ISIS, Iran and the Larger Battle
17 April 2015
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
Saudi Arabia, as well as all members of its coalition, are currently in a
state of war against the main source of chaos in the region: Iran. Tehran is
fomenting this chaos through its regional allies, from the Houthis in Yemen
to Hezbollah in Lebanon to the sectarian National Mobilization forces in
At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the coalition are also at war with Sunni
terrorist organizations, most prominently the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
(ISIS) and Al-Qaeda.
With Iran and its followers seeking to destabilize the region, it is only
natural that there would be dangerous consequences to this, even if
indirectly. One of these consequences has seen the specter of Sunni terrorism
cast its shadow across the Arab world, particularly Al-Qaeda and ISIS. While
the mere presence of extremist and terrorist groups such as this serves to
further isolate the Arab world from the rest of the international community,
distorting our image and reputation.
Saudi Arabia is fighting the Houthis—who are backed by Iran—on one front in
Yemen, while ISIS is seeking to send its death and destruction into the
Kingdom on a second front. This is the same ISIS that is seeking to
monopolize Islam, portraying itself as the defender of Muslims and the Arab
Sunni community against Iran, or the ''Persian Magi'' as the group puts it.
But couldn't ISIS postpone its attempted expansion into Saudi Arabia, at
least for a time, considering the situation it finds itself in across the
rest of the Arab world? What is the reason behind this move at this
The Saudi Interior Ministry this week revealed that security forces have
arrested a man suspected in the murder of two Saudi policemen in eastern
Riyadh earlier this month. A second suspect is on the run. The Interior
Ministry has confirmed that both men have ties to ISIS, and in fact that ISIS
ordered them to carry out this heinous attack. More than this, the
23-year-old man who was arrested in connection with this crime, Yazid
Mohammad Abdulrahman Abu Nayan, was in the process of preparing for another
attack. This attack, which was foiled by his arrest, would have seen seven
car bombs targeting different sites across Saudi Arabia and no doubt
resulting in large civilian casualties.
The second attacker is currently a fugitive from the law—another young man,
aged 29, named by the authorities as Nawaf Sharif Al-Anzi. The authorities
confirmed that both men had received orders from ISIS leaders in Syria and
that they had not even known each other prior to the attack. As for Anzi, Abu
Nayan said that he spoke with a Moroccan accent.
Reports indicate that these two youths have a criminal past, and previous
charges against them include resisting arrest, driving while drunk and even
financial crimes. So, they both have a long history of rebelling against the
law, before becoming radicalized. After this, they found ISIS to be a
suitable religious cover for their inherent rebelliousness against society
and the rule of law, and vice versa. This is something that is worth pausing
at and considering when looking at how ISIS finds, and uses, its recruits.
At the Saudi Interior Ministry press conference, spokesman Brig. Gen. Bassem
Al-Atiyah said that ISIS seeks to prey on and use our disaffected young
people against us, warning about ''child soldiers.''
This is true, and a great threat to our nations and societies. Isn't now the
time for new global legislation regarding the use of social media and how
extremist and terrorist groups use these to gain followers, turning them into
After all this, it is clear that everything is part of a larger battle and
battlefield, from the Shi'ite Houthis to the Sunni Al-Qaeda and ISIS—there is
A Saudi journalist
and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi
affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion page Editor, where he also
contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying
several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on
numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic.