Is a Saudi-Led Caliphate in the Making?

Mar 11th, 2016 | By | Category: Featured
From: Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

CDHR Analysis: While the major international powers are futilely trying to stop ISIS’s ideological and territorial gains, a more inclusive Muslim Caliphate seems to be in the making. Realizing its inability to survive without external powers’ protection, Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, is courting the West to protect it and, on the other hand, is relentlessly pursuing unification of  autocratic and theocratic Sunni Muslim regimes to form a united  military force (coalition) headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

Based on what Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed said (in Arabic) when he announced the formation of this 34-country coalition on Dec. 15, 2015, the Saudis’ long term objective may go beyond the overt pronouncements made by the Saudis that this force is intended to fight “terrorists” (as they define them.)  Known as masters of duplicitous schemes, the Saudi rulers are taking advantage of justified Western complaints that Sunni Muslims are not doing enough to fight ISIS. When asked whether the newly formed Muslim force will be used only to fight ISIS, Prince Mohammed replied that it would be used against any threat.

King Salman bids farewell to President Obama at his motorcade at Erga Palace. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

King Salman bids farewell to President Obama at his motorcade at Erga Palace. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza 2015)

Considering the unprecedented threats the coalition regimes are facing domestically and regionally, one can assume, based on historical precedents, that these regimes’ first and foremost priority is to protect themselves from their unfulfilled and bottled-up populations. Given their obsession with their fragile grip on power, the Coalition participants are likely to use the newly formed military force to ensure their continued rule since many of them are too weak to prevail on their own. However, this military force may also be the first step in forming an inclusive Sunni Muslim Caliphate (resembling the Ottoman Empire) to defend the “Muslim Nation” in a potential clash between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Due to their religious and financial prominence and disproportionate influence, the Saudi/Wahhabi regime that rules Saudi Arabia, apparently in alliance with Turkey (in whose economy the Saudis have been investing hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years), are together the only powers that can rally support for this Sunni Muslim unification project.

The Saudi/Wahhabi allies’ concept of unifying Muslims (Ummah) under  their dogma has been more than a pipe dream.  From its inception in the mid-18th century in the poverty stricken Nejd region of central Arabia, the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance has not only been determined tomercilessly unify (Tawhid or “divine unification”) the scattered Arabian tribes to form a theocratic Caliphate under its rule. But the Saudi rulers have yearned to expand their acquisitions to other Muslim communities and beyond, as former Saudi King Abdullah pronounced in November 2011. His ultra-doctrinaire brother Prince Salman (now King) is even more emphatic about advancing the Saudi dogma, declaring in 2010 thatWahhabism is the true face of Islam.

The 21st century Saudi Kings’ declarations are consistent with the original 18th century Saudi/ Wahhabi “cathartic movement,” which aimed not only to  purify the desert dwellers, but all Muslims whom they considered blasphemers because, in the Wahhabis’ eyes, they had strayed away from Salafism (Islam as practiced during the era of its founding and lifetime of its Prophet, 570-632 AD). This long-held goal of purifying and unifying Muslims in a Caliphate-like state (“Muslim Nation”) remains uppermost in the minds of the Saudi rulers.

Given this self-promoting agenda, the Saudis’ wide-ranging and relentless efforts to unite approximately 1.4 billion Sunni Muslims, ostensibly to fight terrorism, should raise a basic question among Muslims and non-Muslims alike: is the Saudi ruling dynasty’s real objective the defeat of particular Muslim terror movements like ISIS or the creation of a broader Caliphate Empire?

The Saudi royal family now recognizes that it has been outmaneuvered by ISIS’s proclamation of a Muslim Caliphate and feels imminently threatened as a result. ISIS has a large following among Saudis because the ISIS leadership embraces the same fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology that is the basis of legitimacy for the Saudi royal family. In order to survive, the Saudi ruling family has had to neutralize or defeat any potential ideological Sunni competitor. For example, the founder of the Saudi state, King Abdul Aziz staged a bloody purge of the powerfulWahhabi Ikhwan in 1929. Recently, the Saudi royal family contrived and paid for a military takeover in Egypt in order not only to remove from power the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (a powerful pan Arab Sunni party that threatened Saudi Sunni leadership), but to see that organization designated as a terrorist group.

