Iran and Saudi Arabia: Funding Terrorism

The Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi said, “Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of fundamentalist ideology and a source of organized international terrorism, lacks competence and credit to accuse other countries of terrorism.” Qassemi said this in response to Saudi Arabia’s Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s comments in a press conference in Pakistan that accused Iran of funding terrorists. He calls out the Saudis hypocrisy of calling an end to terrorism with one hand while funding it with another.

This press release by Iran is quite interesting because it shows that the proxy conflict with Iran and Saudi Arabia is still alive and well. Iran is making it seem like Saudi Arabia threw the first punch at Iran. It is essentially a blame game for who is allowing terrorists to thrive in the Middle East and North Africa. It is no secret that Iran funds terrorist organizations.

They created the group during the Lebanese Civil War and during the Israeli occupation in the south of Lebanon. Iran funds Hezbollah to commit terrorist attacks on Israel and other targets in Lebanon to create the proxy Islamic Republic. Iran notices the power and more openness of Saudi Arabia to the West, so it uses terrorist to disrupt systems in the Middle East to prevent Westernization and Saudi reach/power. Iran has made great strides doing this because they have more control in Lebanon through Hezbollah with a growing movement in the country, as well as more power in Syria with supporting radical Shi’a groups.

It is no surprise that Iran funds terrorism, but Saudi Arabia is not so innocent either. Both states are at fault for supporting and funding terrorist organizations. Reports show that Saudi Arabia has funded terrorist organizations in Yemen to support their efforts in the Yemeni civil war.

It is almost comical that both states go back and forth for blaming each other for supporting terrorists when they both are at fault. They simply blame the other and reassure the public that they do not support terrorism. Yes, of course, they kill terrorists and support the West in this regard. They continue to aid them as well. It seems that there is no answer and ending the Saudi-Iran sour relations due to their control of proxies through the region.

The only way to really create change would be through regime change if that is a revolution or peaceful succession of a more liberal leader. Neither of these tends to be in sight because at the end of the day both want full control of the Middle East and North Africa. They will both continue to aid terrorist groups and publicly mudsling each other.

This Cold War type conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is difficult because it is multi-faceted. It impacts the entire region including countries like Syria and beyond with countries like the US/EU and Russia. The best way to deescalate the conflict is for larger powers, such as the US, to call out Iran and Saudi Arabia for supporting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia should be punished like Iran from the US and its allies by imposing sanctions or to cut military aid. The US punishing and isolating Iran will only further the proxy/cold war conflict in the Middle East.

It is also a national security risk for the US and any other country, including America’s adversaries like Russia and China to allow Saudi Arabia and Iran to fund terrorist.

In the present time, it might be helpful to continue this aiding, but in the long-term, these terrorist groups can create damage and harm Americans. For example, in the 1980s when the US helped arm the Mujahidin during the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. Some of those fighters joined organizations that the US considers a major terror threat today. The US needs to take a different direction regarding Saudi Arabia and Iran to prevent inefficiency and furthering the deaths of innocent people.

Malaysia Shutters Saudi-funded Anti-Terror Facility

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman speaks with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak during a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Monday. (Reuters)

Following the Malaysian general election in May of 2018, the newly elected government decided to permanently shut down the anti-terrorism center which had been set up by former Prime Minister Najib Razak. The center, known as King Solomon Center for International Peace (KSCIP), was financed and backed by Saudi Arabia. The new government called into question the validity of a Saudi-funded de-radicalization center.

Officially, the center was closed for safety issues. The new government expressed concern that its operations would generate unwanted attention from the Islamic State. The stated purpose of the center upon creation was to, “…combat terrorist threats and the spread of propaganda and ideologies bandied about by the extremists and the terrorists.”

Some suggest closing the center will offend the Saudi government and disrupt diplomatic, economic, and political ties between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Others believe it is a good break which comes at a good, natural time of change. So doing, those say, allows the new government to distance itself from the old government, and perhaps Saudi Arabia.

During the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia was a close, US counter-terrorism partner, yet there is also speculation that Saudis use government funds, filtered through NGOs, to contribute to radicalization and violent extremism. The previous Malaysian administration was known to be corrupt. The former Prime Minister was arrested on corruption charges twice, and one of the instances involved the Saudi royal family. The new regime’s move to distance itself from the old regime’s policies and practices is not altogether unwise.

