NY Times Op-Ed calls U.S. ally Saudi Arabia ‘an ISIS that has made it’

A new New York Times opinion piece by Kamel Daoud aims to poke holes at the West’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, dissecting our complicated alliance with the country and the many similarities between its extreme Islamist culture and the so-called Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia is governed by an ultra-conservative sect of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism, which inspires and feeds ISIL. According to the Times’ piece, the alliance that America and the West has formed with Saudi Arabia requires us turn a blind eye to the country’s routine public executions for things such as renouncing Islam.

Saudi Arabia has executed over 150 people this year, mainly by beheading. The executions include children, people with mental disabilities, and foreigners, who are unfamiliar with the country’s courts, do not speak Arabic, and do not receive a translation.

From the Times:

The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.

One might counter: Isn’t Saudi Arabia itself a possible target of Daesh? Yes, but to focus on that would be to overlook the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness. The Saudi royals are caught in a perfect trap: Weakened by succession laws that encourage turnover, they cling to ancestral ties between king and preacher. The Saudi clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives legitimacy to the regime.


Daoud additionally discusses the two sides of Saudi Arabia. In America, most are familiar with the official face of the country, which offered condolences to France last week, and works with us against ISIL. However, he argues that the other side, the public voice seen in Arabic language newspapers, casts the West as infidels who bring attacks upon themselves by waging a war against Islam. The two distinct faces of the country are impossible to reconcile.

Since ISIL is a cultural movement, Daoud argues, it will continue to grow as long as Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism is tolerated by America and our allies. Daoud refers to ISIL as the “Black Daesh,” and Saudi Arabia as the “White Daesh.” (Many Western politicians refer to ISIL as”Daesh,” an Arabic translation of the group’s acronym.)

[ISIL] has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books.

Daoud doesn’t give any answers about how we can keep a powerful ally despite their dangerous ideas that will continue to inspire militant Islamist groups. The West must modify its contradictory relationship with Saudi Arabia for us to see any kind of significant change in the Middle East.

Featured image via Flickr

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