Forget Our Misguided Friendship With Saudis: Iran is Our Natural Ally

Forget Our Misguided Friendship With Saudis: Iran is Our Natural AllyForget Our Misguided Friendship With Saudis: Iran is Our Natural Ally

The Saudi town of Awamiya now exists in name only. Last month, days before an assault on its Shia inhabitants by the US-backed Saudi regime, the UN designated it a place of unique cultural and religious significance. The Saudis then subjected Awamiya’s entire civilian population to the indiscriminate use of fighter jets, rocket-propelled grenades, snipers, heavy artillery, armored assault vehicles and cold-blooded executions.

More than a dozen Shia, including a three-year-old boy, were killed. Hundreds of young men were rounded up. At least 500 homes were flattened, and 8,000 residents were forcibly removed from those that remained. Saudi soldiers recorded themselves dancing and singing amid the rubble of the town’s once-beautiful old city. They stomped on a poster of a revered Shia cleric from the eastern province, Nimr al-Nimr, beheaded last year for sedition, John R. Bradley writes in The Spectator.

 And they denigrated the town’s ‘cleansed’ local Shia as ‘rejectionists’ and ‘dogs’ —language identical to that of their fanatical Wahhabi brothers in Iraq and Syria, who rejoice in slaughtering Shia in the name of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group. The mass beheading of 14 local Shia activists, including a severely disabled teenager, is said to be imminent.

In the wake of this sectarian carnage it seems preposterous that Donald Trump stood next to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh in May at the launch of a new center to combat extremism. In a keynote speech, Trump had, just as bizarrely, singled out Iran and its Shia allies as the instigators of terrorism and sectarian bloodshed in the region. In the past, such Saudi duplicity was laughed off in the name of selling the infantile princes billions of dollars in arms (from which they take massive kickbacks) and heightening their borderline-insane obsession with the supposedly existential threat posed by Iran to Israel and the latter’s despotic allies.

The joke isn’t funny anymore. Last month, the former head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, warned that Britain will face an extremist terror threat for at least 30 years. Only the most blinkered observer would find it difficult to understand his concern.

  Terrorists Coming to the UK and EU

For with the near fall of IS, thousands of extremists steeped in the caliphate’s Wahhabi ideology are returning to Britain and Europe, determined to keep alive the dream of massacring infidels. It is our own civilization that faces the real existential threat. The wave of terror attacks in Spain, Finland, Britain and Belgium has happened in a year in which Europe has witnessed at least one serious extremist incident every week.

A recent report, suppressed by the UK government, revealed the majority of funding for UK mosques that promote extremism, and which play a crucial role in radicalizing homegrown extremists, originates from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab countries that also embrace the odious Wahhabi ideology. These findings tally with other exhaustive studies on the expansion of extremism, both here and in Europe, which have singled out the spread of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism as the gravest threat to our security and values. All were similarly ignored by those who rule in our name.

Saudi Arabia is thus being given the green light by our treacherous political elite to ensure that, as the dream of the caliphate in the Middle East fades, murderous militancy will grow with increasing fury on our doorstep. The argument that intelligence from Saudi Arabia helps prevent attacks sounds increasingly hollow, given how many terrorist acts are being carried out regardless.

Political understanding of the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East, and how that relates to the extremist terror threat, must likewise be re-evaluated. The atrocities in Awamiya demonstrate nothing if not the absurdity of the notion that the Wahhabis are our friends in the fight against extremism and that the Shia are our mortal enemies. By any objective measure, the exact opposite is true.

  Iran is No Aggressor

In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslims are forbidden from practicing their religion in public, while Iran’s constitution protects the rights of Christians and Jews. (One of my fondest memories of the region is hanging out with the Jewish communities in Tehran and Isfahan.)

Saudi Arabia promotes the kind of anti-Semitism the Nazis would have been proud of, while damning the Shia as collectively evil. Iran has a democracy and a vibrant press that, while hardly comparable to what we take for granted in the West, puts to shame anything found in Saudi Arabia. Iran has never invaded another country; Saudi Arabia is presently destroying Yemen.

Moreover, when geopolitical pragmatism has dictated, Iran has offered to work closely with the West, while at every turn, by funding its militant proxies, the Saudis and their allies in the western intelligence communities have been working against us.

After the September 11 attacks, carried out by mostly Saudi nationals, Iran —which of course has no sympathy for al-Qaeda— rounded up hundreds of Arab terrorists and provided intelligence to Washington to aid the war on terror. In 2009, Tehran was publicly offering to help Washington rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan; two years earlier, both countries held (ultimately unproductive) talks on Iraq.

None of that is to mention the elephant in the room. Without the heroic military sacrifices of Iran and its Shia ally, Hezbollah, on the front lines in the crumbling caliphate, IS would not today be in its final death throes there, and al-Qaeda militants (whom we funded, trained and armed) would not be running for their lives.

The US has also worked alongside Iranian generals in Iraq in the joint fight there against IS. Even today, US special forces are working with the Lebanese army as it launches a simultaneous push with Hezbollah against terrorists created by Saudi and other Sunni countries that are still causing mayhem on the other side of the Syrian border. The bottom line is that Iran poses absolutely no threat to us.

In fact, the only people that IS foot soldiers are more determined to slaughter than westerners are the Shias. With that knowledge, we should be embracing the maxim that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

John R. Bradley is a British author and journalist who has written on Middle East issues for numerous publications, including The Economist, Newsweek, The Daily Telegraph, and The Independent.


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