17 November, 2017

Saudi Power-play: Repercussions Beyond The Middle East!

By Mohamed Harees

Lukman Harees

Over the past week, the drumbeat of war in the Middle East has risen to a fever-pitch. As German Intelligence, BND prediction in 2015 appears to be coming true: ‘Saudi Arabia is at risk of becoming a major destabilising influence in the Arab world, Internal power struggles and the desire to emerge as the leading Arab power threaten to make the key Western ally a source of instability. The current cautious diplomatic stance of senior members of the Saudi royal family will be replaced by an impulsive intervention policy. The concentration of so much power in Prince Mohammed’s hands harbours a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach’.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has provoked both an internal domestic, and a foreign crisis to permit him to grab power and realise his grandiose vision of the Saudi state. He seems to be determined to use  strong-arm tactics to both secure his own title as crown prince, and defeat any opposition from all quarters. He thus ordered a broad crackdown on dissent, targeting key Islamic scholarly figures, and public critics, and as part of a sweeping “anti-corruption” initiative, his political rivals, including many from among his own royal flock are being kept under luxuriant house arrest. Recently, during the launch of Vision 2030, outlining his plan to modernize its economy and society, MBS announced his plan to ‘re-introduce’ brand of ‘moderate Islam’, side-lining Wahhabism as the State ideology. 

MBS was also the architect of the bloody quagmire of the Yemen war, a hardliner in the current Gulf row with neighbouring Qatar and is being accused of “unprecedented” interference in Lebanese affairs. After losing in Yemen and even in Syria, he appears willing to try yet a third time, turning Lebanon into a political football to even scores with foreign enemies. Further, a Saudi and UAE-led campaign to force Qatar to its’ knees is also little else than a struggle to establish a Saudi-dominated regional order in the Middle East and North Africa that suppresses any challenge to the kingdom’s religiously cloaked form of autocratic monarchy.

As MBS moves to consolidate his newfound power and signals a decisive break with the past style of consensus politics, a tough choice remains for this leading Muslim nation, the heartland of Islam. Will MBS be a new broom reformer who could sweep the country to a brighter, more open future, or a dangerous and inexperienced firebrand who could undermine stability and lead Saudi Arabia to unintentional disaster (as Guardian UK article of 25/06/2017 points out) and by extension be a major destabilising influence both in the ME and even beyond?

Among most young Saudis, the detentions are being hailed as “the Nov. 4 revolution” and the king praised for “fighting corruption,” according to trending Twitter hashtags. On social media the general attitude was that Bin Salman and his father were acting in the interests of ordinary Saudis.. However, as more events unfold, there is not much room for optimism.

A number of theories have emerged, all united by the assumption that the young crown prince is seeking to consolidate his power base . The whole system in Saudi Arabia is corrupt, arresting anyone for corruption is meaningless,” suggested Muqtedar Khan in the Huffington Post under the headline “Power Consolidation or Failed Coup in Saudi Arabia?”. While that might be an overstatement, it is largely accepted that the lines are blurred between public funds and the Saudi royal family’s fortune, due to the nature of its absolute monarchy. Rather than a real attempt to target corruption, it has been widely suggested that the detentions were an attempt to clear the way for Bin Salman to succeed his father.

They say that a man is known by the company he keeps. It is an open secret that the crown prince  ill-advisedly models himself on Donald Trump, whose impetuous lack of judgment is taking not only US but also the ‘so-called’ free world into risky waters. During the shocking purge of Saudi royals, Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of the power grab by tweeting ‘I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing…. Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years! Interestingly, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who has substantial investments in US, and who was one of those arrested in the recent round-up had apparently previously clashed with Trump on Twitter prior to his election as U.S. president, describing him as “a disgrace to all America.” .It was also probably no accident that recently Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh and both are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy. It was also months back that Trump visited Saudi and flamed renewed fears about the ‘Iran threat’ and extremist infiltration which precipitated the Qatar crisis,  securing a  massive $110bn-plus arms deal in the process!

