While Saudi Arabia has used Salafism and jihadism to promote its foreign policy interests, it faces more and more of such groups challenging the Kingdom’s official clerics’ status as a source of authority for Salafism.
This has led Saudi Arabia to declare recently two jihadist groups in Syria as terrorist organizations, writes Kamran Bokhari on the global intelligence web site Strafor (March 20). The Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi branch of Hezbollah have also met the same fate. The narrative stating that Saudi Arabia has played a key role in producing jihadist groups is true, but dated, writes Bokhari. It is significant that Saudi Arabia, while supporting other groups fighting against Syria’s regime, has decided to declare two of them to be terrorist organizations. Efforts to combat jihadist groups already started in the 2000s.
Within its borders, the Saudi Kingdom mostly keeps an effective control on Salafism. Outside Saudi Arabia, however, other types of Salafi discourses compete with the Saudi official one. The attempt to use proxies is backfiring; some groups supported by Saudi Arabia pursue their own ambitions and finally turn against the Saudi regime, seen as corrupt. Moreover, the Internet and social networks make it increasingly difficult to maintain control and cohesion: there is a multiplication of different viewpoints.
“In essence, the core problem the kingdom faces is that Salafist and jihadist ideas have evolved well beyond the limits the Saudis prefer,” according to Bokhari. He also notes that, in contrast, Iran, as the main competitor to Saudi Arabia, manages to have Arab Shiite militant groups remaining more or less aligned with Iran, or least non confrontational.
(Stratfor — http://www.stratfor.com.)