Islamic State terrorist and James Foley.
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
By any yardstick, Saudi Arabia is a staunchly religious Muslim monarchy and hardly in the vanguard of Middle-eastern liberalism. Al-Qaida in general and most of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on the US had Saudi roots.
Precisely because of its ultra-conservative nature, there is great significance to the fact that the Saudi king made a point of warning a recent gathering of foreign ambassadors in Riyadh that Islamic fanatics (obviously of the Islamic State mold) are likely to threaten Europe and America directly, in the absence of a potent international deterrence.
This is no trivial political backbiting in Washington nor yet another of Israel’s many admonitions – both of which fellow democracies are unfortunately accustomed to ignore.
King Abdullah’s attempt to impress Washington and NATO with the urgency and gravity of the situation is dramatic.
“I am certain,” he stressed, “that after a month they [Islamic State] will reach Europe, and, after another month, America.”
The king urged the ambassadors to relay his message to their governments. “You have witnessed them [Islamic State] severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street,” he added for emphasis.
Did his words have the desired effect in the West? Prime Minister David Cameron raised the threat level in the UK from substantial to severe. He said that Islamic State would not be allowed to establish a caliphate. But he did not elaborate on how the terrorist group would be stymied.
No clue came from Washington either, where not too many months ago Islamic State was dismissed as being “junior varsity.” More recently President Barack Obama admitted to not having a strategy against Islamic State and publicly requested that the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, draw up plans.
Dempsey characterized Islamic State as “an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days vision which eventually will have to be defeated.” Soon afterward, however, he downgraded his classification of the movement to a regional threat. This apparent irresolution betrays an inability to determine whether Islamic State poses any outstanding danger to America and its Western allies. In Israel, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin on Wednesday also downplayed the possibility of an infiltration into Israel by Islamic State terrorists, saying there was no need for the Jewish state to fear the extremist al-Qaida offshoot.
Despite the seeming lack of immediate threat posed by Islamic State, America often sends oblique, mixed messages, as if reluctant to engage the medieval barbarism that announces its intention to rule the world. The notion of setting up an international coalition to deal with the brutal extremists hardly sends shivers down Islamic State spines.
Neither can it be presumed to be intimidated by America’s sporadic bombing sorties in Iraq.
The descent into savagery and anarchy of what the West not long ago celebrated excitedly as the “Arab Spring” was obviously not foreseen by either the US or the EU. Neither were they ready to acknowledge this unpalatable reality when it became clear to all.
It is not only Islamic State. For all too long Washington mind-bogglingly regarded the Muslim Brotherhood – its reactionary doctrines notwithstanding – as a harbinger of progress and forward-thinking. The Brotherhood’s overthrow in Egypt is still resisted. Cairo’s role as a go-between in the recent Gaza conflict was not cheered in the US, nor were the Egyptian air strikes near Tripoli airport in Libya in an effort to prevent an Islamist takeover there too.
The one Western democracy that did not fool itself was Israel, even as Washington strove to impose Qatar as the mediator between Jerusalem and Gaza – regardless of the fact that Qatar bankrolls the nastiest Islamic aggressors, Hamas among them.
The only Mideastern battlefield in which Islamist terrorists took a whopping beating was in Gaza and it was Israel that delivered this drubbing.
First and foremost this was done in the framework of our self-defense but, in the bigger picture, Israel had done what the prevaricating West has not yet internalized must be done. Israel fights not only for its survival but constitutes the forward position for the world’s democracies. It is time for the rest of the peace-loving democratic world to join us.