Ibrahim Karagul: Islamic civil war over Mecca a possibility
As of late Turkish journalist Ibrahim Karagül has been writing editorials for Yeni Safak warning that if Iran does not curb its Persian imperialism then a Sunni-Shiite “Islamic civil war” could result. He believes that the starting spark for such a horrible conflagration will be the holy city of Mecca.
Although Karagül has been writing of this possibility for a while now, he re-focused on the issue following a Houthi ballistic missile strike on a Saudi military base near to Riyadh, an attack which occurred only a few days before President Erdoğan was set to arrive in Saudi Arabia on an official visit. This incident prompted Karagül to ask a series of questions in one of his articles:1
“What will happen if one of those [Houthi] missiles fall into Mecca? What kind of a disaster can a stray missile lead to? What if in the meantime someone hits Mecca with a pirate missile, what if someone sets a plot, what kind of hell will break lose? Is this possible? Sure is!”
As Karagül concludes, such a scenario is not so far fetched. In September 2016, Houthi forces launched Scud missiles at King Fadh air base in Saudi Arabia, which is only 80 kilometers east of Mecca.2 On October 9 the air base was once again attacked by the Houthis.3 Then later that month two Houthi Burkan-1 missiles were shot down by the Saudis, who claimed that the missiles were on course for Mecca.4
One may dismiss such incidents as errant missile attacks by the Houthis against their Saudi adversaries which were not intended to strike Mecca. However, in March 2015 a senior Houthi leader Abdul-Karim al-Khiwani boasted “We will circle the Ka’bah next Hajj in Makkah [Mecca] as conquerors.”5 The Iranians, who are patrons of the Houthis, also appear to have their eye on Mecca. In April 2015 Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Javadi Amoli argued that Saudi Arabia is not morally fit to oversee the custodianship of Mecca and that other more worthy Islamic nations (i.e. Iran) should be in charge of Mecca.6 So the Iranians and their Houthi proxies could very well, if they are in a position to do so, make a move on Mecca.
If this were to happen then the Islamic civil war that Karagül has envisioned would be a reality. In his view Iran is not an immediate threat to Israel, but to Saudi Arabia. He writes “the ‘wiping out Israel from the map’ discourse is overt and propaganda, the ‘wiping out Saudi Arabia from the map’ plan is covert and real.” Iran is working to encircle the Saudis and already have significant control of Yemen and Iraq, and could very well take control of Syria as well. If this were to happen, Karagül says:
“In such circumstances, Iran will have Saudi Arabia under siege from the north, west, south (from Yemen) and east. This is what will form the ultimate front of the Arab-Persian war. All countries from Kuwait. … The possibility that Iran-controlled Iraq might attempt to re-invade Kuwait during such a period should not be ignored.”
Karagül believes the Iranians are not motivated by a sectarian religious hatred against the Gulf Arabs (i.e. Shiite versus Sunni). Instead he believes they are guided by ethnic based Persian imperialism against the Arabs and Turks.7 Iran is merely using their Shiite identity and their conception of Islamic Revolution to gain the support of non-Persian Shiites throughout the Middles East to fight against the Gulf Arabs.
In addition to demanding Iran withdraw from Syria and Yemen, to counter the Iranian threat Karagül advocates:
“permanent security partnerships should be established between Ankara and the Gulf countries, and a security shield should be formed. The infrastructure of a long-term cooperation should be formed in areas ranging from arms supplies to joint military units, to matters of common perspectives regarding regional security issues.”
While in Bahrain (Feb 14) Erdoğan made the following statement (emphasis mine):8
“Some people want both Iraq and Syria to be divided. There are some that are working hard to divide Iraq. There is a Persian nationalism at work there. And this Persian nationalism is trying to divide the country. We need to block this effort.”
