by Tahir Mustafa
It was premature to write off Bandar when he was relieved of his duties as the Saudi spy chief in May. He has re-emerged as special advisor to the king.
Public pronouncements by Saudi officials against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), now renamed the Islamic State (IS, for short), notwithstanding, the fact is, this monster is a Saudi creation. And it did not emerge last week or month; the House of Saud has nurtured it for nearly a decade as part of a long-term strategy to contain the growing influence of Islamic Iran in the region.
The man responsible for the ISIS file, and indeed the entire takfiri project is none other than Bandar bin Sultan, the illegitimate son of Sultan bin Abdul Aziz who died in 2012 after suffering a long battle with cancer. Last April when it was announced that Bandar had been relieved of his responsibilities as Saudi intelligence chief, it was assumed that this was because of his failure to bring down the Bashar al-Asad government in Syria. He re-emerged in late June in his new role as special advisor to and envoy of the aged and ailing King Abdullah.
Bashar’s resilience and survivability have surprised many observers. It was assumed that he would be overthrown in a matter of months if not weeks. He has not only survived for three-and-a-half years, he also now has a strong mandate from the people. In the June 3 presidential elections, he garnered more than 89 percent of the vote. The choice before the people was Bashar or the takfiri cannibals and bloodsuckers; they chose Bashar regardless of his many faults and weaknesses. Unless totally consumed by hatred, nobody can deny the fact that he has broad support among the Syrian masses, at least for now.
The Syrian army has also made steady progress against the mercenaries that have flooded from 83 countries, according to Asad’s assertion during a speech on July 16. They have been driven out of Homs province and local residents have returned to their homes. In Aleppo, too, the terrorists are under pressure and large parts of the city have been liberated from their clutches. In a moment of candor, some of the terrorists have admitted that they thought all that was required to overthrow Asad was to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ a few times and raise the black flag. It has turned out to be a lot more difficult, in fact, well nigh impossible under present circumstances.
Bandar’s re-emergence on the political scene, however, indicates that the Saudi regime has not given up on Syria or on mischief making. In fact, what recent developments in the region indicate is that the Saudis want to up the ante by unleashing the takfiris in Iraq, right on the border with Iran. They may publicly say that they are worried about the takfiris but they are cut from the same Wahhabi cloth. The takfiris are the Saudis’ dream come true: ruthless, utterly unconcerned about the sanctity of human life and more important from the Saudi point of view, they can achieve their objectives without the Saudis having to do the dirty work themselves.
The takfiris’ failure in Syria has resulted in intensification of their brutal campaign in Iraq. The Sunni tribesmen have joined them, smarting from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s shortsighted policies. Additional muscle has been provided by remnants of the Ba‘athist army that lost out in the new Iraq. The emerging scenario has all the hallmarks of exploding into a full-scale sectarian war with frightening consequences for the Ummah. The Saudis, however, have never cared for the wellbeing of the Ummah as long as they can maintain their illegitimate hold on power in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi (Bandar)-hatched conspiracy to instigate Sunni-Shia conflict was revealed by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent on July 13, 2014. He wrote: “Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: ‘The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally “God help the Shia”. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.’”
Sir Richard, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, made the revelation during a speech he delivered at the Royal United Services Institute in early July and emphasized that Bandar’s words constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.
Cockburn further wrote how the ISIS thugs killed Shia women and children in villages south of Kirkuk, and machine-gunned Shia air force cadets and buried them in mass graves near Tikrit. Mosques and shrines frequented by Shias have also been blown up to further escalate sectarian tensions. The Maliki government has resorted to mobilizing Shia militias playing into the hands of the takfiris and their Saudi sponsors.
That the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris are financing the takfiris is well established. Money is collected from private donors in Saudi Arabia and in order to circumvent ‘official restrictions’ on funding such groups, the money is sent to Kuwait. The regime there has few strictures about financing terrorists. It is easily transferred to the various terrorist outfits in the world.
