By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
Following a series of detailed exposés of Saudi Arabia’s complicity with the so-called Islamic State, German government leaders have broken diplomatic protocol, and openly issued warnings that Riyadh must cut its ties to terrorists. In remarks made to the mass-distribution tabloid Bild Zeitung in its December 6 Sunday edition, Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel demanded a halt to Saudi financing of extremist mosques. Gabriel, who is also Economics Minister and Deputy Chancellor, said, “We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over.” Specifically, he charged, “From Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi mosques are financed throughout the world. In Germany many extremists considered dangerous persons emerge from these communities.” He called for tougher action against this threat, saying, “This radical fundamentalism taking place in Salafist mosques is no less dangerous than right-wing extremism.” Thus the state should move as soon as “calls for hatred and violence are heard” in Salafist mosques.
Thomas Oppermann, the SPD leader in parliament, made a parallel pitch in remarks the same day to another leading paper, Die Welt. “We will prevent Saudi help in the building or financing of mosques in Germany where Wahhabi ideas are to be disseminated,” he said, evidently in reference to an offer the Saudis had made to fund 200 new mosques in the country, as their contribution to integrating refugees (!). Oppermann was defending the guarantee of fundamental freedoms enshrined in the German Constitution, against the preaching of hatred. He explicitly stated that Wahhabism provides the “complete ideology of the Islamic state and contributes in other countries to a radicalization of moderate Muslims,” and that “this is something we don’t need and don’t want in Germany.”
While Deputy Chancellor Gabriel was exerting this unprecedented pressure, he made clear his intention was not to punish but to persuade. “We need Saudi Arabia for the solution of regional conflicts,” he said. It would be counter-productive to merely criticize the Saudis, if serious negotiations for ending the Syrian conflict are desired, he argued. Clearly, the political move aims not only to publicly denounce Saudi support for ISIS, but to use this to force a shift in Riyadh’s strategic alignments. Just days earlier, in fact, the German foreign intelligence service had issued a scathing report on Saudi Arabia’s aggressive foreign policy in the region.
And the Turkey Connection?