Paris Attacks Isolated Saudi Arabia On Syria And Daesh
Saudi Arabia King Salman
NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia is feeling the cold of isolation after the Paris attacks has led to a reversal of US and French policy on Syria.
In fact in a world that is fast revising its policy now towards the Syrian Bashar al-Assad government, Saudi Arabia stands out almost like a ‘lone wolf’ with its strong opposition against Assad, its support for the Daesh led forces that are fighting to topple the Syrian government, and its deep rooted suspicion of Russia that is now calling the shots in the region. The Saudis have always worked with, and been loyal allies of, the United States.
Saudi Arabia that had cobbled together an alliance in West Asia to support the US led war against Assad, is now left virtually alone to pick up the tatters of what had seemed at one point to be formidable unity against the Syrian government. Jordan was amongst the first to desert this coalition for Russia when its President Vladimir Putin decided to move into Syria to direct the ‘war’ from Assad to Daesh late September. Jordan has held military exercises with Russia since.
A second major country to move towards Moscow in its support for Assad and against the Islamic State in real terms is Egypt that has also seen the writing on the wall and has decided to build relations with Moscow again. Egypt is publicly backing the Russian military intervention in Syria now, and has come out with statements maintaining that this will help curb terrorism in the region.Egypt is publicly backing the Russian military intervention in Syria, which it says will curb the spread of terrorism in the war-torn country and encourage a political resolution – despite the policy being a direct challenge to the involvement of close-ally Saudi Arabia in the conflict.
Turkey like Saudi Arabia remains hesitant, more because of the Russian support to the Kurds who have for long been maintaining that they are the targets for the Turkish forces. As articles by the Kurdish organisations to The Citizen revealed, in the name of targeting Daesh Turkey, that has been also for regime change in Syria, has been hitting at the Kurd strongholds. It is well known that the Kurds have been the only force resisting the Daesh troops with boots on the ground in both Turkey, and Iraq. The Turkish government, however, is facing pressure now to change its policy more so as it was at the forefront, along with Saudi Arabia, in routing funds and weapons that are being used by Daesh in the region.
The Saudis are worried about the shift in policy that they expected with the decision by Russia to move into Syria. “There is no future for Al-Assad in Syria,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir said just before the Russians started bombarding Daesh targets in Syria. Egypt has moved out of the alliance despite the help, monetary and political, given to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Saudi Arabia had organised a conference of donor countries that financed over 60 billion dollars worth of projects in Egypt. And of course al-Sisi responded with a seven day national mourning when Saudi King Abdullah died in January this year. And also provided naval support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen.
The Paris attacks have served to completely silence Qatar, a Saudi loyalist, and lead to some churning in Riyadh that now finds itself at the losing end of the stick. The Saudi ruling family tried to take the usual way out by offering 10 billion dollars to Russia, but that clearly was a lollipop that has not mollified Putin who is now leading the charge against Daesh. In the process Saudi’s arch foe Assad has been strengthened and as sources told The Citizen from Syria, both Moscow and Damascus are working closely together.
Saudi Arabia had been amongst the first to oppose Russian air strikes that started on September 30. “The delegation of my country expresses its profound concern regarding the military operations that Russian forces have carried out in Homs and Hama today, places where ISIS forces are not present,” said Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi at the United Nations. He claimed, “These attacks led to a number of innocent victims. We demand it stop immediately and not recur.” Saudi foreign Minister went a step further to say, “we believe that the Russian interference in Syria is very dangerous because it exacerbates the conflict.”
Saudi Arabia had also moved its clerics, as is its wont, to sign a petition titled “Petition of Saudi Ulama With Regard to Russian Aggression on Syria”. 55 Saudi clerics signed this and posted on a hardline Salafi scholar Nasir al-Omar’s Web page, al-Moslim. The petition did not call on Saudi youth to join the ‘jihad’ but called upon those in Syria to join the jihad against Assad. And the message called upon Turkey and Qatar along with Saudi Arabia to help “their brothers” in Syria. And urged all not to accept any solution in Syria that would allow Assad to stay in power.
This has been the position of the US and France as well, that in effect placed them on the same side as Daesh in the war in the region. The two western countries have altered course drastically, at least France has after the attacks in Paris. And although Saudi Arabia has maintained a studied silence on the issue of Syria since the attacks, as if aware of increasing isolation, it is finding itself under attack from commentators and journalists across the world.
Articles linking the Molenbeek neighbourhood in Brussels to Saudi Arabia have appeared in the European media. Some of the Paris attackers were traced to this neighbourhood that journalists have pointed out received money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to set up hard line Wahhabi mosques. This could not be independently confirmed but there has been sufficient information and proof earlier of similar funding by the Saudis of radical madrasas in Pakistan earlier that reportedly fed into militant groups operating in that region.
The oil rich country that had raised the decibels against Russia, supported of course at the time by US and France, has now lapsed into silence that is deafening in comparison. However, it has not changed course as yet except for suggesting a UN led organisation now to fight terrorism.