What were you thinking?
Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Idea of “Aid”
It is not the failure of the Saudi Arabia and Qatar to “step up” that will foment extremism in the Middle East; rather, it is they who are fomenting it. They must step down, not “up.” It is these states’ sponsorship of jihadists and other extremists that brings about the turmoil and the bloodshed.
Many journalists, instead of letting facts speak for themselves, frequently seem partial to making idealistic predictions and sweeping statements about the Middle East. Although no newspaper or government predicted the “Arab Spring,” once it happened, much of the media declared that an era of prosperity, equality and democracy was about to transform the Middle East into a modern region with modern aspirations.
The Guardian, in fact, was so desperate to justify its original support for the “Arab Spring” that it recently produced a straight-faced editorial in which it claimed that Egyptian President Morsi’s power-grab against the judiciary was a necessary act to guarantee Egypt’s democratic aspirations.
The latest journalist to pick up the wrong end of the stick is Tim Montgomerie, who recently penned anÂ opinion pieceÂ forÂ The Times,Â entitled “The Arab world must act – or face disaster.” Montgomerie claims:
Unless the Gulf states stump up their share of aid, the refugee problem will fuel extremism across the region.
The governments that need to step up to the plate are the region’s rich oil powers, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar … David Cameron fears that a failure to answer calls for help from the moderate Syrian opposition will mean extremist elements will become increasingly dominant. The process of radicalisation of the anti-Assad forces is already well under way
If they don’t get aid inside Syria soon, a refugee crisis of enormous scale will not just cause widespread human misery, it will fuel extremism in Jordan, Lebanon and throughout the region. A very great deal is at stake.
It seems to have escaped Montgomerie’s attention that the leading funders of “extremist elements” within Syria are Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the very two countries he calls upon to “step up” and provide a solution.
Once the possibility of unrest in the Gulf started to die down last year, the Saudi Arabia Government began, as Joshua Jacobs, from the Institute for Gulf Affairs, described it, to “unchain their clerical soft power.”
State-controlled Saudi television regularly features pro-jihadist clerics. Sheikh Adnan al-Arour, for example, is a Syrian Salafist who calls for holy war against the Assad regime. He receives prime-time coverage on Saudi television. “Extremist elements” in Syria, such as the Supporters of Allah Brigade, have declared their allegiance to this Saudi-supported preacher.
Saudi Arabia, threatened by Iranian hegemony, is keen to dethrone the Iran-backed Assad and replace him with a Sunni-friendly regime. Their weapon of choice seems to beÂ state-managed jihad.
Qatar is now the chief backer of the Muslim Brotherhood — from Cairo and Gaza to the Brotherhood fighters in Syria.Â Al Jazeera, the influential media station owned by the Qatari Government, hasÂ assignedÂ its Syria desk to Ahmed Ibrahim, the brother of Anas al-Abdah, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council. Al Jazeera has, unsurprisingly,Â producedÂ a number of puff pieces about the anti-regime Islamists in Syria.
According to reports, it is the jihadists within Syria who are receiving the bulk of the weapons sent from Saudi and Qatar. TheÂ IndependentÂ notes that the extremist jihadist group, Jabhat al-Nusra — declared a terrorist group by the United States in December 2012, and which claims to be an ally of al-Qaeda — has become one of the most able fighting forces precisely thanks to the vast supplies of money and arms sent from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
It is not the failure of these two Gulf States to “step up” that will foment extremism in the Middle East; rather, it is they who are fomenting it. They must step down, not up. It is these states’ sponsorship of jihadists and other extremists that brings about the turmoil and the bloodshed.
Montgomerie is not only a columnist for theÂ Times, he is also considered one of the most influential Conservatives in Britain. His columns are regarded as an expression of Government policy, albeit more candid than the official line.
If I were a jihadist, I would feel extremely comfortable right now. If I were a secular Syrian fighting against despotism, I would feel very alone. If I were Tim Montgomerie, I would stop talking.