When will we stop kow-towing to the abominable Saudi regime?

Kosovo has become a hotbed of Islamist extremism.  The tiny Balkan country, whose population is largely comprised of Muslim ethnic Albanians, is studded with mosques that preach the Salafist strain of militant Islam, shared by al-Qa’eda and Isis. Hundreds of Kosovars have gone to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups. Yet Kosovars also admire the US. There’s a statue of Bill Clinton in the capital, Priština, a mark of gratitude for the 1999 Nato bombing campaign that drove Serbian forces out of Kosovo, and resulted in it gaining independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, of which it was formerly a province.

So why are so many Kosovars being radicalised? The short answer is Saudi Arabia: it has poured money into Kosovo, spreading its radical version of Islam by building schools and mosques and importing Salafist clerics. In a few short years, previously secular Kosovo “was transformed into a Salafist stronghold in Europe”. Muslims in Kosovo had been barely observant for centuries, and “their ignorance about Islam made them more vulnerable to indoctrination”. Now the imam in Priština’s largest mosque is facing prosecution for promoting jihad. Many have already done so. “The threat they pose extends beyond Kosovo’s borders.” (Krsto Lazarevic, Die Welt, Berlin)

I mostly comment on American. and British affairs, but I have an interest in Kosovo, having spent time there in 1965.  At that time it was like stepping back 500 years. The wagons had solid wooden wheels and the houses had straw roofs, upon which storks nested. The inhabitants, were helpful, open and friendly, if dreadfully poor, and only the presence of mosques betrayed the fact that they were nominally moslem.  Now the Wahabis have apparently subverted them.

Saudis are a menace. We bow before them because of their oil, but my personal experience of Saudi Arabia, as a result of visiting on business (oh, dear!)  is of a prevailing arrogance and spoiled ignorance.  No, we are limited in what we can do about the Saudis while oil  remains king. But all decent people should get on board with climate change and return the Saudis to tents and camel trains.

 

  • Owen Bell

    As oil declines in significance, we should reduce our co-operation with Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure if ending the alliance overnight is practical, mostly because we rely on Saudi intelligence to stop terrorism. But if America was smart, it would incrementally withdraw its military bases from the Middle East, which is part of the reason why many Arabs resent American influence in the region. It would also reduce aid to Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships, and instead spend the money at home. This strategy is known as offshore balancing, and is advocated by many prominent international relations theorists.

    Having said that, sadly I think its unlikely to happen in the short term. The Trump administration will continue to support the Saudis because they buy American weapons and military vehicles; Trump wouldn’t want a fall in manufacturing employment to take place on his watch. The Republican foreign policy establishment likes the Saudis because both of them share a vehement hatred of Iran. Also the American desire to use the Saudis to prevent increasing Iranian influence is partly the result of the American-Israeli alliance- Israel hates Iran as much as the Saudis do.

    Ultimately, the decline of oil means that America will have no strategic interests in support either Saudi Arabia or Iran. This, along with America’s growing debt and weak economy, will lead to the country becoming more insular as the reality of decline begins to bite.