The religious diplomacy of Saudi Arabia constitutes a strange black hole in the analysis of radicalism that affects Islam and the Middle East today. Why has Salafism, the most intolerant and sectarian movement of Islam, become so prevalent? Of all the religious radicalisms that rot the planet, it is the only one to enjoy the constant support of a country endowed with immense means: the Saudi kingdom. This study, whose collaborators wanted to remain anonymous, reveals how the two sides of the kingdom – the conciliatory one of the Saud dynasty and the more aggressive Salafism, propagandist of jihad – has for decades developed a religious strategy to conquer the Muslim community and the West without appearing as an enemy. One of the most striking examples is the absence of sanctions or even accusations by George W. Bush towards Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks even with fifteen identified Saudis among the terrorists. The kingdom's influence is largely unknown but undoubtedly acts as a key player throughout the Muslim world through their financing of conservative Koranic schools, universities and mosques, as well as other international public and private organizations. But after years of financing radical Islamists in foreign lands, Saudi Arabia now finds itself threatened in their own territory, the monster they have given birth to turned against them.
Pierre Conesa, associate professor of history and former student of the National School of Administration, was a member of the Committee of Strategic Reflection on the Ministry of Defense. He now teaches history at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and writes regularly in Le Monde Diplomatique. He is the author of several books including: Paradise Guide: Comparative Advertising of the Afterlife (L'Aube, 2004 and 2006), The Mechanics of Chaos: Bushism, Proliferation and Terrorism (L'Aube, 2007), La Fabrication de the enemy (Robert Laffont, 2011) and Dr. Saoud and Mr. Djihad (Robert Laffont, 2016).