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West Asia: Saud Family Wants to Imprison the Entire Peninsula

Paper No. 6273              Dated 30-June-2017

  Guest Column By Ravi Sundaralingam

The 13 points demand made by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar, their erstwhile cousins and co-sponsors of Wahabi/ Salafi -Jihadi extremism/ militancy, is weird as anything one can imagine.

We have grouped the Saudi demands into two categories to understand the mind-sets writing these demands.

Part 1 lists five that deal with Saudi views on Freedom, Society and National Sovereignty.

Part 2 lists the rest that exhibits inflated Saudi regional/ global ambitions

{See Notes 1, these notes in the article give more information and context.}

Even with threadbare knowledge of (i) international laws, (ii) UN Human Rights Charter, (iii) Saudi support for Jihadists world over, (iv)  Complexity of the geopolitics in and adjoining regions, and (v) Human/ strategic/ cultural indexes on Saudi Arabia, one would be amazed at the Saudi,

* Intolerance to even mildest alternative.

*  Hatred towards ‘freedom of information’.

*Need for total control over ‘subjects’ and other people.

*Ignorance about notions of nations and sovereignty.

*Ambitions for regional/ global role.

In fact, the Saudis have even questioned Pakistan’s position on Qatar and warning them of the consequences if it did not side with them.

Why are the Saudis (suddenly) acting like this?

We note, it is not the first time Saudis behaved in this ‘inexplicable’/ ‘irrational’/ ‘bold’ manner.

{See Notes 2}

Most common answers by the media commentators follows the lead from the stock-market / bank broad-sheet columnists like the FT and WSM.

If taken seriously we will learn about the intricacies of ‘Saud Family politics’ and will be forced to see progressive signs in all these. 

Young Princes Palace coup has the following according to these writers.

1.     Old-guards are insular and religiously and socially conservative. They now pushed aside new era by a palace load of ‘Young Princes’ waiting to usher in a new era.

2.     In the ‘new era’

               a.      Women will be “better off”.

               b.     Religion will be secondary.

                c.      The ‘holy peninsula’ will transform into a modern tech-park; total metamorphism.

Why? Because ‘religious police’ will have reduced role.

Do we have evidence for this assertion? None!

3.     Take on the ‘Shia-power’ from Morocco to Malaysia working closely with Israel (this they write in codes or ‘softer’ language’).

4.      Saudis recently started their war against ‘Shia-influence’ against the Houthis who follow the Zaidism a branch of Shia Islam, in Yemen.

5.      They also heavily backed Sunni-Jihadists in Syria with the single aim of toppling Assad, who is an Alawite, another related to Shia and enjoys the support of other minority groups including Christians.

6.     Helping cousins to suppress the majority in Bahrain like Saddam used to in Iraq.

 

What are our arguments/ answers?

Strategy to extinguish culture-clash?

If Jihadists’ cause is considered beyond socio-economic issues and explanations then we must accept the “culture-clash” proposed by the Jihadists/ suggested by Huntington.

 *  ‘Secular’ forces must consider ways to counter.

                *  self-reforming Christendom is socio-psychologically closer to secular forces.

   *  Alliance of the two is inevitable

  *  World powers, including china and Russia, irrespective of their ideologies or working relations with Islamic states will and must have self-protection as part of their strategy.

That strategy would inevitably target Saudis. Why?

*  By their own claims Saudi is the ‘cultural/ religious centre’ (own claim) for true Islam (Sunni-Salafi/Wahhabi).

*  Besides, it is the most financially equipped Islamic state with history of supporting Islamic causes (even for their newly found resolve against ‘terrorism’).

Purpose?

*  To minimise Sunni-extremism/ and influence all the way to central Asia and beyond.

*  Arab-peninsula is a strategic land mass; (i) vital for the sea lanes connecting the continents, and (ii) logistically placed in the Indian Ocean.

* In time, the importance of Saudi oil/-wealth will be downgraded against worries about its true self.

Leading nations do not wait for that time to arrive.

Fire-fighting is not a strategy.