Even leaked documents from Wikileaks confirm Saudi funding of such groups. In one such document, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” Ms Clinton identified the Saudi policy of clamping down on al-Qa’ida activities as aimed purely at containing domestic threats. Externally, it has not only turned a blind eye but has actually encouraged and financed it because it meets the regime’s broader objectives of creating fitna among Muslims.
The only silver lining in this otherwise bleak picture is that many leading ‘Sunni’ scholars have spoken out against ISIS’s declaration of the khilafah and their brutal methods that are further tarnishing the image of Islam. These range from middle of the road scholars to those that would be considered extremist, such as the Salafis as well as former al-Qa’ida operatives. Many al-Azhar graduates have also spoken out against the takfiris’ khilafah project although it is important to note that al-Azhar as an institution has not formally condemned it.
The most prominent ‘Sunni’ scholar to take a stand against the ISIS is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars on whose website he published an open letter stating the ISIS’s declaration of the khilafah was “void” according to Islamic law.
“A group simply announcing a khilafah, is not enough to establish a khilafah,” Sheikh Qaradawi wrote. Even Hizbut Tahrir, the Islamic group that is most vocal in calling for the establishment of the khilafah, has dismissed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration. “The issue of the Khilafah is too great for its image to be distorted or for its reality to be changed merely by an announcement here or an announcement there,” the group said in a statement on its website.
Rachid Ghannouchi, the Tunisian scholar and founder of An-Nahdha Party has also lashed out at the takfiris. He did so during a Jumah Khutbah early last month saying the takfiris had made a mockery of an important Islamic institution.
The Salafis have used even stronger language. For instance the Jordanian Salafi Abu Mohamed al-Maqdesi (real name Assem Barqawi) who was released from a prison in Jordan called fighters loyal ISIS as “deviant.” Al-Maqdesi was imprisoned for recruiting volunteers to fight against US forces in Afghanistan. Worried that takfiri cells in Jordan would create problems for the monarchy, the regime decided to release the Salafi preacher to counter ISIS threat. Al-Maqdesi is a supporter of Jabhat al-Nusra that is at war with the ISIS takfiris. In denouncing ISIS’s brutal methods, al-Maqdesi said “Is this khilafah a sanctuary for the vulnerable and a refuge for all Muslims, or a sword hanging over those Muslims who disagree with them”?
Supporters of the takfiris have claimed that all these scholars are opposing al-Baghdadi’s khilafah because they have failed to establish one themselves and in any case, they feel their position is being threatened. Under Islamic law, Muslims are obliged to pledge allegiance to a khalifah. These scholars either have to do so or reject it, thereby avoiding the obligation of allegiance.
Al-Baghdadi’s supporters fail to consider the requirements for establishing the khilafah and qualifications for a person to become the khalifah. The process is also important. Al-Baghdadi can at best be seen as declaring his leadership in the same manner as the mulukiyyah that disrupted the system of the Khulafah ar-Rashidoon. The kings did so at the point of the sword; al-Baghdadi is doing it brandishing a Kalishnakov.
In any case, if the takfiris’ argument is accepted, then one is forced to ask, why did they not pledge allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the reclusive Taliban leader who had also declared himself Amin al-Mumineen. To the best of our knowledge, Mullah Omar has not repudiated that claim even if he does not control the whole territory of Afghanistan. When the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar first emerged in 1996, three countries extended it recognition: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE. The US also dealt with them without extending recognition. No such argument was advanced by anyone at the time that all Muslims must pledge allegiance to Mullah Omar, as al-Baghdadi and his cohorts have done.
There is one other point worth mentioning. According to a well known hadith of the noble Messenger (saws), if there is a khalifah and another person comes to claim it, the second person must be killed. Based on this hadith and the fact that Mullah Omar had declared himself khalifah nearly 20 years ago without being challenged by anyone, al-Baghdadi should be executed for violating an important Islamic ruling.
The entire al-Baghdadi khilafah project and Saudi support for it is meant to demean important Islamic principles and institutions in order to put off ordinary Muslims from Islam. That is the essential policy of the Saudis and has been from day one despite claiming to be ‘Custodians of the Two Holy Cities.’
One could hardly find a better definition of munafiqs.