News Release

13 Years After 9/11: Has ISIS Been “A Saudi Project”?


At 9:00 ET this evening, President Obama is scheduled to address the nation on ISIS and waging war in Iraq and Syria.

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at, @AliAlAhmed_en
Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, al-Ahmed said today: “We need political solutions rather than military solutions. U.S. allies have basically been the ones feeding violent groups like ISIS: Saudi Arabian, Qatari and Jordanian regimes. None of them have been held accountable for that. Quite the contrary, sometimes it seems to have been done with the approval of at least some U.S. officials.

“As Steve Clemons recently wrote: ‘Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”‘

“Saudi officials like Bandar [bin Sultan] and Turki [bin Faisal al-Saud] come before U.S. audiences as enlightened individuals representing a ‘moderate’ government when their role in the region is anything but that. In fact, the ideology of the Saudi regime is remarkably similar to that of ISIS. You can see that in their statements and text books. The Saudi regime poses now as being critical of ISIS, but it’s great at speaking in different voices.

“The reality is that many of the suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudis — and of course most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.

“More generally, the Saudi regime has been a regressive influence through much of the region. It backed the coup in Egypt against the elected government there, helped crush the popular uprising in Bahrain and took in the dictators from Tunisia and Yemen. And of course, it oppresses its own people, including being the kingdom of women’s oppression — no other government has this notion of women being the property of their male guardians. It’s not that the culture is backward, it’s the government. The monarch has even kept several of his own daughters under house arrest, one of whom recently called for an uprising against the regime.

“Obama has been part of a long line of U.S. presidents who have backed the Saudi regime as it has oppressed the people of the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. has no credibility on human rights without publicly confronting the Saudi monarchy on its dire human rights record and its destruction of the Arab people’s desire for freedom and progress. The Saudi regime is not the solution as it’s often portrayed — it’s a huge part of the problem.”

Background: Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation recently wrote: “‘Thank God for the Saudis’: ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback,” which notes: “U.S lawmakers encouraged officials in Riyadh to arm Syrian rebels. Now that strategy may have created a monster in the Middle East.”

Yet, Chuck Todd in his interview with President Obama on the “Meet the Press” broadcast on Sunday portrayed more Saudi involvement as a solution: “I got a somewhat snarky email from a — from a casual viewer who said, ‘The United States gives a lotta military aid to Saudi Arabia. It’s about time they use it.’ What do you say to that?” Obama responded: “It is absolutely true that we’re going to need Sunni states to step up — not just Saudi Arabia — our partners like Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Turkey. They need to be involved.” Obama then referred to the “moderate Sunni states.”

Also, note: In fact, Saudi Arabia does not get “a lotta military aid” — but rather buys a lot of U.S. weapons, thus funding U.S. military corporations. See: “U.S. announces $60 billion arms sale for Saudi Arabia.”