December 16, 2015 | Quote

Analysts: Saudi Arabia’s Clerics Inspire Islamic Extremism

A new Saudi Arabian-led Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism could be part of the solution in Syria, but analysts say Riyadh will have to first overcome its ambivalence toward Islamic extremism.

Marri Janeka, assistant director of the Middle East Peace and Strategy Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said Riyadh could be the key to organizing the Syrian opposition and helping end the war in Syria.

“To be sure, Saudi Arabia is a driver of radicalism, but can also be an important and influential agent of change,” Janeka told VOA via email.

But other analysts suspect the new regional grouping is growing out of a number of Riyadh's political desires, not just fighting groups like al-Qaida and IS.


“It is partly the impulsivity and enthusiasm of the new defense minister (Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz), partly PR, partly an attempt to turn money into political power to boost Saudi influence over its regional partners, and also partly to genuinely combat terrorism,” said David Weinberg, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Anti-Shia theological terms of abuse regularly pop up in statements attributing responsibility for terrorism attacks,” Weinberg said.

“When that same language is publicly used by prominent clerics in the kingdom, it is not surprising to see it also get used by terrorist groups,” he told VOA.

Weinberg cautioned that Saudi Arabia's history of multilateral groupings to combat terrorism has had disappointing records.

The Gulf Cooperation Council and, more recently, the Arab joint force to combat Islamic extremists and Iran-backed groups both got bogged down in national differences over who the enemy is.


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