Answering an urgent question in the Commons, defence minister Philip Dunne said the UK had ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010 and no longer supplied, manufactured or supported them.
He said there had been several conflicts in that region in the past decade so it was not clear that the evidence found had come from the current fighting.
Shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry asked whether the Saudi military had used British planes to drop cluster bombs and what was the extent of British involvement in the conflict.
Mr Dunne replied: "I can categorically reassure [you] that no British planes have been involved in this coalition effort at all, let alone in dropping cluster munitions - that is the potential allegation. There is no British involvement in the coalition in targeting or weaponising aircraft to undertake missions."
Amnesty has written to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a government inquiry into the allegations.
The human rights group claimed it found a partially-exploded BL-755 cluster bomb which had apparently malfunctioned, leaving scores of unexploded bomblets strewn over a wide area near a farm in Al-khadhra village, six miles from the Saudi border.
Amnesty said the bomb was originally manufactured by Bedfordshire company Hunting Engineering Ltd in the 1970s.
Amnesty International UK arms control director Oliver Sprague said: "Cluster bombs are one of the nastiest weapons in the history of warfare, rightly banned by more than 100 countries, so it's truly shocking that a British cluster munition has been dropped on a civilian area in Yemen."
Cluster bombs explained
The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs
The convention has 108 signatories and became binding international law in 2010
Cluster bombs pose particular risks to civilians because they release many small bomblets over a wide area
During attacks, they are prone to indiscriminate effects especially in populated areas
Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended, and are costly to locate and remove
Source: United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
A Saudi-led coalition of Arab air forces began carrying out airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen last year.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that at least 3,200 civilians have been killed and 5,700 wounded, with 60% of the casualties caused by airstrikes, in that time.
The conflict between President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi's UN-recognised government and the rebels began in September 2014
NN)EgyptAir Flight 804 vanished from radar on its way from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard, the airline said Thursday
The plane was flying at 37,000 feet when it lost contact overnight above the Mediterranean Sea, the airline tweeted. French President Francois Hollande said he was told the flight crashed,but Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said he preferred to classify the flight as missing.
"We do not deny there is a possibility of terrorism or deny the possibility of technical fault," Fathi said at a Cairo news conference. "I will continue to use the term missing plane until we find any debris."
For now, finding the airplane and any possible survivors is the priority, authorities said.
Somber relatives gathered in Cairo and Paris airports, seeking word on their loved ones. They were taken to special centers at both airports, where translators and psychiatric support awaited. In Cairo's airport, dozens of relatives paced anxiously in a building set aside for families. Some shouted at photographers taking pictures of them, while others berated officials over the perceived lack of information.
Live updates: Missing flight MS804
-- Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told reporters that search operations have not yet turned up anything.
-- The airplane "swerved and then plunged" before descending into the Mediterranean, the Greek minister told reporters.
-- Greek controllers tried to reach EgyptAir Flight 804 about 10 miles before it left the country's airspace and for about 90 seconds after and received no response, the head of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority told Greek broadcaster ANT1 TV.
-- Prosecutors in Paris have opened an investigation into the disappearance of the plane, the office said in a statement. "No hypothesis is privileged or pushed aside for the moment," the statement said.
The flight seemed to be proceeding normally until it approached Egyptian airspace. Greek controllers talked to the pilot when the plane was near the Greek island of Kea at 37,000 feet at an air speed of 519 mph. Everything seemed fine at that point.
At 3:27 a.m. local time, shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek airspace, controllers tried to reach the pilots to transfer control to Cairo authorities. Despite repeated attempts, they received no response, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority said. The plane passed into Egyptian airspace two minutes later. Forty seconds later, radar contact was lost, the authority said.
Weather conditions were clear at the time,meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
Hoping for answers about blocks on internet calls, NGOs take telecom regulator to court
The temporary outage of internet-based calling services like WhatsApp and Viber caused a social media storm in October 2015, but the episode left more questions than it answered: Are internet-based calling services illegal in Egypt? Was the block imposed by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA)? And where do telecom companies and consumer rights fit into the equation?
A lawsuit scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the Administrative Court is hoping to force some answers. The suit, which was already postponed earlier this month, was filed against the NTRA by the NGOs Support Center for Information Technology and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
The lawsuit aims to force the NTRA to release a list of the services or websites that have been blocked in Egypt in recent month and to divulge the criteria upon which they were blocked, explains Aziza al-Taweel, the Support Center’s lawyer.
So far, Taweel says, the NTRA denies blocking WhatsApp and other voice calling services, but also maintains that such apps provide unlicensed international calls and are therefore illegal. “They are claiming that they need to be licensed first, while denying any blockage at the same time,” Taweel explains.
NTRA spokesperson Karim Soliman confirmed to Mada Masr that the regulatory body considers these services to be illegal, but added no further comments.
Did the NTRA block VoIP?
Questions about the NTRA’s stance on internet calls came to public attention in October 2015, when social media went into a rage after many users reported being unable to use internet calling apps like Viber, Skype, WhatsApp on 3G networks and ADSL. Disgruntled users’ reaction worsened after a few scattered statements by customer service operators of telecom companies on social media confirmed that the services had been blocked.
Shortly after, the services went back to working, with the usual poor quality on 3G networks. Both the telecom companies and the government regulator assured the public there was no blocking whatsoever.
Exactly what happened was, and remains, unclear. After nearly six months, there has been little clarification about the incident, highlighting the lack of transparency among the agencies responsible for enabling and regulating telecommunications in Egypt.
When Mada Masr investigated the issue in November 2015, Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology deflected any questions about the government’s plans for internet voice calls. Ministry spokesperson Mariam Fayez said such matters are in the hands of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority. Fayez declined to answer direct questions about whether the government is considering blocking VoIP services. The ministry is only concerned with strategic work, she said.
Meanwhile, the NTRA’s official media office refused repeated requests for information. Ali Anis, the NTRA’s Societal Interaction Director, told Mada Masr the authority has not blocked any services so far, and is not planning to do so.
All three of Egypt’s mobile phone companies — Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone — also insisted they took no action to block VoIP applications, apart from Skype, which has been blocked on 3G networks since 2010. Any problems with other applications were due to individual mobile phones or the applications themselves, company representatives said.
Telecom Egypt, the country’s landline monopoly and a major internet service provider, also insisted it is not blocking any applications, but refused to answer any further questions.
One could almost believe reports of service outages were a series of strange coincidences magnified by social media, or perhaps a technical glitch that affected users on different mobile networks, using different applications on different devices. And yet, a few accounts dispute the official narrative.
Before and during the outage in October, customer service representatives on Twitter clearly stated that the NTRA gave orders to block VoIP services.
One NTRA representative also reportedly told a journalist for news site DotMsr.com that the agency had blocked VoIP — reports the NTRA later denied. This call, however, has been used in court by Taweel and the defense team as a proof.
An industry insider, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, also told Mada Masr the telecom companies did indeed block VoIP services, and on direct orders of the government.
Who does the NTRA work for?
Whether or not the NTRA is actually behind the block on VoIP applications, the episode raises questions about whose interests the regulator serves.
By law, the NTRA’s mandate is to protect users and their rights, a responsibility the agency is given in Article 2 of Egypt’s 2003 telecommunication regulation law. However, Article 4 of the telecommunications law requires the NTRA to protect “National Security and the state’s top interests.” Attempts to regulate the use of VoIP apps shows what happens when user rights and national security come into conflict.
“It is arguable that the NTRA is enforcing the ban on unlicensed trafficking of international calls, which is a crime according to Article 72 of the Telecom Act. However, it is also arguable that in enforcing this ban, the NTRA is also preventing users from making VoIP calls to other users in Egypt, even if those calls are routed internationally via the internet,” says independent researcher Amr Gharbeia.
One of the arguments against VoIP services is that, without cooperation from app developers, Egyptian authorities are unable to trace or monitor calls made over apps — unlike international or local phone calls made on landlines and mobile phone networks. This, opponents of the technology say, is a major security issue. “Legally speaking, if a crime occurred and you wanted to check call records of a suspect for example, they won’t agree. A famous examplehappened in Italy, where they tried to get records from the VoIP operators but they refused to even negotiate,” says Khaled Hegazy, external affairs and legal director at Vodafone Egypt.
