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Oil and God - Epilogue



Wars in recent years have devastated the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Sectarian tensions grip Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. What lurks behind the mayhem? Oil and God argues that the answer is to be found in the nexus of Saudi oil, God, and US oil politics. 


Religious extremism surfaced in the Middle East in the aftermath of the First World War in 1918. On the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France created new states in the Middle East with different religious agendas. Wahhabism (1932), Judaism (1948), Alawism (1963), and Shi’ism (1979) exploded nasty devastating wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip. Millions of Muslims were killed and injured, millions more were displaced or made refugees.


Aside from mayhem and tragedy in the Middle East, Muslim refugees set off alarm bells in Europe. Acts of terror by followers of the so-called Islamic State rocked Western cities. Fear of more acts of terror put security forces on a constant state of alert. Far right anti-immigrant politicians were elected. They widened the religious, cultural, and ethnic divide between the East and the West. President Trump’s anti-Muslim statements and travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim majority countries helped fan the fires of Islamophobia. He encourages far right politicians to folow suit.


The firm hand of the Sunni Hanafi Sultans kept religious extremism in the Ottoman Empire under control for six centuries (1280-1918). The Sultans ruled over most of the Arab world for four centuries (1517-1918). They were tolerant. They did not force their Christian subjects in the Balkans in the sixteenth century, for example, to convert to Islam. Had they done so, the cruel Christian/Muslim battles and Catholic/Orthodox fights (1991-1999) in the former Yugoslavia four centuries later would probably not have happened. The tolerance of the Turkish Sultans was also demonstrated in 1492, when Sultan Bayezid-II (1481-1512) allowed Jews, driven out from Spain and Portugal, to settle in Ottoman territories and rebuild their lives.


Significant Events That Loom Large Behind the Mayhem

Chronologically, six events loom large:

·     1932:Formation of the Wahhabi State of Saudi Arabia

·     1948: Creation of the Jewish State of Israel

·     1963: Advent of the Alawite regime in Syria

·     1979: Emergence of the Khomeini Shi’ite regime in Iran

·     September 11, 2001: The cataclysmic Wahhabi terror in the US

·     Birth of the Shi’ite Crescent


Wahhabism. Kemal Ataturk’s secularization of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s blamed the decline and defeat of the Ottoman Empire on a rigid Islam in a European world of the Enlightenment, Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, Abdulaziz al-Saud and his Abdulwahhab compatriots blamed the decline on the Sultans for corrupting the “true” tenets of Islam. They saw the road to greatness through the imposition of the most extreme among the four of Sunni rites. They rebelled against Istanbul. With British help, the rebellion succeeded in creating the Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. 


With US protection The Wahhabi enterprise has flourished to this day, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources. US control over Saudi/GCC oil exports is like a non-lethal weapon of mass destruction. Not even the atrocities of 9/11 could make G.W. Bush retaliate against Riyadh. Instead, he demolished Iraq; empowering Iran.


Wahhabism radicalized Islam and polarized Muslims. Propagated in schools, mosques, and the media, palace clerics in Saudi Arabia made hatred of Christians, Jews, and Shi’ites a part of Wahhabi culture. They attack democracy as a Western conspiracy to destroy Islam. Billions of dollars have been spent to convert Arab and non-Arab Muslims to the Wahhabi creed. Expatriate workers who lived in Saudi Arabia and became indoctrinated in the Wahhabi ways act as foot soldiers in the Saudi campaign. During the past twenty years, Wahhabism metastasized. What was al-Qaeda has become Boko Haram, the so-called Islamic State, Shabab, and Taliban. Also, a new breed of terrorist emerged—the lone-wolf. Using a knife or a car, he has terrorized Berlin, London, New York, Nice, Paris, and Stockholm.


