Thanks for this.
Tomás Sidenfaden

Excellent questions.

The first point to note is that any sort of attempt to answer these questions can often end up sounding like pure idealism — because at this point, we’re talking about a geopolitical and economic structure, as part of a wider system of international affairs, which is the problem.

What that means is that in order to actually achieve any of the potential solutions to the problem, there need to be major changes in our entire approach.

But to answer your question, my view is not only that our entire relationships with the Gulf states needs to be fundamentally re-evaluated; but that there needs to be, really, an independent public inquiry into the operations of our security services over the last few decades and their relationships both with the Gulf (and other such) states, as well as more direct relationships with terrorist groups. And there should be an independent scientific review of counter-terrorism policies since 9/11 and whether they have worked (which clearly they haven’t).

ISIS/Islamist terror cannot be eradicated within the current geopolitical framework. If we want to eradicate ISIS, genuinely, we need to be willing to assess what we have done to contribute to the consolidation of ISIS.

Two basic things need to happen in that sense — we need to stop doing the things we’re doing which are inflating ISIS’ power, and creating the groundswell of instability which will cause a resurgence of Islamist terror even if ISIS weakens. That means, most crucially, shutting down its financial infrastructure — much of which came from the Gulf states and Turkey. The other thing is to develop local forms of resilience, to empower local democratic alternatives, so that people do not want to turn to groups like ISIS.

Ending the war in Syria through a political resolution would be essential, for instance — the continuation of the war is a massive recruiting sergeant. Ending our complicity in Saudi’s war on Yemen would be essential. The war has seen al-Qaeda’s reach in the country expand tenfold since before it kicked off.

As for Saudi Arabia, the most obvious practical measures, which I’ve suggested before (see the recommendations in the pdf report embedded in the middle of the piece) include things like: making our aid and investments in Saudi Arabia conditional on cracking down on terror financing; applying consistency with threats of sanctions; exerting diplomatic pressure to implement major political and human rights reforms.

What would be the principles of a new relationship with Saudi Arabia?

Well, considering the above piece which I wrote two years ago — and I strongly recommend you take a look at it— the simple answer is: get the fuck out and wean yourself off ASAP.

Right now, Saudi Arabia and other terror-sponsors have a degree of free reign because they know, as has gone on for the last decades, that Western governments will protect them. The moment Western governments re-evaluate their dependence on, and relationships with, these states — especially as the world shifts increasingly to new clean energy forms — the incentive to change course will heighten.

Naturally, these are tentative ideas, and probably still to vague for what you’re looking for, but I hope it’s clearer what I’m getting at.

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