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Saudis Fight a Lost Battle against Change

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The ongoing aggressive Saudi policy for a militarized "regime change" in Syria is more an expression of internal vulnerability, trying hopelessly to avert change outside their borders lest change sweeps inside, than being a positive show of leadership and power, but Syrian developments are proving by the day that the Saudis are fighting a lost battle against change.

Riyadh is fighting several preemptive battles outside its borders in its immediate proximity in a desperate attempt to prevent an historic regional tide of change from changing the country's pre-medieval system of governance and social life.

Surrounded by a turbulent changing regional and international environment, the Saudi Arabian rulers seem worried as hell that their system is facing an historical existential test for the survival of which they are unwisely blundering in foreign policy to alienate friends, win more enemies, and exacerbate old animosities, and trying counterproductively to promote their unmarketable way of life as the only way they know to survive, instead of reforming to adapt to modern irreversible changes that are sweeping throughout their surroundings and the world like a tsunami of an irresistible fate.

Change is inevitable and if they insist on resisting it they will be shooting themselves in the legs and fighting a lost battle, which might delay change for a while but cannot stop it from flooding their outdated, feudal type of family governance, where more than seven thousand royal princes spread over the country like a spider's net of rulers who dominate every aspect of the political, administrative, security, military, economic, and social life.

True, there is the oil factor underlying the aggressive Saudi regional policies, especially vis-a-vis Iran and Iraq, which is covered up by trumpeting the  not-so-unrealistic threat of sectarian Shiism, Iranian regional hegemony, and Iran's nuclear threat lest they endanger the Saudi similar sectarian Wahhabi theology and political prominence in the region where the United States has been the only real h-gemÅn since the Saudi family came to power in the Arabian peninsula some one hundred years ago.

For a country where petroleum exports account for some 90 percent of revenue, the prospect of lifting the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on Iran and empowering Iraq to carry on with its public plans to increase its oil production to equal or exceed the Saudi level in a few years would bring into oil market very strong competitors who in no time would end the Saudi dominance amid "a continuous decline" in international demand for oil (billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, news.sky.com, July 29, 2013), dwindling US demand for Saudi oil (read  Gal Luft and Anne Korin  in foreignaffairs.com on Oct. 15, 2013) and the emergence of China as  number-one importer of oil in the world last September.

Comparison is noteworthy here; Israel likewise has been trumpeting a hypothetical Iranian threat of a non-existent nuclear-military program to cover Israel's own proven nuclear weapons and its real reason for warmongering against Iran, namely to preempt the emergence of a regional competitor in nuclear and defense technology who would compete with Israel's most lucrative industries in the same Asian, African, and South American markets.

True also that there is the political factor of the growing Saudi feeling of an American betrayal and that the US security umbrella is no more a source of relief after President Barack Obama declared an end to a decade of war. Quoted by the jewishpress.com on last Oct. 25, Brooking Institution expert Mike Doran, writing in London's Telegraph about "The Saudi -- American Rupture," had this to say: "I know of no analogous period. I've never seen so many disagreements on so many key fronts all at once. And I've never seen such a willingness on the part of the Saudis to publicly express their frustration."

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Nonetheless, as proved by the US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Riyadh on Monday, after about a century-old bilateral strategic ties, the ruling Saudis have no other option but to continue risking their survival on US untrustworthy guarantees for their security and to take the advice of "Ergo" in its Feb. report last year, titled, " The Waning Era of Saudi Oil Dominance," that Saudi Arabia "must strive not to alienate the United States," unless they decide to adapt to change internally and change their foreign policy to adapt to the regional changes as well as to the emerging multi-polar world.

In his obvious attempt to contain the Saudi "frustration," "to make certain the Saudi-US relationship is on track" and will remain "strategic" and "enduring," despite the "solid" disagreements, Kerry during his visit to Riyadh went as far as to let down the equality of women as a universal standard enshrined in his country's constitution when he said that "it's up to Saudi Arabia to make its own decision" and that this issue "is best left to the Saudi Arabian people."

The Real Threat of Ideas

However, it is not only the oil and political factors or the sectarian or military threats that are motivating the aggressive Saudi regional policies, but the preempting of the real threat of the ideas and thoughts of change, regardless of whether they come from a rival conservative (Iran) or moderate (Syria) sect or trend of Islam or from the liberal modernity. 

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It is true also that the Iranian-pronounced "Vilayat-e Faqih" leadership of the Shiites outside Iran threatens to encourage the large Shiite minority sitting on the oil fields in the east of the country, or the Shiite majority in neighboring Bahrain, or the large minority of the Zaidi Houthis in northern Yemen just across the southern border of the kingdom, to follow the example of Hezbullah of their Shiite brethren in southern Lebanon in seeking the military and political support of Iran in their decades-long struggle to end social, political, and economic marginalization; hence the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain.

But the real threat is much more serious than merely inciting minorities inside or beside the country to rebel and revolt. The underlying main message coming out of Iran transcends sects and minorities.

The cornerstone of the Islamic revolution, which late Imam Grand Ayatollah Khomeini led and swept away the more powerful and pro-American hereditary rule of the Shah of Iran, was the central idea in his book, "Vilayat-e Faqih" (The Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist), that there is no hereditary government in Islam.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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Thanks for the insight into the Saudi situation, N... by Daniel Penisten on Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013 at 1:01:56 PM