After the disaster in Paris there will be enormous pressure, especially from the Republican candidates, to do something. They will condemn the Obama/Clinton administration as ineffective and suggest simplistic solutions to this very complex problem — that will likely make everything much worse.
Our next president should have a minimal understanding of the historical roots to the problem. There is of course the cultural Arab/Persian conflict and the religious Sunni/Shiite conflict, but these forces lived in relative peace for 500 years during the Ottoman Empire, and Islam was known as the religion of peace.
Most of the problems in the Middle East are due to the imperialistic aims of England and France when they carved up the Ottoman Empire after WW I. In most cases they ignored religious and cultural differences when they drew lines on maps, and in some cases intentionally set up minority Sunni governments in Shiite majority nations like Iraq, or the reverse as a minority Alawite government in a Sunni majority country like Syria. They intentionally set up tyrants who would do their bidding, because they would be dependent on the colonial powers to keep them in power.
In 1744 preacher and scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab formed an alliance with Muhammad bin Saud. For the last 200 years the House of Saud has provided the political support and protection for the Islamic extremists called Wahhabists, or more properly Salafists. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims. About 85 percent are Sunni and only about five million of those are Salafists, but they have had enormous influence because of oil money.
Most of the Sunnis in the world are peaceful and live in democracies. Mohammad said that “People of the Book” which included Muslims, Christians and Jews should be protected. What makes Salafists different is that they declared everyone but Salafists as takfir or apostates, and that they could be killed. The Saudi riches paid for the Maddrassas throughout the Middle East that spread hatred of the West and Islamic terrorism. Almost all terrorists including ISIL, al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Nusra, al Shabaab, Boko Haram and AQAP are all Salafists, as were the 9/11 hijackers.
Much of the unrest in the region is driven by the turmoil in Israel, with Muslims universally opposed to Israel, but much is also driven by the turmoil within Sunni Islam. There is a war between the Salafists and everyone else. And the Salafists want to establish a caliphate. ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State in Syria/Levant) should be called Daesh instead, because ISIL legitimizes the sharia caliphate they wish to impose on the region. Daesh is a derogatory term for militant extremists.
Wahhabism is the official religion of Saudi Arabia and their minister of religion has always been a descendent of Wahhab. Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive, misogynistic countries in the world where beheadings and mutilations are common and women have little freedom. Yet they are our allies. They keep oil prices low for us. They provide support in our war against Daesh and they are providing aid to Turkey and Jordan to handle the Syrian refugees.
President Obama has diplomatically refused to condemn radical Islam and its source, because we are addicted to Saudi oil. The government of Saudi Arabia must now deal with a monster of its own creation. Daesh is calling for the overthrow of the government because they are cooperating with the West.
This is why it will be so difficult to defeat Daesh. The fact is that Wahhabi Sunni extremists are the ones responsible for most Islamisc terrorism, suicide bombings, and are trying to overthrow the government in Syria. While the U.S. opposes the murderous Assad, we must realize that while he barrel-bombs his own people, he is also protecting the Christians, Alawites and Shiites in his country who would be slaughtered if the rebel Salafists take over the country.
So what is the best way to pressure Saudi Arabia to abandon the radical Islamic sect which is sponsoring terrorism and moderate their policies and religion? How would Christians purge their religion of the intolerance shown by Westboro Baptist Church (which protests military funerals as God’s punishment for tolerance of gays)? Is it possible to cut off the funding for the terrorists? Perhaps if we all cut back on the use of fossil fuels, we would not only stop our unintentional support for terrorism we would also be saving the world by fighting climate change.
Many people want to tar all of Islam with a broad brush. They fear all Muslims and want to close off the borders to all refugees from Syria even though most of them are different branches of Islam or are Christians fleeing the same radicals we fear. They want to declare war on Islam, and re-invade the region, in a new holy war that would throw gasoline on the region. That is exactly what the terrorists want. Jihad demands that Muslims defend other Muslims that are under attack by foreigners. Daesh wants American boots on the ground to attract more recruits.
We should have learned from Iraq that we cannot impose our faith, values, or form of government on foreign nations by using military force. Now that Russia is there, will they be dragged into another quagmire like Afghanistan, which was instrumental of the collapse of the Soviet Union? Was their airliner the target of the terrorists because of their involvement? Will they become the next Great Satan?
This is a war for the hearts and minds of Sunni Islam. Daesh is making the entire religion look bad and the only solution is for the Muslims themselves to purge this radical extremist sect. The only time we had relative stability in Iraq is during the “Anbar awakening” when we hired 103,000 Sunnis to drive al Qaeda out of Iraq. Perhaps we can also hire the moderate Sunnis who were used to a secular government in Iraq to drive out Daesh. Vice President Biden suggested the answer to the Iraq conflict would be to partition the nation into three autonomous regions, one for the Shiites, one for the Kurds and one for the Sunnis. The trick would be sharing the nation’s resources. Perhaps the promise of their own state would be sufficient incentive for the moderate Sunnis to throw out the radicals.
America and the European nations can protect ourselves through police action and good intelligence, not by conventional warfare. We currently have very little field intelligence because we distrust all Muslims and treat them all as outcasts. If we developed good relationships with moderate Sunni Muslims, they might alert us when terrorists are planning something. If we helped young Muslim men get jobs and become assimilated within the community, they might not become so angry that they are willing to travel thousands of miles to have the chance to kill people.
So next time you hear Republicans candidates tell us that we should go in with guns blazing, consider our record of involvement which has consistently made things worse. This is mainly a Sunni Muslim problem and they should do most of the fighting. Most people demonize all Muslims and do not even realize that the Kurds, who are now doing most of the fighting against Daesh, are mostly Sunni. We should help them and do everything we can to eliminate Daesh short of sending in troops. But if we do anything there, it should be as part of an international coalition. – Jerry Brule