Although the Saudis’ practice of unifying Muslims by the sword alone was largely abandoned after the establishment in 1932 of their Sunni Salafi state (as characterized by former Crown Prince Naif), the concept of Muslim unity continues to dominate the Saudi regime’s domestic and external policies.

Having failed to unify Muslims by force as they envisioned during nearly two centuries of bloody wars in the Arabian Peninsula (1744-1932), the Saudis are now using financial, political and ideological means to achieve their goal. It’s documented that the Saudi regime has spent more than $100 billion over the last two decades to spread its dogma throughout the world. As hosts (Custodians) of the 1.5 billion Muslims’ (including non-Sunni Muslims) holy shrines in Mecca and Medina, the Saudi/Wahhabi ruling dynasties maintain tremendous influence over Muslims worldwide. They infiltrate Muslim communities in many different ways. They build schools and mosques, train imams (clerics), contribute to questionable charities and pour billions of dollars into the purses of politicians in many Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Turkey, just to name a few.

Now the beneficiary and threatened regimes of these countries are responding to the Saudi call for Muslim unity and joining the military coalition announced by Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed on December 15, 2015. 20 of the “Muslim Coalition” countries are participating in massive unprecedented joint military exercises in Saudi Arabia, the likes of which the region has never experienced.

There are reasons why other Muslim regimes are cooperating with Saudi Arabia. Despite extensive meetings and disingenuous pronouncements of cooperation with the West by Arab and Muslim regimes to defeat Muslim terror movements, these oligarchies see themselves as the next targets of the ongoing international bombardments of groups like ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In addition, the West’s centuries old commitments to defend Arab and Muslim rulers have been irreparably damaged due to the alarming rise in Muslim terror attacks on Western interests and populations, and due to unprecedented threats to Western democratic values.

During a stormy Arab summit in Damascus in 2008, the former Libyan despot, Moammar Al-Qaddafi, warned his Arab summiteer audience “that Saddam Hussein’s fate awaits all Arab leaders,” a theme he repeated at another Arab summit in Doha, Qatar 2009. Although Arab regimes shared Al-Qaddafi’s apprehension, they kept their fears private until they agreed on a strategy that they erroneously think might save them.

Having finally concluded that they cannot expect unconditional Western protection (mostly from each other and from their suppressed populations), Muslim and Arab regimes feel compelled to depend upon each other despite their current and historical animosities and mistrust.

Given these unparalleled developments in the relationship between the West and the Arab and Muslim regimes, the formation, buildup andoverwhelming military exercises of the “Muslim Coalition” are not designed merely to fight terrorism, stabilize the Middle East and to defend against threats from the region, but to warn international powers (specifically Western governments and businesses) against undermining the dictatorial status quo, especially in Arab states as stated recently by Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Naif. He deliberately declared that the “Arab nations need a unified front to counter their enemies who are bent on undermining their security, stealing their wealth and impoverishing their peoples.”

The significance and objectives of this Coalition and its military maneuvers should not be underestimated by either the surrounding countries (Iraq, Syria, Israel and Iran) or by Western powers. The “West” may end up paying the price for a coalition whose formation Western governments encouraged, albeit for different reasons.

If one is familiar with the long-standing, but unfulfilled Saudi/Wahhabi aspiration of uniting Sunni Muslims under its ideology, one can readily see that forming this Muslim Coalition is a major step toward founding an inclusive Muslim Caliphate to unify Saudi style theocratic and autocratic rule in the region. However, sustaining a formidable Muslim Caliphate militarily will be difficult if not impossible unless the West continues to sell the Coalition the best military hardware that money can buy and to help Arab and Muslim regimes build dozens of nuclear reactors, ostensibly for peaceful use.

The question is what if Western regimes and their arms’ inventors and sellers decide not to sell sophisticated arms that can and/or will be used against them? Judging by the current massacres of defenseless populations by their iron-fisted ruling regimes and by ISIS, one can safely assume that the desperate autocracies and theocracies of which the Arab and Muslim Coalition consists will use ISIS’s tactics domestically and globally to achieve their primary objective: continuing to rule at any cost.

More from Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

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