So, I came across this article on Syria and Saudi support for foreign jihadi fighters and the (non)potential for blow-back yesterday morning–and ever since, my time has been pretty much exclusively spent trying to find every article Brecher has ever written and reading it. Its like watching television, except you’re reading what is basically a nihilistic and sarcastic comedian’s (and former poetry professor?) take on geopolitics, war, and insurgencies.
And you get a surprising amount of insight and analysis despite the fact that on the surface, he appears to operate almost exclusively through the (somewhat racist) assumption that everything is based on tribal rivalries, and X tribe has M and N qualities and a history of beef with tribes Y and Z, and the (cynical but compelling) assumption that we’re all violent and psychopathic at heart, and that war is really horrible and really fun at the same time. But despite the comical and seemingly reductive methods of analysis, he’s extremely effective at synthesizing complex and nuanced history (plus, he thinks that Western political and military leaders are generally corrupt, spineless, greedy, and overall fuckwads, which is always fun to read).
Anyways, the article on Saudi Arabia and Syria pretty much matches and supports the take-aways from the paper I talked about in my last post about al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, and the latter’s strategy regarding support for Sunni militants abroad. Here is a nice quote from the middle of Brecher’s article; definitely read the whole thing.
Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal—to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers.
But Afghan Islam has been Wahhabized over time. The same thing happened much more dramatically in Chechnya, where Saudi volunteers showed they were serious about war and religion, a nice change from the coopted quasi-Soviet imams the Chechens had known before. Saudis like Ibn al-Khattab, Abu al-Walid, and Muhannad (all noms de guerre) provided the only real jobs a young man could get in Chechnya, and in the process did a great job of miring the Chechens in an endless war that has killed something like 160,000 people while forcing Chechen women into Saudi-style isolation, eventually leaving Chechnya under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov, a second-generation death-squad commander who does most of the Kremlin’s killing for them. This is a typical Saudi aid result: A disaster for the recipients, the Chechens, and their enemies, the Russians, but a huge win for Saudi. Same thing is going on in the rest of Russia’s North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan, where the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents live.
And one aspect of that victory is the elimination of potentially troublesome young males who might have made trouble inside Saudi. Jihad is like the princess in those fairy tales: It draws all the daring young princes to undertake quests no underwriter would insure, and in the process gets them far away from home during their most aggressive years. Better yet from the Sauds’ POV, most of them die. The three biggest Saudi jihadis in Chechnya, Khattab, Walid, and Muhannad, all died violently.