Saudis Invited to Help Curb Extremism

Mohammad Javad ZarifMohammad Javad Zarif
It is not the supposed sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that has the most profound impact on the region

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Saudi leaders to begin genuinely to help counter the global threat of terrorism and extremism.

“I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse,” Zarif wrote in an article published by the New York Times on Tuesday.

“We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.”

He denounced attempts by terrorism sponsors to have the notorious al-Nusra Front removed from the list of designated terrorist groups by lobbying and channeling massive flows of petrodollars to international “public relations firms”.

“Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become ‘moderate’,” he wrote.

The top Iranian diplomat noted that fanaticism from the Dark Ages is being sold as a bright vision for the 21st century.

“The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other ‘moderates’ beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.”

Zarif noted that Riyadh’s efforts to get its western patrons to rally behind its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise of undermining Iran even at the expense of plunging the Arab world into further chaos.

***Fanciful Notion  

“The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to ‘contain’ Iran and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shia Muslims are fueling conflicts are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.”

Wahhabism is an extreme ideological strand openly preached at home and abroad by Saudi Arabian clerics who have the blessing of the ruling Saudi authorities.

“Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond,” he said.

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the regional fighting, Zarif said, but added that it is the extremist ideology of Wahhabism that has been the key driver of violence.

Even Riyadh can be accommodated in the new realities in the region, should the Saudis choose to change their ways, he said, elaborating what he means by “change”.

“Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world… Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam—from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria—has been inspired by this death cult.”

But the world is growing aware of the destabilizing role of Saudi Arabia as the major sponsor of extremism, which is targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shias but also Sunnis, Zarif added.