the SA military and most possibly hold high ranking positions in the royal family administration.

This is a war between freedom loving nations and terrorist tolerating nations. The royal family better choose the right side in the war, or they will be no more.
24 posted on 05/15/2003 6:45:53 PM PDT by randita
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To: big gray tabby
The US does have a vested interest in NOT having Arabia go like Iran did in 1979.I just wish the Saudis had the wisdom to recognize how perilous their situation is, entirely due to their own short sighted neglect.
25 posted on 05/15/2003 6:54:16 PM PDT by habs4ever
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To: randita
"The royal family better choose the right side in the war, or they will be no more."

Yes. But considering the amount of power the Wahhabis hold over the Saudis, the royal family would be foolish to challenge them. The Saudis would also be foolish to rely completely upon the Americans, considering the caprice of American political power and foreign policy. From the point of view of the Saudis, maintaining a balance between the Wahhabi threat and American unreliability would seem to be the wisest policy--unless they could find some way to subvert Wahhabi power and influence without inflaming the populace. Such a plan would require great cleverness, but their resources are enormous, and it seems that it might be possible.

26 posted on 05/16/2003 4:12:21 PM PDT by Savage Beast ("Liberalism" is decadence. It has nothing to do with liberalism.)
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