They would have at least a basic plan, if not a fully coordinated strategy, to counter any threats.

{Something that we should deduce from statements like, “Alliance (relation) with Saudis does not mean we share the same value”.}

Saudi-response:

*  Saudis may be boorish, not necessarily totally blind.

*  They can not be oblivious to the fact world powers are not in favourable for their,

(i)             Ambition to dominate Sunni-Arab Politics or

(ii)            Islamic agenda.

Saudis have already experienced ‘defeats’ for their strategy in the Syrian war.

The groups they natured and supported along with Qatar have received almost total defeat since Russians entered in a big way. Russia entry may have given bitter taste to the Western strategists but, it is hardly plausible it did without a wink and a nod.  

China has backed the Syrian state throughout and Trump’s policy may be confusing but the strategists will ensure that doesn’t give new life to Saudi favoured groups.

*Saudis know ‘Friendly-West’ would come after them at some point.

* Throwing money at the feet by buying weapons that they have no capacity to use would not be enough to placate the West on the long-run.

Intermediate strategy of Saudis

 Shed the image of supporting ‘terrorism’.

 Question for the Saudis, “How to break out of a possible ‘check-mate’?

Realign with ‘Western interests’ in the region and work along its most preferred ally, Israel to ensure Saudi geopolitical assets do not degrade.

Shedding ‘terrorist’ image:

The  Easiest way is to accuse erstwhile partner (Qatar) of “supporting terrorism”. Why easy?

Having been ‘partners’ in Sunni-causes world over, ‘evidence’ would be at hand.

‘Other evidences’ can be brought out by regimes/ states hostile to Qatar, like Egypt/ Bahrain / Israel.

Qatar can be regionally/ politically isolated quite easily because it is trying to be different to others in terms of values such as ‘relative freedom of expression’ and ‘relative-individual freedoms’. Al-Jazeera/ other media outlets are symbols of these fundamental differences.

{See Notes 3} 

2.     While the strategy is to

a.      Make the West turn their attention away from Saudis and start to focus on Iran and

b.     Bring Turkey into disrepute.

c.      Working with Israel in the local projects like Egypt and against Iran gives the strategy a stealthy approach.

Conclusion:

 

Saudis blaming the Qataris as terrorists and working along Israel are an ad hoc typically Saudi way to come out fighting for self-preservation.

If their ambition of leading the Sunni-World is something that has evolved irrespective of their capacity to do so, and as a consequence of the destruction of the ‘Arab-powers’ like Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, which were built on false premises.

Notes 1

Saudi demands (13)

Part 1

1.      Shut down al-Jazeera (+ its affiliate stations)

2.      Shut down other news outlets: Arabi 21, Rassd, Al-Araby, Al-Jadeed & Middle East Eye.

3.      End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs.

Don’t give citizenship to people wanted by Saudi, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain Saudi, Saud Friends (SF). Revoke the Qatari citizenships that are contrary to this.

4.      Stop all contacts with political opposition against SF and hand over files of past records.

5.      Hand over the ‘wanted’ from the 4 SF, freeze their assets, and provide all records.

Part 2

6.      Militarily, politically, socially and economically align Qatar with Gulf, meaning Saudis (and Arab countries).

7.      Close Iranian Embassy and curb ties.

Only trade & commerce allowed by US (and according to international sanctions) with Iran.

8.      Terminate all military presence of Turkey and cooperation.

9.      Stop support for anyone deemed to be terrorists by SF and US (and other countries).

10.   Sever all ties with terrorists groups such as Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic state, al-Qaida and Hezbollah and declare them as terrorist groups.

11.   Pay compensations for the SF due to past record.

12.   Consent to show ‘books’ for the next 10 years (monthly for the 1st year).

13.   Ten days to agree to these demands.

Notes 2

Saud’s footsteps

a.      Despite the patronage, huge support, and protection from Britain to defeat other tribal leaders and establish the Saudi Kingdom, its founder Ibn Saud signed oil deals with US (companies) much to the dismay of the British. Though declaring Saudi Arabia to be neutral during WW II, Ibn Saud gave refuge to the German ambassador to Iraq who was accused of being the organiser of oil pipe-lines bombings.

b.      While purporting to be the ally of the West, Saudi involvement in the wars in the region contrary to Western interests were clear. “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” is one of the excerpts from the ‘intelligence’ documents received by the then US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton.

