by James M. Dorsey,
IS, apparently preparing the ground for the attacks, has stepped up its Farsi-language propaganda in recent months. In a video in March, the group called on Iran’s Sunni minority to revolt against Iran’s Shia-dominated establishment. It also publishes four Farsi-language editions of Rumiyah, an online IS magazine.
Like with the attacks in Tehran, nothing suggests that IS’s new found focus on Iran was inspired by Saudi Arabia. Yet, in distancing itself from IS as well as the attacks, Saudi Arabia is likely to struggle with the fact that IS ideology is rooted in the anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian, puritan Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism propagated by the kingdom – even if it has condemned the group, denounced its world view as deviant, and at times been an IS target. Saudi denials are further muddied by the fluidity of militancy in Pakistan in which the kingdom’s footprints are visible.
The US Treasury last month designated a Saudi-backed Pakistani religious scholar from Balochistan, Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab, as a specially designated terrorist.
Putting Saudi Arabia on the spot, the Treasury announced the designation of Abu Turab, a leader of Ahl-i-Hadith, a Saudi-supported Pakistani Wahhabi group, and board member of Pakistan’s Saudi-backed Paigham TV, who serves on Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology, a government-appointed advisory body of scholars and laymen established to assist in bringing laws in line with the Koran and the example of the Prophet Mohammed, as he was visiting the kingdom and Qatar on the latest of numerous fund raising trips to the Gulf.
Abu Turab, a major fund raiser for militant groups who runs a string of madrassas attended by thousands of students along Balochistan’s border with Afghanistan, also heads the Saudi-funded Movement for the Protection of the Two Holy Cities (Tehrike Tahafaz Haramain Sharifain) whose secretary general Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil has also been designated by the Treasury.
Abu Turab regularly shows pictures of his frequent public appearances to Saudi diplomats in Islamabad to ensure continued Saudi funding, according to sources close to him.
The Treasury described Abu Turab as a “facilitator…[who] helped…raise money in the Gulf and supported the movement of tens of thousands of dollars from the Gulf to Pakistan.”
The Treasury said funds raised by Abu Turab, an Afghan who was granted Pakistani citizenship, financed operations of various groups, including Pakistan’s Jama’at ul Dawa al-Koran; Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani intelligence-backed group that at times has enjoyed support from Saudi Arabia; the Taliban; and Islamic State’s South Asian wing.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Wuerzburg