The Saudi deployment of 30,000 troops to its border with Iraq, earlier this week, is not what it seems, given the Saudi role in creating terrorism, including its role in the 9/11 attacks on the United States, in the first place. The German news agency Deutsche Welle put some much needed attention on the Saudi backing of ISIS, yesterday, with an interview with Michael Lueder, a German journalist and Arabist based in Berlin who characterized the Saudi relationship with ISIS as “ambivalent.”
“Saudi Arabia has an ambivalent strategy when it comes to ISIS. The Saudi government itself does not directly support ISIS,” he said. “But wealthy Saudi businessmen, in particular, are sending ISIS militants money. How much is unknown. And from what we have been able to determine, Arabs in other Gulf states are doing so as well. Those who support ISIS see it as a bulwark against the Shi’ites and the Shi’ite-led government in Iran.”
He said that while the Saudi government is “very concerned” about the violence spread by ISIS militants in Iraq, they don’t act. “Saudi Arabia could theoretically prevent the flow of money toward ISIS, but it does not do so — probably out of concern that such a move could lead to internal political turmoil,” he said. “The government, therefore, sees ISIS as a danger, but there are rich Saudis who see in ISIS a spiritual ally against the Shi’ites.”
The war continues in both Iraq and Syria and could even suck in Israel. According to news reports, Iraqi forces are attempting to recapture Tikrit from ISIS. The Wall Street Journal reported last night, that Iraqi forces were struggling to take the village of Awja, Saddam’s birthplace, a few miles outside Tikrit, whereas a few hours later, Reuters reported that they had succeeded. Iraqi security forces also say that they control the road from Tikrit south to Samarra, a distance of about 30 miles.
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is resisting pressure to step down in favor of a national unity govermnent. “I will never waive the nomination for the premier post since my coalition is the biggest bloc and has the right to have the premier post, and it not the right of any other side to place such conditions,” he said in a speech yesterday. He is moving, however, to shake up the leadership of the security forces. According to a report in Britain’s Independent, Maliki fired the heads of both the army ground forces and the federal police, though no replacements had yet been named.
To the west in Syria, ISIS claims to have taken control of Syria’s largest oil field, called al-Omar, without a fight. In Syria, ISIS seems to be now supplanting al Nusra as the main opposition group fighting the rule of Bashar al-Assad in the eastern parts of Syria. Not only was it al Nusra that gave up the al-Omar oil field to ISIS but, according to Reuters, al Nusra also surrendered two towns near the Iraqi border to ISIS after tribal leaders in the area pledged their allegiance to ISIS, thereby further solidifying ISIS’ control of the border region.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters, yesterday, that Israel is ready to help Jordan—including by sending troops—fight off any incursion by ISIS, though he hastened to add that he didn’t think that would be necessary. “If, God forbid, there is a need, if such a request comes, if there is an emergency situation, then of course Israel will extend all help required,” he said. “Israel will not allow groups like ISIS to take over Jordan.”