It is impossible for the United States armed forces to put an end to Islamic jihadist terrorism.
That is because Al Qaeda, ISIS and their ilk have their roots in a country that is off limits to American military action.
In the same of fighting terrorism, the United States has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, helped overthrow the government of Libya, is working to overthrow the government of Syria and has imposed sanctions on Iran.
President Obama visits Saudi Arabia in March
Yet the U.S. government does not touch Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and so were most of the 9/11 hijackers. Sections of a Senate report that allegedly implicate elements of the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks have been blacked out and declared as classified information.
The Saudi government, along with Qatar and other Gulf sheikdoms, provided the funding for ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups now fighting in Syria and Iraq. All these groups are adherents of Wahhabism, the most radical and intolerant Islamic sect, which is based in Saudi Arabia and supported by the Saudi government.
Why would the U.S. government, through Republican and Democratic administrations, tolerate such a situation?
The U.S. “deep state”—the permanent part of the government that is untouched by elections—is committed to protecting Saudi Arabia in return for Saudi help in regulating oil prices and oil supply.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s richest countries, and one of its weakest. The sparse Saudi population is incapable of defending the country against stronger nations such as Iraq or Iran. But none of those nations dare attack Saudi Arabia so long as the nation is under the protection of the U.S. military.
The problem is that the source of the Saudi monarchy’s power, the force that enabled the House of Saud to conquer the Arabia peninsula in the first place, is the support of the Wahhabi movement, a highly strict Muslim sect which regards all other Muslims as untrue to the faith.
Wahhabi teachings are incompatible with the self-indulgent lives of many rich Arabs, including some of the members of the Saudi royal family, so the Saudis buy them off by subsidizing Wahhabi schools throughout the Muslim world, and supporting Wahhabi jihads, which, conveniently, are usually against nations such as Iran, Syria or the Shiite government of Iraq that are rivals to Saudi power.
The CIA on occasion found them useful tools as, for example, the overthrow of Qaddafi’s regime in Libya and the ongoing fight against the Assad regime in Syria.
President Bush receives a Saudi delegation
The Saudis meanwhile have close ties with American politicians and business executives. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington, was a leading light on the Washington social scene. He was so close to the Bush family that his nickname was Bandar Bush.
Matt Stoller wrote an excellent article about this for the Medium news site. He pointed out that the Saudi monarchy is not a unified government, but consists of different factions with different aims. The Saudi leaders have to be concerned with keeping a balance of power between the different factions and are not in a position to act decisively against any one of them.
The same is true of the government of Pakistan, which he didn’t mention. Evidently there are factions in Pakistan’s government that are pro-Taliban, factions that are anti-Taliban and factions that think the Taliban is useful in fighting proxy wars against India.
Such a balance of power cannot be maintained forever. Sooner or later there will have to be a showdown the Saudi monarchy and radical jihadist fanatics. which the monarchy may not win.
Last week the top Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa condemning ISIS and calling for public executions of its members. Saudi Arabia has staged public executions of ISIS members. That’s a welcome change. I wish I knew enough to judge whether the change is permanent and whether the crackdown applies to top people in the Saudi power structure.
I must confess I don’t know what to do to prevent a jihadist takeover of Saudi Arabia, or what to do when and if it happens. But if we Americans can bring our covert foreign policy out into the open, and discuss what to do, we at least will not be taken by surprise.
The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees free speech to all Americans. Article One, Section 6, says Senators and Representatives cannot be called to account outside of Congress for anything they say on the floor of Congress. It is high time they exercise these rights and powers.