Saudi Crisis Deepens (Part 2)

The Saudi state, which has traditionally used terrorists to do its bidding, is now engaging in direct military intervention, such as in Yemen. (Photo: AP)

Experts in space studies have asserted that when a star stands on the verge of its collapse, its core becomes unstable. It begins to expand far beyond its regular size, appearing to be greatly expanding – when, actually, it is in its weakest and most vulnerable state. This is the precise state in which Saudi Arabia presently finds itself.

In Al Muqaddimah, the great 14th century classic, Ibn Khaldun outlines a template for the rise and fall of empires. He maintains that no society can achieve anything unless consensus exists concerning its goals and objectives and it enjoys what he refers to as social solidarity “asabiyah” – or consensus supporting those goals. Jockeying for personal power, corruption, and the seduction of wealth creates a general lethargy that constitutes the dying phase of any dominant power.

All the indications suggest that current Saudi Arabia is going through such a phase.

In Part One of this series we examined how the economic downturn, eventually, could play a major role in creating the conditions for the implosion of the current regime in the Arabian Peninsula. In this part other factors will be explored; their effects on the political structure in the peninsula will be assessed:

Among them:

  • The waning of Saudi power.
  • Saudi rulers are breaking away from their traditional indirect non-belligerent role to a more direct military interventionist policy by declaring an all-out war on Yemen on March 25, 2015, and support for the continued repression in Bahrain.
  • The Saudi role in financing, training and supporting terrorist and mercenaries in Iraq and Syria,

These, along with a number of other factors and activities, reveal the degree to which Saudi royal power is waning. The all-round crisis in the country is deepening, economically, socially, regionally. The dragon is kicking and thrusting as it can feel power leaving its claws. Ultimately, implosion will come from within the House of Saud itself.

Wars and Violations of Human Rights Human Rights

On Tuesday 22 September 2015, Middle East Eye broke the story of a letter written by a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse. This letter, primarily circulated among the immediate Saudi family, blamed the incumbent king Salman for the unprecedented problems created by his incompetence that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.

“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.

While not suggesting that an internal coup is eminent, nevertheless, in addition to the economy, human rights violations and regional wars could be important indicators that the reign of Al-Saud in the Arabian Peninsula is going through the final phases of its existence.

Saudi Arabia is a rentier dictatorship that colludes with global terrorism.

It is governed by a family dictatorship which tolerates no opposition and severely punishes human rights advocates and political dissidents. During the past few months a surge in extreme violence committed by the Saudi regime has intensified, not just against its own population, the minority Shia community, but on a global scale. Repression is used against anyone who dares to question the Salafi/Wahhabi mindset either at home or abroad; the recent Saudi reaction to the printing of 9/11 report is part of this disturbing trend. Such an unprecedented disdain for the rights of others could be used as a barometer in assessing the eventual collapse of al-Saud power in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Arabian Peninsula is essentially a huge desert island bordered by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Eastern Province of this Peninsula produces no less than 80% of Saudi oil and holds about four million people, overwhelmingly Shi’ites that have been oppressed by the Saudi Wahhabis government for many decades.

The violation of the rights of the Shia minority is particularly widespread and inhumane. Their mosques are demolished, Shia schools are dilapidated, and their religious figures are imprisoned, tortured and regularly executed. Only few months ago one of the leading Shia scholars of the community, Shaikh Baqir al-Nimr, was executed after a long imprisonment for speaking against the oppression that the Shia community is subjected to. This is how Sheikh al-Nimr described the life of the Shias in Saudi Arabia:

“From the moment you are born, you are surrounded by fear, intimidation, persecution and abuse. We are born into an atmosphere of intimidation. We are even afraid of the walls. Who among us is not familiar with the intimidation and injustice to which we have been subjected in this country? I am 55 years old, more than half a century. From the day I was born until today, I have never felt safe in this country. You are always being accused of something. You are always under threat. The Director of State Security admitted as much to me. He told me when I was arrested – “All of you Shiites should be killed.” That’s their logic.”