It is interesting that he made use of the term Persian nationalism in criticizing Iran’s conduct in Iraq and Syria, which is quite similar to Karagül’s talk of Persian imperialism. Maybe the similarity is a coincidence or maybe the saying ‘great’ minds think alike is applicable, but it could be possible Erdoğan is well aware of Karagül’s ideas, and is also influenced by them. If that is the case, whether one agrees with his ideology or not, we should pay attention to what Karagül has to write because there is a real possibility that it provides useful insight into what Erdoğan could be up to.
With this in mind, Karagül’s most recent article on this topic of the Iranian menace, has a particularly noteworthy and rather cryptic passage.9 He writes (emphasis mine):
“Let us declare here that unless Iran withdraws from Syria and Yemen, its relations with the countries in the region are not going to get better.
If one day a missile falls on Mecca by mistake, Iran will be crushed under it. In such an atmosphere, an “accidental” missile could even be fired by a third power.
Nobody will allow Iran’s tanks to reach the Kaaba’s walls.
On that day, those wars would not take place far from Iran, but perhaps within its borders.”
[Update: This quote of Karagül’s is remarkably similar to one made six weeks later by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who stated, “We know that we are a primary goal of the Iranian regime. Reaching the Kaaba is a main goal of the Iranian regime. But we will not wait for the war to be waged on Saudi Soil. We will make sure that the war is waged in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”10]
One has to wonder the identity of this third party which could fire an “accidental” missile at Iran? Is Karagül referring to his own country of Turkey? If Mecca is attacked by Iran, either directly or indirectly through their proxies, will Erdoğan enact retribution, acting as the defender of the Islamic faith, and strike at Iran?
It is interesting to note that Turkey is developing a long range missile, which some experts believe could have a range of ~1,000 kilometers, thereby making it able to strike Tehran.11 While such a Turkish missile is not currently available, according to Yiğit Bulut, an adviser to Erdoğan, Turkey has already developed missiles that can reach the EU.12 While Bulut could be talking non-sense, if such missiles do exist then presumably Turkey could also strike Iran.
Another possible candidate for the third party is Pakistan. They definitely have ballistic missiles that can reach most any target in Iran and those missiles can be equipped with nuclear warheads. In January 2016, when tensions increased between Iran and Saudi Arabia following the execution of Shiite Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, Pakistan’s chief of the army Raheel Sharif threatened that if the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia is violated then he would “wipe Iran off the map.”13 I would assume that this threat is also applicable if Iran rocket attacks Mecca.
It could also be possible that Karagül is referring to the US. Trump has thus far adopted a strong stance against Iran. During a White House briefing his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn declared “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”14 Secretary of State James Mattis recently called Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”15 But this strong anti-Iranian stance notwithstanding, would Trump involve his country in an Islamic civil war, one which would likely be exceptionally sanguinary and fanatically fought between both sides? Personally, I think not.
Regardless of who this third party is, with the way things are going in the Middle East, regardless of Trump attempting to take a stronger role in the region and desiring to contain Iran, it seems likely that Karagül’s envisioned Islamic civil war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and their allies, will sooner or later become a reality. There is no doubt that if a stray missile hits Mecca, particularly if it hits the Kaaba, then all hell will break loose in the Middle East.
[Update: For more on this topic see Ibrahim Karagul: ISIL’s attacks in Iran and the GCC-Qatar crisis could be first moves in the future war over Mecca ]
 http://shoebat.com/2016/10/27/breaking-iran-backed-muslim-rebels-just-launched-a-major-ballistic-missile-attack-directed-at-mecca/ , http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/10/28/Coaltition-destroys-missile-fired-from-Yemen-towards-Makkah-.html
 https://www.memri.org/tv/deputy-crown-prince-al-saud-war-iran-saudi-arabia-no-direct-dialogue , https://www.memri.org/tv/deputy-crown-prince-al-saud-war-iran-saudi-arabia-no-direct-dialogue/transcript
 http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2016/January/Pakistan-Army-Chief-Well-Wipe-Iran-Off-the-Map , http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/01/10/Pakistan-to-respond-to-Saudi-s-territorial-integrity-threat-167.html