“Who blew up the World Trade Centre? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi- take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” shouted Trump the candidate (Fox News, February). Meanwhile he was busy registering 8 companies in the desert ‘kingdom’. After the his visit and doing a bit of on-the-spot ok-corky with the Bedouin tribal elders with sword his twits even suggested that he swallowed the Saudi-story (contrary to the US strategists).

c.      Though prosing as the guardian and supporter of Arab interests, Saudis do not hesitate to Arab-assets degraded/ destroyed. Palestinians are no longer an Arab asset, more of a liability. Egypt once the ‘Arab-superpower’ cut down to size with no hope of ever achieving its strategic heights. Saudis ensured assets or not the democratically elected (June 2012) Islamic party would be deposed and helped the military back to power (July 2013). Saudis even managed to strip Egypt’s of its assets, by ‘buying’ two strategically important islands in the Red Sea from the grateful and cash-strapped military rulers. The islands Tiran, (popular destination for Red Sea divers) and Sanafir, control a narrow shipping lane that leads to and from the ports of Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan (Haaretz, 28 June 2017)

Notes 3

Saudis/ Qataris

·       Saudi and Qatar are absolute monarchies, where the King/ Emir is the ultimate power.

·       Sharia is the rule of law for both.

      However, Sharia is mainly about personal conduct and very little about government / governance.

 

*  Admission of this fact made Emir of Qatar to allow for a constitution with some notions of citizenship, personal freedom, freedom of expression and civic rights adopting ideas from abroad in accordance with Quran.

·  Qatar also has a Legislative Assembly (45 members) with a Prime Mister heading it.

  “After the elections”, which has been postponed several times by Emir 30 of these, will be ‘elected’ rather than appointed by Emir.

·       Qatar (only has 10% registered voters) even had a referendum on constitution in 2003, according to which there will be a ‘constitutional monarchy’ aided by new legislative assembly.

 In this context, in comparison to the arch Islamic-conservatism in the peninsula, Qatar would seem a progressive state.

·       In contrast Saudis have no written constitution and considers Quran as their constitution.

An Advisory Council has been promised by former king but nothing happened until now.

However, in 1992 former king Fahd ordered a compilation tribal regulations and cultural practices to give a book of laws, with some protection against authorities (not to be confused with rights).

* In fact, ‘2014 terrorism act’ (most draconic according to Freedom house) further curbs individual liberties and promote repression against ‘free expression’.

·       Al-Jazeera/ Arabi 21/ Rassd/ Al-Araby/ Al-Jadeed/ Middle East Eye

a.      Qatari funded Al-Jazeera (Arabic/ English) has been an irritant to most of the Arab states.Why?

It brought live news to the masses with more candour than any of their media networks.

It was the channel that brought directly to Arabs homes the wars in Afghanistan/ Iraq/ Syria from their beginnings.

 

It had live discussions/ phone-in programs that discussed Islam ‘freely’ allowing for ‘controversial’ comments from Muslim audience.

The network even allowed the Israelis to speak on an Arab-channel, almost blasphemous.

It is even credited for its part in the ‘Arab-Spring’ that brought some changes in the Arab political landscape.

 

It is often accused of being biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest socio-cultural political party, considered an alternative to violent Jihadists. However, the party is not necessarily averse to violence even though it won the elections in Egypt in 2012, disposed by the military in 2013.

b.      Al-Araby/ Al-Jadeed on the other hand are run by a media company started by an ex-Israeli Arab parliament member, and considered more progressive than Al-Jazeera.

No wonder most of the Arab states hate these networks?

Not strange that Saudis and their Arab friends wanted these stations shut and their ‘subjects’ shut away from even the basic information from the beginning.

 

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