Reflecting the ever-growing sectarian nature of the Syrian Civil War, a group of 53 Saudi clerics, including some prominent Islamists, have issued a joint statement calling on the public to support a jihad against both the Assad government and their allies in Russia and Iran.
The Saudi government has tried to tamp down such efforts in the past, warning the public against funding the rebels through non-government channels and forbidding Saudi citizens to go abroad to join the Syrian Civil War. Today’s statement sought to avoid directly contradicting that, not making any specific calls for Saudis to go to Syria, but urging non-specific support for the “holy warriors” in Syria.
Sectarian agitation is always fairly successful in Saudi Arabia, but doubly so at the moment with the government engaged in an explicitly sectarian war in neighboring Yemen, and publicly endorsing a holy war in general terms for regime change in Syria.
So while the kingdom itself may admonish its citizens against backing al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, their talking points appear to be setting the stage for calls to arms like these which will do exactly that, and advances a narrative in which nations like Russia, in fighting ISIS, are “taking sides” with the Shi’ites against Sunni Islam.