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Oil and God - Epilogue (Updated)



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 Godargues 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 after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War in 1918. 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.


Within a hundred years after the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East sank into nasty wars embroiling Wahhabis, Shi’ites, and Jews. Millions were killed and injured and millions more were displaced. 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 dividebetween 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 in, especially Europe, to follow suit. The Huntington hypothesis is alive and well.


Three Main Causes and Two Resulting Effects That Loom Large Behind the Huntington Hypothesis

On the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France created during the first half of the twentieth century new states in the Middle East with different religious agendas.Chronologically, the three main causes are: The formation in 1932 of the Sunni Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia, the creation in 1948 of Israel, and the Khomeini’s Shi’ite revolution in 1979 in Iran. These causes resulted in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and 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. 


The Wahhabi enterprise has flourished to this day, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources and US protection. In a world addicted to oil, US control over Saudi/GCC oil exports is like a non-lethal weapon of mass destruction. Not even the atrocities of 9/11 were serious enough for G.W. Bush to retaliate against Riyadh. Instead, he demolished Iraq and empowered Iran, calculatedly or not.


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.


Israel. Islam venerates Judaism. The Qur’an describes Islam as the “religion of Abraham.” Arabs and Jews enjoyed a generally tranquil coexistence for centuries. In 1917, a third of the population of Baghdad, for example, were Jewish. During the British Mandate over Palestine (1922-1948), the Zionist movement succeeded in politicizing the Bible’s Old Testament. In reaction, Palestinians and Arabs politicized the Quran. The Zionist project ignited a vexing religious conflict; regional wars in 1948, 1967, 1973, wars in Lebanon (1982 and 2006), and the Gaza Strip (2008, 2012, 2014) plus numerous incursions. It created five million refugees in UNRWA camps. If not resolved, the fires of this conflict will burn for a thousand years. 


On December 6, 2017, President Trump escalated the religious nature of the conflict: Herecognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinian denounced Trump’s action. He doubled down. He added salt to injury. Within four months (May 15, 2018 and September 10, 2018), he moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, stopped US financial assistance to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority, cut US aid to East Jerusalem’s hospitals and closed PLO’s office in Washington D.C.


Israeli and US denials 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 denials of a connection between the Wahhabi way of life and the atrocities of 9/11. 

Khomeini. 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, with fundamental differences separating the two sects in theology, laws, and rituals. 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 religious and political enmity between extreme Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and extreme Shi’ite Iran. Proxy wars between the two countries have destroyed much of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.


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, wittingly or unwittingly, and Obama’s inaction in Syria empowered Iran further. 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 for hope. The belief in predestination, jihad, and the promised delights of paradise make martyrdom more worthwhile than their current lives.

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

The transformation since 1918 in the Middle East 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 Godcontends that once oil imports by US rivals are replaced by sustainable sources of energy, Saudi oil and the al-Saud regime will cease to be of interest to Washington. In the war against Wahhabi terror, green energy can be more effective than guns. Two-thirds of global oil demand is burned in the combustion engines of motor vehicles. National security fears of US rivals, like China, must be eager to free themselves from US oil control. By 2030/2040, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, India, Norway, among others, aim to electrify their transportation fleets. When that happens, the Saudi/US oil weapon will be blunted, the US will abandon Riyadh to face Iran alone, Saudi income and influence will fade,Arab religious and democratic reforms will stand a chance,Wahhabi terror will decline, and the Huntington “great divisions among humankind” will start to narrow.

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






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