Meet Saudi Arabia's New Frankenstein...
Let me remind you about the story of Frankenstein.
In the Mary Shelley classic, mad alchemist Dr. Victor Frankenstein spends months creating this creature out of old body parts. Then, one night, Frankenstein brings his creation to life, only to be absolutely horrified at the sight of the monster he has created.
After some time, and after the death of a dear friend at the hands of his monster, Dr. Frankenstein devotes his life to tracking down the monster he created and promises to destroy it.
Well, we have a modern-day Frankenstein story on our hands. And in this story, Saudi Arabia is Dr. Frankenstein, and ISIS is its monster.
Over at The Independent, some months ago Patrick Cockburn wrote a very interesting piece about Saudi Arabia’s role in the ISIS crisis. He talks about a meeting between Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi intelligence chief and former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s MI6.
In the meeting, which took place prior to 9/11, bin Sultan told Dearlove that, “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
Fast forward to today and bin Sultan’s comments from over a decade ago seem to have foreshadowed what’s going on pretty well. All across the Middle East right now, ISIS is wiping out Shia communities left and right.
It has all but wiped out the Shia population in northern Iraq. That’s no coincidence. Saudi Arabia isn’t just magically getting its wish.
Saudi Arabia, and the other Sunni countries in the Middle East, have been financially and morally supporting the growing and evolving Sunni insurgency against Shias in the region for years. They have intentionally bankrolled groups whose mission it is to wipe out the Shia minority in the region.
First they started with al-Qaeda, and then they bankrolled what became ISIS. In a leaked December 2009 cable, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.”
Unfortunately for Saudi Arabia, ISIS, the anti-Shia insurgency it helped to create, is now rumbling about taking over Saudi Arabia when it’s done wiping out the Shias in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is a problem that the Sunni nations in the Middle East created, and it’s a problem they and they alone should have to solve.
Yes, the U.S. has played a role in the crisis, thanks to the Bush administration waging two incredibly stupid, illegal, and destabilizing wars in the region, but that’s just fuel on a fire that had already long been burning. The strength and brutality of ISIS represents a regional conflict, not a worldwide one, and it should be treated like that.
Saudi Arabia and the other countries that have bankrolled the anti-Shia insurgency for years should be held responsible for dealing with the monster they helped to create. And, in the wake of President Obama asking Congress for military authority to take on ISIS, those are sentiments now being echoed by a few brave lawmakers in Washington.
In an interview on CNN yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders said that, “This war is a battle for the soul of Islam and it's going to have to be the Muslim countries who are stepping up. These are billionaire families all over that region. They've got to get their hands dirty. They've got to get their troops on the ground. They've got to win that war with our support. We cannot be leading the effort...”
Meanwhile, speaking about the Sunni nations in the Middle East, Congressman Alan Grayson told me on The Big Picture that, “I’m hoping that these countries will go ahead, band together, and eliminate the Sunni fundamentalist threat. But if Iraq won’t defend its own territory, and if these countries won’t eliminate the fundamentalist radicals in their midst, you have to wonder, why should we?”
By letting Saudi Arabia - which has the fourth largest military budget in the world and can easily fight this fight - by letting them and other Middle Eastern nations take the lead in fighting ISIS, the U.S. would also be helping to weaken ISIS’ message and dialogue. It would no longer be middle-eastern Muslims fighting American mostly Christians.
ISIS wants the conflict against it to be viewed as a battle of civilizations. And, by increasing U.S. involvement in the conflict, we’re giving ISIS a huge victory. Instead, we need to respond to the ISIS crisis for what it is, a regional conflict, and let it be defined as that. And let Muslims in the region deal with their own bad actors - even if they helped create them.
This is not our fight, and the new AUMF should explicitly say so.