Then again, geopolitics makes strange bedfellows. Saudi-Israeli axis is bound to have disastrous consequences for the region as well as on the Palestinian conflict. Already much arm-twisting also appears to be taking place to get Abbas to overpower Hamas at US insistence. The Centenary of the Balfour Declaration reminded the world of the need to work out a speedy resolution of the Palestinian conflict. In an article on the 2011 tank deal, The New York Times reported the following: “Once viewed as a potential threat by Jerusalem, the government in Saudi Arabia is increasingly viewed as a guarantor of stability in a region in upheaval, as revolutionary fervor sweeps through the Middle East.” MBS , in his  eagerness to ratchet up the conflict with Iran, have teamed together with a new ally, the Israeli PM Netanyahu , and appears willing to exploit and manipulate hostility to a foreign enemy in order to bolster his own domestic stature. Bibi recently arranged an urgent cable to all diplomats demanding that they mouth a pro-Saudi line regarding the Lebanese PM Hariri’s resignation quite unusually announced in Riyadh. A few years earlier, Netanyahu also joined Saudi Arabia in intervening in Syria, attacking military facilities associated with Iran or Hezbollah.

As Richard Silverstein in his article in  Middle Eye Eye(07/07/17) says, ‘This indicates that Israel and Saudi Arabia are developing the sort of “no-daylight” relationship that Israeli leaders used to tout with their American counterparts. Together with their combined military might and oil wealth, these two countries could pose a highly combustible commodity… His new alliance with Saudi Arabia might provide the military punch he needs to forge a successful series of attacks on regional enemies’. Further, with US being led by a narcissist President, no one should expect this administration to restrain either the Saudis or Israelis to inflame the region ,with Putin too likely to join in to gain his stakes.

In the overall context, behind much of the ME’s chaos, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran takes precedence. The Saudi–Iran spat clearly demonstrates that internecine struggles between fellow Muslims—the clashes within a civilization and not between civilizations. They are waging a struggle for dominance that has turned much of the ME into their battlefield. Rather than fighting directly, they wield and in that way worsen the region’s direst problems: dictatorship, militia violence and religious extremism. Behind it is a centuries-old conflict between Shi’as and Sunnis that has grown more acute recently, ‘further promoted’ by the West,  drawing in all Muslim countries and organizations. With US and Israel being sucked into this mess, ME is clearly heading to another round of  war which does not augur well for the world.

Without more experienced voices around him, the new crown prince will feel emboldened to pursue his vision of a larger Sunni alliance, in which Saudi Arabia is the unchallenged leading power in the Middle East. This could lead to a dangerous miscalculation. Saudi Arabia however often invokes the “Muslim ummah fraternity” mantra for public consumption; however, it is the crude geo-political calculations rather than religious concerns that have recently shaped broader contours of its foreign policy. It is a matter of regret that even within the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), Saudi Arabia’s role has been transformed from leadership into a hegemonic one, a process that has been unfolding over five decades.  OIC therefore seemed incapable of resolving the standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran by means of diplomacy compromising its’ policy of neutrality.

As the situation becomes aggravated, the need for the OIC, despite its many weaknesses, has however never been so apparent. The OIC, more than the Arab League, still is the only political platform that can bring all Muslim leaders together for dialogue. The question is whether the OIC is able to assert itself as the collective voice of the Muslims on a global plane and establish a genuine collective dialogue among its’ member states, transcending sectarian divisions or not. On a parallel note, Muslim world will also be eagerly watching MBS’ efforts to do away with the Wahhabism  cult and bring in the ‘so-called moderate Islam’ in the heartland of Islam where two of Islam’s holiest cities lie. Perhaps, that aspect of reformation will have knock-on effects  on other parts of the Muslim world as well.    

Saudi Arabia — the biggest and most powerful country in the region — whose status as the world’s largest oil producer has long underlined its significance to the global economy.. It remains to be seen whether MBS’s meteoric rise continues or not. But for the moment, he appears to have taken a firm grip on the four pillars of the Kingdom: the ruling family, the business sheikhs, the security apparatus and the theocracy. The only certainty is that the near-term future of Saudi Arabia — and MBS himself — is one of turmoil and uncertainty.

Any storm in the form of a security crisis in that region, however would be felt in boardrooms and finance ministries all over the world. The obvious question is whether the dazzling rise of the Gulf states could be followed by an equally dazzling fall. If that were to happen, the implications would be global. In that context, what is unfolding in a Saudi sandstorm now therefore will have repercussions well beyond its borders.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Lakman Harees,

    Thanks. Do you know who the Great Satan is and the Minor Satans?

