ISIS is also a Saudi problem

Those who do not read what leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) write, and those who do not watch the group’s videos, may not realize that it has many enemies, foremost among them Saudi Arabia. ISIS has a long list of rivals worldwide, such as the United States and most recently Russia, as well as European governments, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. ISIS is also fighting both the Syrian regime and the opposition.

For two years now, the organization has actively spread fierce propaganda against Saudi Arabia and its monarchy, urging people to rebel against it. There are many Saudi fighters in ISIS’s ranks, and the government worries that they may one day sneak back into the country from Iraq and Syria to implement ISIS’s project.

Similarities with Al-Nusra Front

The same applies to the terrorist Al-Nusra Front, which presents itself as an opposition group that is only hostile to the Syrian regime. It is an extension of Al-Qaeda, and has previously professed loyalty to it. Although it fights ISIS, their aims are similar.

The organization has actively spread fierce propaganda against Saudi Arabia and its monarchy, urging people to rebel against it

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Al-Nusra Front fighters have previously threatened Saudi Arabia. This is why we doubt the aims of regional governments that support it, because its biggest project is to attack Saudi Arabia, which for terrorists represents the promised land and the path toward legitimacy.

Terrorists consider Syria a base to gather, train and launch operations, as they did previously with Afghanistan. Initially, Al-Nusra Front and ISIS deceived people with the idea that they were formed to fight unjust sectarian regimes in Iraq and Syria, thus exploiting people’s grievances. Al-Qaeda did the same in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, crimes committed in Syria and Iraq by Al-Nusra Front and ISIS have quickly turned Arab and Muslim public opinion against them, unlike Al-Qaeda, which enjoyed media and religious propaganda in its defense.

Those who sympathize with Al-Nusra Front or ISIS do not dare express that sympathy in Saudi Arabia. In some cases, worshippers have driven out preachers who dared commend ISIS. People can now distinguish between nationalist groups that rebel against injustice, and terrorist groups that facilitate chaos.

ISIS in Iraq has worn several masks. It claimed to be formed from tribal groups, then it portrayed itself as aligned with Baathists, and later claimed it was a mixed army under an-Naqshbandiyyah leadership. ISIS is the biggest, most dangerous power in Iraq - many people became aware of this after it occupied Mosul and a number of cities in Anbar province. Today, it not only threatens Baghdad, but Saudi Arabia’s borders.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 15, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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