A Truce In The Holy Oil War?

Working Class Nero
November 26, 2014 at 4:51 am
The author doesn’t even bother trying to connect the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to ISIS. While everything he is saying about the Gulf States attitude towards the MB is true, surely he owes us at least a sentence or two about why he thinks this impacts ISIS.

I’ll try a quick compare and contrast. Both the MB and ISIS are based on universalist (Islamic) where they claim sovereignty over at least the entire Islamic world, including parts of Europe (Spain and the Balkans) that used to be Islamic back in the day. The House of Saud would be an example of a particularism, in which power is claimed over a fixed territory (similar to nationalism). Church of England is particularist, the Catholic Church universalist. Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution was universalist, Stalin’s Socialism in One Country is particularist.

In great power politics, universalists are great for undermining the unity of your enemy. But much like the problem of biological weapons, the danger is in blowback where the universalist strains start infecting your own particular power base. This is what happened to Saudi Arabia (KSA), they allowed the MB into the kingdom because of the social programs (education in particular) they offered but after a while they started getting all uppity and started threatening the power of the House of Saud.

In Israel for example they used a similar tactic against the Palestinians. After the 1967 conquests, they decided to split the Palestinian opposition between the secular nationalist Fatah and the MB inspired and backed Hamas. In hindsight this could be read as a case of over-meddling – Fatah have always been a complete collaborationist joke and Israel is now facing a slightly more competent Hamas instead on some fronts (although Fatah still leads the collaboration in the West Bank which is far more important to Israel than the dump called Gaza).

The US has been pushing neoliberal globalization and so universalists like the MB are very welcome into the US power fold at the expense of secular nationalists. In addition, there is discussion that the MB leadership is totally infiltrated by Western powers. And so from the US / Israeli point of view, the MB were a set of safe hands to weaken Egypt with during the Arab Spring. The Saudis on the other hand, were not the least bit impressed and took steps to overthrow the new MB regime. Apparently since the new regime was certainly not a threat to US/Israeli interests, the Saudis were allowed to get away with this bit of imprudence.

So the Saudis surely still want to undermine their neighbors with universalist movements but they cannot trust the MB so there is plenty of evidence they have created the ISIS instead. The key is, for the time being, the Saudis have reason to believe that they can quarantine the ISIS virus and not face an epidemic of universalism within their own borders. Of course publicly they deny this relationship but until I see the ISIS taking steps that directly threaten KSA, I’m inclined to believe that the relationship between ISIS and KSA is just as cosy as Democratic and Republican oligarchs — once they are out of earshot of the public, that is.