    Are the Saudis finally realizing that they are following Wahhabism-Salafism, the Devil,Satan, Iblis per Hadith of Najd?
    anic Faith,
    Al Azhar Scholar Says, Wahhabism/Salafism is a Satanic faith per Hadith of Najd.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZOA3Ho9AUk

    Your write up confirms that.

  • 1
    6

    shia has taken over syria,iraq,yemen. there next attack will be the oil in the eastern province of saudi arabia. if muslims dont wake up, shia will take over macca and madina. shia is not muslims.shia are a bunch of idol worshippers.

    • 1
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 2
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      Jehan,

      Mecca and Medina were already taken over by the Satan following Wahhabi-Salafies. See the link above.

    • 1
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      Shia moslems can call themselves what they like, thank you. They dont need permission from the wahabis on how to define themselves. The rest of the world should also accept and recognise that Shia Moslems unlike Sunni Wahabis have never deliberately targeted women and children in cowardly terrorist attacks in order to get into paradise. In Yemen they ousted a dictator and replaced him with a populist supported by the majority of the population of Yemen. This was in spite of the previous autocrat being supported with arms and training from the West, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Today the UN claim that Yemen is the worst human catastrophe the world has seen in the recent decades. A million people are at risk of starving to death as the Saudis are preventing food from getting in. The west is participating in this atrocity by selling the Saudis the arms and bombs to drop on Yemen. Even the Saudi Drones it is revealed are flown by RAF “advisors”. In addition to funding global jihad, Saudi Arabia has become a firm friend of Israel, furthering Israeli agendas in destabilising Lebanon and Syria. Syria was a stable secular country tolerant of all religions and denominations prior to the Saudi funded, western armed, wahabi rebels taking over large swathes of the country, forcing Christians, Alawites, Shiites and Yazidis to convert to Sunni Wahabism and executing those who refused. The Shiite majority Bahrain was overun and the popular unarmed uprising squashed when Saudi Arabia invaded the country with their tanks. There is widespread persecution of anyone with connections to the protesters. In contrast Iran is a democracy where heads of state are voted in and voted out every few years. World public opinion is turning fast against Saudi expansionisms. Their leaders need to catch up. They are currently too drunk on Saudi money and arms contracts.

    • 1
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      Your comments on Shia Muslims expose your total ignorance of their faith.
      Views like yours only help US imperialists to play Arab against Arab, Muslim against Muslim and oppressed people against other oppressed people.
      *
      Read some news and calm yourself.
      The Shia Muslim leader of Iraq visited Saudi Arabia and UAE some months ago and had fruitful discussions.
      The real problem in Yemen is about Saudi bombings.
      Syria is not Shia. It has a mix of religions of which Assad’s represents a very small group.
      The Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia has a predominantly Shia Muslim population and they are seriously oppressed. Iran is not meddling.
      How do you explain Sunni dictatorial rule over a mainly Shia population in Bahrain? Is Iran involved?

  • 2
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    Thanks for a timely opinion. I discussed this issue in class last week and will do further because of its inextricable links to energy/oil politics and to the USA too. As you know there is a one-man power grab by the Crown Prince who is very pro Western. But the old fragile but time tested governance by consensus of the Family of Saudi Royalty of the house of Saud is under threat. Of course there is tacitly approved by King Salman. The King’s son Mohammed Bin Salman is making overtures to the west. He is in secret talks with Trump’s son in law and remember he was made Crown Prince when they ousted Nayef. The arrests have sent shock waves in the corrupt content Arab Feudalocracies. US approves it as Trump;s tweet suggest. But it is a bad plan if it backfires and he is ousted for over-reach. But the King trusted the son and made a brazen power grab.

    An sadly Mr Harees, Iran and KSA have been engaging in a Proxy War with Yemen with tremendous civilian deaths(mostly at the hands of KSA bombs) but ignored by the USA. There is not likely to be direct war but they will once again make Lebanon the playground for another proxy war. Iran and Hezbollah are Shia. Iran is a big force to reckon with in Shia Majority Iraq but a minority in rest of the Arab and Non Arab nations such as Pakistan who are linked to the Middle East more politically than say Bangladesh or Indonesia.

    Await some more rhetoric. Oil prices are creeping up and with US and Israel possibly egging on KSA more misery on the hapless Arabs on the streets and for Lebanon. Persian Shia Iran vs Sunni Wahabi KSA. wow.

