23 October 2014
When Saudi rulers send warplanes on missions against Islamic State, they’re targeting a group whose theocratic ideology and roots in desert warfare overlap at least partly with the kingdom’s own present and past.
The world’s largest oil exporter has evolved into a mostly urban society in its eight decades of statehood, yet nomadic fighters erupting from the desert in a blaze of religious zeal are still part of its foundation narrative. Today in Saudi Arabia, as in the territory controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, women must wear black abayas, shops all close during prayer times, religious police enforce Islamic laws and criminals face violent punishment.
Saudi Arabia, like its longtime U.S. ally, sees Islamic State as a terrorist group and has joined the war against it. Yet the jihadists share some common ground with their Saudi opponents, even if that’s outweighed by their differences, and they have sympathizers in the kingdom, according to Gregory Gause, head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University. Some Saudis view the U.S.-led bombing campaign as a Western plot against the Muslim world, and such sentiments have provoked a backlash in the past, especially when U.S. troops were allowed into the kingdom to fight the 1991 Gulf War.
…Abdulaziz halted his expansion once most of the Arabian Peninsula was conquered, and turned against the Ikhwan, whose main leaders later surrendered to the British. That history underscores another distinction with Islamic State, that between an established power and an expansionist upstart, according to James Dorsey, a senior fellow in international studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
“The House of Saud wants to ensure its grip on power,” and doesn’t seek to expand beyond its borders or “create one unified Muslim state that would be ruled by a caliph,” he said. “Islamic State seeks to topple existing regimes that it views as apostate.”
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 27/10/2014