The U.S. Department of Defense has released translations of a number of Iraqi intelligence documents dating from Saddam’s rule. Most of them deal with the regime’s support for terrorism. One of them is a General Military Intelligence Directorate report from September 2002, entitled “The Emergence of Wahhabism and its Historical Roots.” (The translation may be downloaded here.) The report made the claim that the grandfather of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the school, was a merchant from Bursa in Turkey who was a Dönme—that is, a crypto-Jew. According to the intelligence report, his name, Sulayman, was originally Shulman. (Al Kamen writing yesterday in the Washington Post: “Of course! The Saudi Shulmans!”) —MESH
From Bernard Haykel
The Iraqi document echoes a well-known Turkish conspiracy theory—probably fabricated by one Ayyub Sabri Pasha—which claims that the British sought to weaken the Ottoman empire by creating the Wahhabi movement. The British sought to sow dissension among Muslims and the Wahhabis obliged by anathemizing (takfir) the Ottomans and making licit rebellion and the waging of warfare against the Sultan in Istanbul. The British accomplished this through a British spy named Hempher. His story has been published in a little pamphlet entitled Confessions of a British Spy. It is a neat little tale, not unlike the Protocols.
The fact that an Iraqi officer was recapitulating it in 2002 in a “top secret document” indicates how desperate the Iraqi regime was to vilify the Saudis and Wahhabis. It perhaps also indicates that the Iraqi regime could not have been colluding with the Salafis (e.g., Al Qaeda) because the latter would not take kindly to a blanket attack on the Wahhabis, with whom they identify and for who they have considerable affinity, as a pre-modern reformist movement.