The greater Middle East is on fire with one failing state after another overrun by Salafi jihadists—Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen—and rapidly reigniting Afghanistan, inflaming Central Asia, Russia’s Chechnya, China’s Xinjiang, southeast Asia and even South Korea.
This week, South Korea received bomb threats from an Islamic State (IS)-linked group to blow up a shop near COEX, a large shopping complex in the wealthy district of Gangnam in Seoul. In April, IS attacked the South Korean embassy in Libya and killed at least two people.
It appears the negative contagion of US –sponsored regime changes in the Mideast, that empowered the rise of Salafi jihadism, is pivoting east and destabilizing Asia. After one year of US-led anti-IS campaign, the Islamic caliphate is getting stronger and on the march, destroying the old world order and establishing a new one with the implicit backing of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and especially Turkey’s Erdogan.
As Turkey held election on November 1, a pro-AKP columnist even claimed that under a new presidential system, Erdogan would be “caliph” of the Sunni Muslims in the world, with the 1,005-room new presidential palace hosting “representatives from nations under the caliphate.”
Distracted by an alphabet soup of various salafist jihadi groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq (IS), Al Qaeda in Syria (Al Nusra), Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM), Al Qaeda in the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf), Al Qaeda in China (Turkistan Islamic Party), Boko Haram, Taiban, Haqqani Network and so on, and trying to separate “good terrorists” from “bad terrorists”, Washington is blindsided by the fact that ultimately they share the same end of establishing a global caliphate under Sharia, only differing in the means and speed of that goal.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Henry Kissinger warned that IS “seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.”
As such, he argued “the destruction of IS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence.”
However, his warnings seem to fall on deaf ears in the Obama administration, with Secretary Kerry continuing to toe the Saudi/Qatar/Turkey line of a regime change mandate that “Assad must go”(and replaced by their Islamist extremists), rather than a counterterrorism mandate of prioritizing combating IS and other Salafi jihadists to restore regional stability.
It is not surprising IS and other Salafi jihadists in Syria and elsewhere are rapidly spreading like the ebola virus, given Arab autocracies that aided IS rise are now in Obama’s anti-IS coalition that is “a coalition of sinners now dressed as knights in shining armour.”
Writing in 2014, Indian strategist Professor Brahma Chellaney from Center for Policy Research noted how Qatar and Saudi Arabia pouring weapons and funds to Sunni extremists in Syria eventually created fertile ground that spawned IS.
This nefarious pattern of supporting violent jihadists is further evidenced by their bolstering Afghan Taliban, accelerating Libya’s transformation into a failed state via their breeding of Islamist militia, with Qatar even deploying troops covertly inside Libya in the 2011 campaign to oust Gaddafi.
Given Saudi/Qatari/Turkey-backed ‘Syrian rebels’ are not even Syrian, with German intelligence BND estimating 95% of the fighters are paid foreign mercenaries, it seems the Obama administration has also joined as a mercenary force to further Doha/Ankara/Riyadh’s regional agenda.
So obsessed are Riyadh and Ankara to supplant Syria’s secular autocracy with an extremist Islamic theocracy under their control, that in 2013 the Kingdom sent more than 1,200 death row inmates ranging from Yemen, Sudan, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to wage Syrian jihad.
Rightly or wrongly, Beijing perceives this as part and parcel of US strategy to encircle and contain China’s rise, hemming its eastern flank via defense alliances in the Western Pacific and destabilizing its western flank in Central Eurasia via color revolutions and separatist movements.
And when Beijing sees Washington backing Turkey/Qatar/Saudi stance of arming and funding thousands of anti-Chinese Uyghur militants in Syrian “rebel groups”, coupled with US gunboat diplomacy in the South China Sea, this “deterring the dragon” combination risks escalation into a military conflict between Beijing and Washington.
In fact Delhi is now sounding the alarm on Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism to dominate India. In a September 2014 Indian Defence Review article, retired general Afsir Karim expressed concerns that Saudi Wahhabis are trying to exert domination over other strands of Islam (Sufi, Shia, etc.) by pumping millions of petrodollars into madrasas and mosques to propagate Wahhabi theology that “anyone outside the Wahhabi sect is a heretic and will burn in hell.”
This Saudi doctrine of intolerance and violence is polarizing Indian society and radicalizing its Muslims, projected by Pew Research to be the largest Muslim population in the world by 2050 even surpassing Indonesia, and opening the way for IS’ steady recruitment in India.
In the face of IS and radical Islam’s invasion of Eurasia that is destabilizing Russia, China and India, all three stakeholders should be included in future talks on Syria.