ISIS Turning into a Threat to Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Interview with Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi
Expert on Indian Subcontinent & Middle East Issues

At the present time, one can easier claim that Saudi Arabia is among countries that face a threat as a result of the emergence of ISIS terrorist group. Saudi security officials recently announced that they had nabbed a few people, who had been hired by ISIS to carry out terrorist operations in the country. There are questions among analysts as what ISIS is looking for in Saudi Arabia and to what extent it can advance in this country. To find answers to these and other questions, Etemad Persian Newspaper conducted the following interview with Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi, Expert on Indian Subcontinent & Middle East Issues which has been translated by Iran Review:

Q: As you know, ISIS has assumed responsibility for a recent suicide attack against a Shia mosque in an eastern province of Saudi Arabia. In your opinion, what goal is ISIS pursuing through such actions?

A: ISIS had already announced that it was planning to carry out terrorist operations in Saudi Arabia. I think ISIS is pursuing two goals through such operations. Firstly, as you know, Saudi Shias and the central government in Riyadh are not on friendly terms and by taking such actions, ISIS can actually worsen the current problems that exist between Saudi government and the country’s Shia population. The second goal is to settle scores with Shias and this is a goal that ISIS has continuously pursued. If this group managed to change the Saudi Arabia’s general atmosphere in favor of sowing conflicts between Shias and Sunnis, then it could achieve its goals. By succeeding in this scenario, ISIS can not only fan the flames of discord between Shias and Sunnis, but also intensify rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia across the region.

Q: What kind of rivalry you are talking about here?

A: The fight against ISIS can put Iran and Saudi Arabia on the same track. However, the main problem that prevents this from happening is the rivalry that has existed between Iran and Saudi Arabia, especially ever since Riyadh started its aggression against its southern neighbor, Yemen. This is the main bone of contention between the two countries on which ISIS especially counts. Although Islamic caliphate is longed by Arabs as an ideal, the announcement of the caliphate by ISIS is indicative of a deep rift between the interests of Saudi Arabia and ISIS.

Q: ISIS is once again gaining power and advancing both in Iraq and Syria. Many analysts believe that Saudi Arabia is supporting this terrorist group. What is your opinion in this regard?

A: There are certain doubts about whether ISIS and other extremist groups are supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar anymore. Given the ISIS’ claim to establishing an Islamic state and in view of the fact that Saudi Arabia is part of the map that ISIS has drawn for the region, it seems that Saudi Arabia is of no more interest to ISIS. Of course, one can claim that in strategic terms, Saudi Arabia has been supporting such groups in Syria. However, by a review of the existing strategic conditions in Saudi Arabia, it is easy to see that ISIS has currently turned into a threat to Riyadh.

Q: So, if Saudi Arabia is not supporting ISIS anymore, what countries are supporting it?

A: Without a doubt a group like ISIS cannot continue to exist in the absence of a powerful source of support given its huge financial and political needs and its high expenses. It is true that many intelligence services exist which have shared interests with ISIS. At present, Turkey is considered as the most powerful backer of ISIS and it must be also noted that each and every one of those secret services pursues their own specific goals in the region. In other words, security agencies of some regional countries are taking advantage of this issue through their own specific tactics and strategies. However, ambiguities exist about how they support ISIS. Saudi Arabia is certain to face problems if it provides this support.

Q: What is your opinion about the way Saudi Arabia dealt with the recent explosion? Can that explosion turn into an opportunity for reconciliation?

A: The power structure in Saudi Arabia is tribal and most high positions in the country have been occupied by members of the royal family. However, the time is almost over for this kind of government and this is evident from developments that have taken place in the power structure of Saudi Arabia. At present, new people have come to power who have a better understanding of new conditions. The new generation of Saudi rulers, therefore, is less inclined toward sectarian issues compared to its predecessors. When the third generation comes to power, Wahhabi clerics, who insist on their traditions, are sure to come to loggerheads with Saudi rulers. In this case, Saudi Arabia would undergo major changes from within, which would not necessarily lead to the collapse of its government. There is no doubt that this course of action has been recommended to them in order to avert the fall of their government. Therefore, recognition of the rights of Saudi Shias may be part of the developments that the government in Saudi Arabia is sure to undergo. Such a measure will greatly increase chances for reconciliation between the two sides, but this is a very hard task to accomplish.

Q: Is this terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia’s favor or to its detriment?

A: It is detrimental to Saudi Arabia, but if Saudi officials manage to handle it in a transparent way, it would turn out to be helpful to them. However, it is very difficult to convince Saudi Shias because most of them believe more than us that Riyadh is supporting ISIS, and maintain that the bomb attack has been carried out in cooperation with Saudi security forces. However, if Saudi government could identify those behind the attack and delved into its main causes with care, it might somehow allay the existing differences between the two sides. Of course, this would not be an easy task. When differences take an ideological turn, it is usually very difficult to get rid of them.

Q: What reaction Saudi Shias may show in the meantime?

A: Saudi Shias are not probable to show a hasty reaction neither against ISIS, nor against Saudi government. It would be more expedient for Shias if they avoided showing any kind of hostile reaction to this attack. Perhaps, if they look realistically and see that security forces have failed to fulfill their duty properly, Shias will feel the need to act more vigilantly in their religious gatherings.

Key Words: ISIS, Threat, Saudi Arabia, Suicide Attack, Saudi Shias, Qatar, Reconciliation, Hostile Reaction, Mollazehi

Source: Etemad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi:

*King Salman Changing Title, Prelude to Fundamental Changes in Saudi Arabia:

*Pakistan Prefers Iran Ties Over Saudi War on Yemen:

*Afghanistan and Mental Construct of Power:

*Photo Credit: Daily Sabah

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم