January 7, 2016 | Jamie Dettmer - Voice of America

Islamic State Militants Target Saudi Arabia

Iran isn’t alone in issuing dire threats against Saudi Arabia — the Islamic State has ratcheted up a propaganda campaign against the Gulf kingdom’s ruling family, denouncing them for siding with the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadists and urging followers to oust them.

“The Islamic State has exerted much effort in the last couple of weeks to attacking Saudi Arabia in an extensive and well-coordinated media campaign,” says Marwan Khayat, an analyst at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington-based group that monitors jihadist propaganda.

In an outpouring of videos and social media postings that increased noticeably in tempo more than two weeks ago, the terrorist army’s propagandists have been exhorting the kingdom’s Sunni Muslims to target the ruling House of Saud as well as the Wahhabi religious establishment and the Saudi military underpinning the royal family.

Ironically, in light of Iran’s fury over the execution at the weekend of an influential Shi’ite cleric, one of the Islamic State’s chief charges against the Saudi royals is that they have allowed the kingdom’s Shi'ite Muslims – considered apostates by IS – a free hand to live and practice their religion in the country.

Following Saudi Arabia's executions of four Shi'ite Muslims Saturday, Iran threatened “divine vengeance.” Most international attention since has focused on the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. But 43 Sunni jihadists were among the executed prisoners and since their slayings IS has pledged to target the al-Ha’ir and Tarifya prisons, two facilities where al-Qaida and IS suspects are being held.

But even before the executions, IS had upped its propaganda threats against the Saudi royal family.


“IS propaganda has been consistent in that it has inspired members and lone-wolf types to attack targets specified by the group,” says Jonathan Schanzer, an analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank. With the population already indoctrinated with hardline Wahhabi ideology, Saudi Arabia remains “fertile ground for recruitment,” he says.

“The Saudis have branded IS as a terror group and it has been part of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the group in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, the Saudis are the leaders among the Arab countries in this campaign,” says Schanzer.


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