Next stops on ji­hadi sa­fari? Mecca, then Jerusalem

ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - JOHN R BRADLEY

AS THE West dithers over how to re­spond to the es­tab­lish­ment of a caliphate and a con­comi­tant call on all Sunni Mus­lims to join a global ji­had by the Is­lamic State (for­merly known as Isis), the best equipped and most fa­nat­i­cal ji­hadist out­fit ever, re­gional su­per­power Saudi Ara­bia is at least re­act­ing with a sense of ur­gency.

The home of Is­lam’s two holi­est cities, Mecca and Me­d­ina, and the world’s largest proven oil re­serves, last week put the its army on the high­est state of alert and or­dered 30,000 troops to the Iraqi bor­der.

He did so amidst re­ports that the Iraqi army — in what is be­com­ing a de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar story — had aban­doned its own side of the fron­tier.

The Is­lamic State si­mul­ta­ne­ously is­sued a man­i­festo, com­plete with a de­tailed map of a new Mid­dle East, that en­vi­sioned the par­ti­tion of Saudi Ara­bia and the de­struc­tion of Is­rael.

Though scantly re­ported, this is po­ten­tially the most im­por­tant geopo­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in the Mid­dle East since the sign­ing of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion in 1917, which promised a home­land for the Jews and, in­ci­den­tally, also cre­ated the Saudi state — with full Bri­tish bless­ing — in 1932.

Abu Bakr Al-Bagh­dadi, the elu­sive leader of the Is­lamic State and self­pro­claimed new caliph, re­ferred to the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion in his di­a­tribe.

How­ever grudg­ingly, one can­not but ad­mire his po­lit­i­cal acu­men, un­der­stand­ing as he does that the road to Jerusalem leads through Mecca.

For if there is an­other Mid­dle East­ern coun­try ripe for bloody, in­ter­nal strife, it is the Wah­habi King­dom.

Led by a no­to­ri­ously re­pres­sive, cor­rupt and hyp­o­crit­i­cal royal fam­ily, con­sid­ered apos­tates by pi­ous Mus­lims and de­spised by large sec­tions of its largely im­pov­er­ished pop­u­la­tion, it is riven not only by po­lit­i­cal back­stab­bing but also, more cru­cially, in­tractable tribal, re­gional and sec­tar­ian di­vi­sions.

Con­sider, given most re­cent events, Al-Jouf, the north­ern-most prov­ince bor­der­ing Iraq, where lo­cals have strong his­toric tribal ties with Iraqis.

In 2004, Al-Jouf wit­nessed an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­bel­lion against the rul­ing Al-Sauds, partly in sup­port of the Pales­tini­ans and led by Saudi ji­hadis who had re­turned from Afghanistan.

The re­gion’s deputy gover­nor, the city’s top Is­lamist judge, and its chief of po­lice were all ex­e­cuted in the space of a few weeks, amidst mass pub­lic demon­stra­tions and the coun­try’s worst prison riot. The lo­cal tribes, hell-bent on re­venge, would surely be ea­ger to join the ranks of the Is­lamic State.

Ter­ri­fy­ingly, Saudi Ara­bia’s main mil­i­tary gar­ri­son town, Tabuk, is a short drive from Al-Jouf, and is linked by a ma­jor high­way to Jordan — a strate­gic gate­way, in other words, to a fi­nal ji­hadi as­sault on Is­rael.

Such an out­come would pre­cip­i­tate up­ris­ings else­where in Saudi Ara­bia, most ob­vi­ously on the Saudi- Ye­meni bor­der — where, as in Al-Jouf, cross-bor­der tribal al­le­giances trump na­tional iden­tity.

The largely por­ous, moun­tain­ous Saudi bor­der re­gion of Asir has long pro­vided ac­cess to Saudi Ara­bia for sui­ci­dal ji­hadis from Al-Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula — a Ye­men-based out­fit which, un­til the emer­gence of the Is­lamic State, was con­sid­ered the big­gest threat to re­gional sta­bil­ity.

Then there is the East­ern Prov­ince, home to most of Saudi Ara­bia’s oil fields, where the ma­jor­ity of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion are de­spised Shia, and where a low-level re­bel­lion against the Al-Saud rule has been rum­bling for three years. This is Iran’s ul­ti­mate goal.

The sce­nario, then, is truly night­mar­ish — both for Is­rael and the global econ­omy.

But one can­not but note the irony that, should Wash­ing­ton con­tinue to dither, the out­come will be that Is­rael’s two main en­e­mies, the ji­hadis and Iran, may one day be cel­e­brat­ing their re­spec­tive con­quests — de­spite loathing each other with

an equal pas­sion. John R Bradley is the au­thor of ‘Saudi Ara­bia Ex­posed: In­side a King­dom in

Cri­sis’

PHOTO: AP

Mem­bers of the Is­lamic State on pa­rade in Raqqa, Syria

PHOTO: AP

Leader Bagh­dadi

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