Theoretically, it seems self-evident that an anti-terrorism facility should serve as an asset to the country and help bring about a more peaceful, stable environment. But corruption overshadows that message and the good work KSCIP promised to do. The War on Terror and Islamic extremism have featured squarely in Malaysian current events. The government has introduced several anti-terrorism bills.

If centers like the KSCIP operated beyond the reach of foreign influence, educating young people, and focusing on peaceful, global change, then that would be a palliative to countries actively combatting terror. Meanwhile, upon closing, the center’s responsibilities were absorbed by the Defense Ministry.

Legal Difficulties May Loom: Arms Sales Between The West and its Gulf Allies

According to John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry at Reuters, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., “…are leading a coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa.” According to human rights groups’ legal counsel, “France faces heightened legal risks for supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. despite warnings such arms could be used in the war in Yemen,” (Irish). France’s arms sales to its two Gulf allies have been criticized for being used by the pair to take civilian lives, interfere with peace prospects and generally fuel the conflict in Yemen. France’s weapon sales to the two Gulf states could bring legal headaches in the months to come.

The conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and the international Saudi-led coalition has killed 10,000 people as of March 19th, 2018. Three million others are displaced. The conflict has shown few signs of de-escalation. More death, destruction, and displacement are expected unless the international community, the militias, and the countries engaged in the conflict agree to a ceasefire and peace-seeking dialogue. Unlikely. Each actor is committed to emerging victorious. Clearly, for the war to end, someone will have to lose or unlikely but significant concessions will be necessary from all.


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Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. see France as one of their most reliable sources for arms in the world. Each state purchases tanks, armored vehicles, munitions, and artillery. The U.A.E. alone purchases fighter-jets from France. The United States and France have continued selling arms to the Saudi-led coalition, while other participants have reduced their weapon sales fearing their use in the conflict. France and the United States agree that Iran and its proxy rebels are threats to stability and peace in Yemen. Therefore, it is unlikely they will roll back their coalition arms sales.

According to Amnesty International, “France’s arms transfers are contrary to its international commitments. The French government has authorized exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in circumstances where these weapons can be used in the conflict in Yemen and could be used to carry out war crimes,” (Irish).

France would be wise to avoid seeming out of step with its stated commitment to human rights. It should adopt measures to more closely monitor the weapons it exports. Thusly, it can avoid selling to parties who use weapons on civilians as a matter of course. In turn, France’s beneficiaries in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh should be allowed to purchase on the condition that they candidly report how the weapons are being used to U.N.S.C.A.R. (the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation).

France’s foreign ministry described government’s processes as, “…robust and transparent,” in response to questions about France’s licensing system for exports. To be clear, France does have a proven track record of supporting and cooperating in efforts to strengthen peace and security in Africa for years. This will most likely continue to be the case. In light thereof, a priority should be made of ensuring its weapons are not used in the service of violating international law.


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Privately, French officials have divulged that France has already told weapon suppliers to exempt themselves from pursuing new Saudi and U.A.E export licenses. This is, at a minimum, a symbolic attempt to reduce its weapons transfers to Gulf states. “I don’t think you’ll see a clear pushback from us,” one French diplomat told Reuters, “What’s more likely is an informal message to companies to not bother asking for licenses. It will be a de-facto restriction but without saying it publicly, so as not to annoy the Saudis,” (Jarry).

The probability that the Saudi-led coalition will use French weapons in operations that could take the lives of innocent Yemeni civilians is high. France should make clear to its Gulf allies that such eventualities are intolerable. As stated, it has taken steps but it must be explicit about protocol so missteps aren’t made during the anarchy and, so-called, fog of war.


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The Yemen war has already cost too many lives. France and the United States have stated their commitment to returning Yemen to its people. The two western powers should commit themselves to pursuing a roadmap to reconstruction. They mustn’t leave the African nation in the tragic tatters that it finds itself in today.

Works Cited

Irish, John, and Emmanuel Jarry. “France Faces Legal Risks over Saudi, UAE Arms Sales: Lawyers.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 19 Mar. 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-france/france-faces-legal-risks-over-saudi-uae-arms-sales-lawyers-idUSKBN1GV2ME.

“UNSCAR: UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation – UNODA.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/disarmament/unscar/.

Aohruk. “UK Complicit in War Crimes through Arms Export to Saudi Arabia and UAE.” Arab Organisation for Human Rights in UK, aohr.org.uk/index.php/en/all-releases/item/7204-uk-complicit-in-war-crimes-through-arms-export-to-saudi-arabia-and-uae.html.