The More Things Change...

Several recent events show just how little the world has changed since 9-11, despite promises, proclamations, and flat-out falsehoods that try to paint a different picture.

The two incidents that stand out are the Saudi arrests of 10 “terrorist financiers,” and the continued hate that appears in Saudi and Iranian textbooks.

The charade has gone on since 9-11, and is unlikely to change anytime soon. The current reason that the actions are likely to continue unabated is the Shi’ite resurgence, which is shaking the Sunni regimes of the Gulf to their core. The escalating conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite seems to have launched a new wave of sectarian attacks between the two, carried out in newspapers, TV shows and textbooks so that children learn to hate early.

Since 9-11 the pattern with the Saudi on these issues has been unchanging. Protests are raised, the Saudi say they are changing and/or cracking down, criticism subsides and then life goes back to normal. Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador-designate to the U.S., is a true master of offering the various and shifting Saudi defenses of the indefensible. Let’s hope the Congress keeps him plenty busy by continuing to ask the necessary questions and demanding the administration follow up.

At the same time the Saudis are touting the arrest of mostly political dissidents as terrorist sponsors, the elites of Saudi society are working extremely hard to get the few designated terror supporters (Wa’el Julaidan, Yasin al Qadi et al) off the U.N. and U.S. sanctions list. Others are being rehabilitated in other ways. My friends following this closely say the Saudi government has given virtually everyone designated a clean bill of health, allowing them to again write in Saudi newspapers and lifting whatever minor restrictions may have existed on their activities.

The case of the textbooks, to me, is the most disturbing and not unrelated to the terror financing issues. Both go to the core of the wahhabist belief that any compromise with any other group, even if they are Muslims, is forbidden by Allah. These are deeply theological issues, not simple policy options one can choose to change at some point for political reasons. This is the fundamental issue that U.S. and European foreign policy does not yet take into account. You cannot negotiate with Allah’s immutable word. But we keep trying in the mistaken belief there can be trade offs, compromises and a tactical decisions that are based on worldly considerations.

To keep succeeding generations on board, this stereotyping of Jews, Christians (and Shi’ites), the indoctrination must start at a very young age. This cannot change if the wahhabi grip is to maintain its hold. The schools are the necessary venue for sowing these seeds. Likewise, financing jihad is crucial to the Saudi interpretation of theology. You cannot stop people from spending for Allah’s cause. It simply will not happen.

So the prospects for any sort of real change are not good, and falling as the Sunnis feel threatened. It is time to recognize that within our policy. There are absolutes that will not change until the wahhabis are gone. Al Jubeir can talk for years about the changes taking place, but they are words who can package the unacceptable for a Western audience. It doesn’t mean anything is going to change. Little has since 9-11.


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