  • 1
    1

    It is Wahabi ideology that leads to those total black garb for women and trying to force Western christian nations to adapt Sharia NOT IRAN. As you can see by Jehan, the fanaticism goes to Sri lankan muslims too. Just because Mecca and Medinah are in present day Saudi Arabia does not make them the fucking guardiands of Islam. Their Royalty fuck white women, booze and are utterly corrupt and that is why there was growing Wahabi Terrorism and anger even inside Conservative households in Saudi Arabia despite their loyalty to the King. We are in dangerous territory now. Saudi Arabia is an artificial nation created because of Oil by USA and UK. Persian Iran has had over a 2,500 year civilization, written language, and territory all across the Middle East even before Saudi Arabia was conceived in Herbert Hoover’s left testicle in 1932. Jihadi my arse for you Wahabi nutjobs. Not to say Iranians are not nutjobs either. They are obsessed with Israel. But they have totally inferior weapons and will get wiped out if they take on Israel. But they are into power projection via Iraq and Syria while Saudis are fighting in Yemen and repressing Shias even in Bahrain.

  • 2
    1

    The sinister, surreptitious and insane project of Global Islam to take over the entire world began long before Osama Bin Laden. The savage attack on 9/11 in one of the principal capitals of the Christian world, New York City, let the cat out of the bag. The peaceful and civilised countries of the world have woken up. As the Paris newspaper Le Monde headlined that day “we are now all Americans”
    Whatever the semantics, as Global Islam wished, the next Crusade has begun.
    Real America – don’t mistake Trump with this – is taking steps to save the world from
    global Islamic ambition to conquer the unsuspecting world. One of the main steps was to neutralize the paymasters of the 9/11 attack. OBL, Saddam Hussain, Gadaffi were all wiped out- violently. The other leaders like Baghdadi – old and new – are on the run in their fox holes. They are being hunted down – one by one in different parts of the world from where they planned and executed their mayhem.
    The Clash of Civilisations is here.

    Islam was born out of contradictions. This factor alone will see its extinction soon. The current Sunni-Shia spat will be its main downfall. The financially sound Islamic countries will join the Western Powers and Israel. The Saudis and even the Iranians are reaching out to the powerful Israelis already. Paymasters of global Wahabism and Salafism will be wiped out in different parts of the world. The world will soon be free of the savagery, mass murder of innocents and jihadist terror the world witnessed in recent times. Peace will soon return to the world with the taming of Satan (Shaithan)

    Zeus

    • 1
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      If Islam was born out of contradictions, what major religion was not born out of contradictions?
      Judaism?
      Various branches of Christianity?
      There would have been no need for Buddhism had the Brahminic religion of the time been less oppressive.
      *
      BTW
      Was not the US a sponsor of Islamic fundamentalism since around 1990?

      • 2
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        No contradictions in Christianity. Just a translation error. An careless translator, apparently wrote “virgin” when translating “young girl” from the protolanguage.

      • 0
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        SJ ~ “……There would have been no need for Buddhism had the Brahminic religion of the time been less oppressive………”.
        The Brahminic Hinduism still prevails. Hindu bigotry is on the rise and if left unchecked will bring about big big big tragedy.

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          KP
          True, but the re-emergence of Hindu bigotry is a fairly recent phenomenon, starting slowly with the rise of the right led by Morarji Desai.
          *
          On the positive side, Modi has already started to mess up the economy. That will sooner than later apply the brakes on Hindutva goons.

    • 1
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      Zeus

      Lets forget about Globalising Islam for a minute and focus on theocratization of this island, began long ago and Sinhala/Buddhist crusade started with Duttha – gamani’s war against Elara about 2250 years ago. For some sinister Sinhala/Buddhist fascist the war hasn’t come to an end.

      The war cry was “Not for kingdom, But for Buddhism”.
      Zen and the Taming of the Bull by Walpola Rahula
      Page 117.

      The slogan was so effective Many Bhikkhus left the order and joined the”liberating army” and they continue to fight the others.

  • 0
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    This is a very powerful 25 minute video I will be sharing with my students today.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MZeHeOwEXI

    Please watch.

  • 0
    0

    Saudi Arabia knows that they have had a use-by sticker since 9/11. The use-by date is now past. Saudis are trying desperately to impress their master that they are relevant.

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