Amr Gharbeia, an independent researcher, believes the telecom companies’ opposition to VoIP stems more from financial motivations than security concerns. Every free or low-cost call through VoIP apps takes money out of the phone companies’ pockets. This is especially true for lucrative international calls, all of which have to run through Telecom Egypt’s infrastructure, keeping rates high. “The reason for banning VoIP is all economic and is hardly a privacy or security issue. The telecoms want to keep the users paying higher fees for services they can get for much better prices or for free, so they are trying to monopolize the international calls market,” Gharbeia explains.
Vodafone, for example, has clearly expressed its desire to block VoIP, in particular WhatsApp’s voice calling feature. In March 2015, after WhatsApp's voice calling service was launched, Vodafone Egypt sent a letter to NTRA asking about the legality of blocking the service “for the negative impact it has on the telecom sector.” However, according to Hegazy, NTRA never replied.
Hegazy, says that the telecom sector in Egypt, and in particular Telecom Egypt, has been hurt by these applications, although he was not willing to quantify how companies are affected.
“Telecom Egypt is the main international gateway for Egypt, so any international call must go through it. I think they are the most negatively affected in terms of revenues,” he says. “We earn almost the same amount from international calls as we do in local ones, so we are not really affected,” he adds, speaking of his own company.
However, telecom companies’ financial disclosures appear to belie claims that VoIP services are seriously affecting the industry.
Despite a sharp drop in landline subscribers over the last five years, Telecom Egypt, announced a 360 percent increase in Q3 net profits for this year, reaching LE1.2 billion, while Q2 net profits increased by 55 percent. Vodafone Egypt revenues rose from LE6.4 billion in the first six months of 2014 to LE7.01 billion in the first half of 2015.
Even Mobinil, which incurred losses from 2012-2014, appeared to rebound in 2015, reporting a 5.3 percent increase in profits three quarters of the way into 2015. Etisalat Misr’s revenues grew by 2.6 percent by the end of 2014 as well.
Anis of the NTRA also dismisses the idea that VoIP apps are doing serious damage. “The financial impact of these applications in not big to begin with, and it affects the telecom companies, not the sector as a whole,” he says.
Ironically, phone companies don’t seem to have a problem with using VoIP services when it suits them. Expanding Egypt’s call center industry remains a hallmark of the country’s economic development strategy. Among the most prominent call center operators is Vodafone Egypt, which provides call center services for affiliates around the world, from the UK to New Zealand. These businesses would not be sustainable if operators had to pay international calling rates to route calls through the landline network. “Call centers in Egypt do use VoIP services. However, it is not illegal, they have obtained a license since they started operating in the country, because otherwise, no one will come here and firms will open its call centers in other countries like India,” an industry source says.
This presents another bind for the NTRA, and perhaps explains some of their ambiguity about VoIP. Any economic or security interests that would be served by blocking VoIP have to be balanced against the potential fallout of speaking too strongly against the technology.
Digital security researcher Ramy Raouf says officially blocking VoIP would have particularly bad repercussions for the digital economy. “If you block Viber for example, you will also block a number of advertisers alongside it, which will severely affect traffic levels and investment," he says. “In 2011, when the internet was blocked during the revolution, the economy lost a lot of money as a result.”
Uncertainty about the official reaction toward these applications is not reassuring for any investor trying to enter the market, since it gives a bad idea about the Egyptian market as a whole, says Mahmoud al-Banhawy, a digital freedoms officer at the Support for Information Technology Center.
Hegazy disagrees. “Blocking these service in Saudi Arabia and UAE did not scare potential investors, nor will it do so here,” he argues.
With such mixed messaging about VoIP, the role and real intentions of the sector’s regulator remain a mystery. The Communications Ministry deflected questions, as did the NTRA’s media office. Anis, the agency’s social interaction director, simply says the NTRA is currently studying the situation as a whole, in attempt to reach a compromise among competing interests. "We are only trying to set some determinants," he says. Customers, meanwhile, are left wondering where their rights fall into the equation, and waiting to see if VoIP apps are blocked overnight — a situation Wednesday’s lawsuit hopes to change.