Judaism. When the Jews politicized the Old Testament of the Bible, the Arabs responded by politicizing the Quran. This ignited a conflict that will burn for generations if not resolved. It ignited wars; regionally (1948, 1967, 1973), in Lebanon (1982 and 2006), and the Gaza Strip (2008, 2012, 2014) plus numerous other battles. It created five million refugees in UNRWA’s camps. To compound matters, on December 6, 2017, President Trump escalated the religious nature of the conflict: He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. To coerce Palestinians to accept the decision, he added salt to injury. He eliminated decades-old US humanitarian assistance programs to Palestinians.


Israeli and US denial of a connection between Israel’s occupation, oppression, and humiliation of Arabs and Palestinians and the growth of jihadism is as obtuse as Saudi Arabia’s denial of a connection between the Wahhabi way of life and the atrocities of 9/11.


Alawism. Alawites, around 10 percent of Syria’s population, consider Ali bin Abi Talib as the “incarnation of the deity.Sunnis reject such beliefs as disbelief and idolatry.


In 1963, Hafiz al-Assad seized power. A brutal police state followed. Amnesty International documented 38 types of torture used in the regime’s jails. Grand scale corruption glues a narrow ruling group together.


On March 18, 2011, the pressure cooker exploded. The regime turned to Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Shi’ite mercenaries for help. Eight years later, two million citizens were killed and maimed, may be more. Twelve million citizens were displaced internally and in neighboring countries. Most cities and town were demolished.


Shi’ism. It may be said that the Islamic Iranian revolution was in part, at least, a reaction to Wahhabi hatred and abuse of Shi’ites. Shi’ism incorporates the ethnic and cultural differences between Persians and Arabs. It is a repository of the memories of their wars and rivalries over the long sweep of history. Shi’ism may be described as a Persianized version of Arabian Islam. Fundamental differences in theology, laws, and rituals separate the two. 


The Iranian revolution exacerbated the Shi’ite/Sunni divide. It led to the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq (September 1980-August 1988), which aggravated the already deep enmity between Wahhabis and Shi’ites.


September 11, 2001. On that terrible day, nineteen Wahhabi terrorists flew passenger air planes into buildings in New York and Washington D.C. The heinous attacks may be seen as a conscious strategy by Osama bin Laden to provoke a devastating and long-term American retaliation against Muslims in order to deepen Muslim/Christian hatred of one another.


The Shi’ite Crescent. The attack on Iraq opened the gates of sectarian hell in the Muslim Middle East. G.W. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq handed Baghdad to Tehran and Obama’s inaction in Syria empowered Iran further. A Shi’ite Crescent was born from Iran to Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In July 2006, war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran devastated Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Tension escalated between the Sunni and Shi’ite populations in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. 


As life becomes harsher in the Middle East due to constant warfare, occupation, oppression, and humiliation, the downtrodden faithful turn to God. The belief in predestination, jihad, and the promised delights of paradise make martyrdom more worthwhile than their current lives.


Oil and God contends that once oil is replaced by sustainable sources of energy, Saudi oil will cease to be of interest to Washington. The day will be brought closer if US rivals like China, continental Europe, India, and Japan develop sufficient green energy capacity to stop the importation of oil. Without America’s protection and oil wealth the power of Saudi Arabia will fade, religious and democratic reforms in the Arab Middle East will stand a chance, and Wahhabi terror will diminish. When that happens, Huntington’s “great divisions among humankind” will start to narrow.


The Middle East and the Samuel P. Huntington Clash of Civilizations

The transformation of the Middle East since 1918 demonstrates the validity of Samuel P. Huntington’s hypothesis on the "Clash of Civilizations.” Recognizing the stresses cultural differences may create, Samuel P. Huntington wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1993:


It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.[1]


A Crystal Ball Look. Oil and God contends that by 2030/2040, the Huntington “great divisions among humankind” could start to narrow. As the ban on the sale of petrol cars in Asia and Europe becomes effective, Saudi oil exports would collapse, US protection of the Saudi regime would end, Arab religious and democratic reforms would stand a chance, and Wahhabi terror would be defeated.

[1] Samuel Huntington,The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, (Summer 1993).





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