It is said that Mohammed bin Salman (35-yearold son of the current ruler) advised his father to have Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr decapitated because he had dared to defy him. The state condemned to death and executed the leader of the opposition, whose only crime was to have formulated and repeated the slogan – “Despotism is illegitimate.” The fact that this leader was a Sheikh of the Shia movement only reinforces the feeling of apartheid against non-Salafis, who are forbidden a religious education, and also forbidden to enter into public service.

The next issue that may provoke a collapse, within this theme, is the illegal and brutal war in Yemen. Mohammed bin Sultan, the acting Saudi defense minister, took it upon himself to launch the war against Yemen, the poorest and the weakest country in the Arab world, over a year ago on the pretext of helping the former Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The latter had been overthrown by an alliance between various sector of the Yemeni society calling for democracy and concrete socioeconomic change in their country.

This war primarily conducted by the Saudis with the tacit support of the usual US and its regional cronies (Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc. along with their servants like Egypt and Morocco). It has led to disastrous consequences for the Yemenis. It has killed and wounded untold number of civilians, displaced close to 2 million and created close to 500,000 refugees, and led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The United Nations has declared it to be on the level of a maximum humanitarian alert. Indiscriminate strikes target all civilian infrastructure, up to residential areas, markets, granaries, water tanks, hospitals, schools, mosques, and even archaeological remains and tombs. It reminds us the destructive ideology of ISIS has its roots in Saudi Arabia. Not even does it spare civilian convoys fleeing violence.

The Saudis have imposed a merciless siege on Yemen, a country which imports 90% of its food. Relief organizations are prevented from delivering supplies to the country; even their workers are targeted while providing humanitarian assistance. More than 21 million people (80% of Yemen’s population) are without adequate access to staples and essential services such as food, clean water, medical care, electricity and fuel. There are frequent reports by the global humanitarian agencies that Saudi Arabia is using unconventional weapons (cluster munitions and even chemical weapons) and has committed war crimes and perhaps even crimes against humanity.

The Saudi assault was intended to break the move towards independence of this poor country that historically has been a vassal of Riyadh. So far, this war has not achieved any of its stated objectives. On the contrary, the Yemeni resistance has taken hold of most major Yemeni cities, and is taking the war into Saudi territories. Saudi attacks have led to uniting the country – the regular armed forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Houthi rebels and other popular committees – behind the slogan “Death to the House of Saud,” an unprecedented development in the Middle East. It announces the inevitable fall of the House of Saud, whose Wahhabi ideology and foreign policy have been the cancer of Islam.

Riyadh is now at an impasse: Its air campaign is a bitter failure, as was predictable given the six previous offensives since 2004 by the forces of President Saleh (a former puppet of the house of Saud and now allied with the Houthi rebels), which all ended up in a fiasco. Faced with internal dissent from repressed subjects and religious minorities, the Saudi dictatorship perceives threats and dangers from all sides: overseas, secular, nationalists and Shia ruling governments; internally, moderate Sunni nationalists, democrats and feminists; within the royalist cliques, traditionalists and modernizers. In response it has turned toward financing, training and arming an international network of terrorists who are directed toward attacking, invading and destroying regimes opposed to the Saudi clerical-dictatorial regime. Unfortunately with no state having the moral authority, or the will to confront their wanton disregard for human rights, and continually supported by the best American PR machine petrodollars can buy, as well as the usual gaggle of nasty US neo-cons, Saudi butchery will continue. (To be continued)

Ibrahim Kazerooni, originally from Iraq, just received a joint PhD in Religion and International Studies from the Iliff School of Theology and the Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. More of his work can be found at the Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Blog

Rob Prince is a retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. He frequently writes about economic and political developments in North Africa, especially Algeria and Tunisia. He blogs at View from the Left Bank.