You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia
The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed — and horrified — by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, “Don’t the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?”
It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.
Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.
Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.
THE SAUDI DUALITY
Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.
One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)
The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.
But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.
The American author and journalist, Steven Coll, has written how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised “the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.”
In Abd al-Wahhab’s view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their “superstition” (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine).
All this behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced as bida — forbidden by God.
Like Taymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of the Prophet Muhammad’s stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society (the “best of times”), to which all Muslims should aspire to emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).
Taymiyyah had declared war on Shi’ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spoke out, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and the celebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behavior represented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God (i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching, stating that “any doubt or hesitation” on the part of a believer in respect to his or her acknowledging this particular interpretation of Islam should“deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life.”
One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine has become the key idea oftakfir. Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority (that is, the King).
Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God, and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and dead loved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religious festivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.
“Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. “
Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.
There is nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift would emerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s doctrine of “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque” — these three pillars being taken respectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority of official Wahhabism, and its control of “the word” (i.e. the mosque).
It is this rift — the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which the whole of Sunni authority presently rests — makes ISIS, which in all other respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to Saudi Arabia.
BRIEF HISTORY 1741- 1818
Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.
“Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. “
Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.
In the beginning, they conquered a few local communities and imposed their rule over them. (The conquered inhabitants were given a limited choice: conversion to Wahhabism or death.) By 1790, the Alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq.
Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein... slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants ...”
Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”
In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.
But in November of 1803, a Shiite assassin killed King Abdul Aziz (taking revenge for the massacre at Karbala). His son, Saud bin Abd al Aziz, succeeded him and continued the conquest of Arabia. Ottoman rulers, however, could no longer just sit back and watch as their empire was devoured piece by piece. In 1812, the Ottoman army, composed of Egyptians, pushed the Alliance out from Medina, Jeddah and Mecca. In 1814, Saud bin Abd al Aziz died of fever. His unfortunate son Abdullah bin Saud, however, was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, where he was gruesomely executed (a visitor to Istanbul reported seeing him having been humiliated in the streets of Istanbul for three days, then hanged and beheaded, his severed head fired from a canon, and his heart cut out and impaled on his body).
In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman’s behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century.
HISTORY RETURNS WITH ISIS
It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I.
The Al Saud — in this 20th century renaissance — were led by the laconic and politically astute Abd-al Aziz, who, on uniting the fractious Bedouin tribes, launched the Saudi “Ikhwan” in the spirit of Abd-al Wahhab’s and Ibn Saud’s earlier fighting proselytisers.
The Ikhwan was a reincarnation of the early, fierce, semi-independent vanguard movement of committed armed Wahhabist “moralists” who almost had succeeded in seizing Arabia by the early 1800s. In the same manner as earlier, the Ikhwan again succeeded in capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary “Jacobinism” exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted — leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them.
For this king, (Abd-al Aziz), the simple verities of previous decades were eroding. Oil was being discovered in the peninsular. Britain and America were courting Abd-al Aziz, but still were inclined to support Sharif Husain as the only legitimate ruler of Arabia. The Saudis needed to develop a more sophisticated diplomatic posture.
So Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihadand theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da’wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King’s absolute power.
OIL WEALTH SPREAD WAHHABISM
With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world ... to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.
It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.
Westerners looked at the Kingdom and their gaze was taken by the wealth; by the apparent modernization; by the professed leadership of the Islamic world. They chose to presume that the Kingdom was bending to the imperatives of modern life — and that the management of Sunni Islam would bend the Kingdom, too, to modern life.
“On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.”
But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system — hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.
On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.
ISIS is a “post-Medina” movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule.
As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal’s modernization campaign). The “Ikhwan approach” enjoyed — and still enjoys — the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.
Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.
In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.
After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.
Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised — knowing a little about Wahhabism — that “moderate” insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?