Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC
November 15, 2010
Saudi News & Analysis
Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami
Saudi Prince: Blame and Double Talk on Iran
Director’s Comment: In a blistering speech at a forum entitled “The Heart of the Conflict in the Middle East” organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, former head of Saudi Intelligence and envoy to Washington Prince Turki Al-Faisal insisted that solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the panacea for all the ills that have plagued the Arab World for centuries. This is a deflective argument that autocratic and theocratic Arab ruling dynasties have used for seventy years. Covertly, most Arabs, especially Palestinians, know that the Arab autocracies have done more damage to them than the people they blame, namely the Israelis, the US and Europe.
After Turki Al-Faisal seemed to have failed to convince a polite but skeptical audience of the Arab regimes’ line of blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for their failures to meet their voiceless populations’ basic needs, he switched promptly to Iran and, in a manner typical of Saudi officials’ maneuvering, declared that "No one denies that a nuclear Iran is a major international danger, but claiming that the U.S. must take military action against Iran to push forward the Israeli-Palestine peace process is to attempt to harvest apples by cutting down the tree."
Even though the Saudis and other Gulf States’ autocratic dynasties express public concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, in reality they conduct normal diplomatic, economic, religious, strategic and personal relations with President Ahmadinejad and his government in ways that contradict their public pronouncements. No doubt these autocrats will not lose any sleep if the Israelis, in collaboration with the US or alone, cripple Iran’s military establishment, as long as they themselves are the beneficiaries.
Despite Iran's autocratic, oil-rich Arab neighbors' overt complaints about its nuclear procurement, their actions and attitude toward Iran tell a different story. Iran remains an active member of the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Congress, consisting of 57 Arab and Muslim states. Iran is also a member and soon to be the chair of the powerful Arab and Muslim dominated oil cartel, OPEC, over which the Saudi dynasty has tremendous influence that could be used to force Iran to change its mind about manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
In addition, Iran's trade, cultural and economic relations with the Arab Gulf states' autocracies are better, stronger and more beneficial than at anytime in recent history, if ever. All of this is a testimonial to the Arab Gulf states regimes’ double talk about Iran's nuclear program and their knowledge that Iran cannot and will not use its nuclear weapon against them and the rest of the overwhelming majority Sunni Muslim countries two of whom, Pakistan and Turkey, are nuclear powers and close allies of the oil rich Arab Gulf rulers.
“Stopping al-Qaeda in Yemen”
Director’s Comment: Western officials and media continue to mislead their readers and viewers into believing that a few hundred men and women, mostly of Saudi and other Arab origins, are the root causes of terrorism and can therefore be eliminated and life will go back to a pre-9/11 normalcy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Al-Qaeda is a symptom of something bigger, more dangerous and cannot be defeated by hunting down those few people who are currently plotting to blow up planes, buildings and markets full of innocent people. Despite many prominent individuals and institutions, such as former President of Indonesia Abdularrahman Wahid's and institutions like Al-Azhar Mosque's public warnings against radical Islam/Wahhabism, the Western officials and media outlets have intentionally avoided dealing with the root causes of terrorism, the omnipresent Saudi doctrine (Wahhabism, radical Islam) or, as many people say, Islam itself.
Unlike other belief systems, Islam is a way of life and governance as practiced in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its shrines. Saudi schools, mosques, state television and media outlets continue to emphasize jihad against the enemies of Islam: non-Muslims, religious minorities, women and pro-democracy, human rights and social justice advocates. Saudi Arabia may be the hornet’s nest, but it is not the only Muslim country where religious establishments call on Muslims to defend their faith against infidels. Such messages are taught in Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan and in most Muslim countries and communities, including some in Europe and America.
Earlier this year, the US director of the CIA, during an interview on a major US TV talk show, said that there are less than 200 Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan and Afghanistan and about the same number in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula. If this is the case, and the top American spy should know, then why do we have four ongoing wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?
Rendering Them Unworthy of Respect
Director’s Comment: A Saudi official, a member of the powerless royally appointed Saudi national Consultative Council (Majlis Alshura) expresses what most of his compatriots experience and observe every day: the Saudi ruling elites’ contempt for their voiceless population.
As a former employee of the oil industry in Eastern Saudi Arabia, I can attest to Dr. Abdulwahab Bin Mohammed Al-Migthil’s (member of Alshura Council) account of how Saudis are constantly reminded that they are unworthy of respect by their government and its agencies.
The living and working arrangements in the Saudi oil facilities in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were divided into three separate and very unequal categories: General, Intermediate and Senior Staff Camps. Saudis were assigned to the General Camp which they shared with snakes, scorpions and stray animals. Non-Saudi non-Western expatriates were assigned to the gated Intermediate Camp. Westerners were given the top prize, the Senior Staff Camp. Of the three camps, the General Camp resembled a dilapidated ghetto in a lush neighborhood, a situation that led some Saudis to form labor committees to organize strikes against the company’s discriminatory polices, but in reality the target was the Saudi ruling family and its demonstrated contempt for Saudi employees. The strikes turned violent and shocked the foundations of the fragile Saudi system.
As I recall, when we (Saudi employees) returned from abroad, we had to wait in long lines at the airports while foreigners were ushered through quick lines and greeted with smiles and welcoming gesticulations. Saudi nationals were interrogated, aggressively searched and ordered to collect their scattered belongings and go through specific exists.
There is a cruelly hidden reason why Saudi authorities treat their subjects (Ra-e-yah or “herd”) with contempt while foreigners, especially Westerners, are treated with respect. The autocratic and theocratic Saudi ruling dynasties came to and maintain power by the sword and by instilling fear of God’s wrath in people’s minds, hearts and souls, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. From its inception in the mid-eighteenth century, the Saudi-Wahhabi program was and is designed to reduce the Saudi people to fearful and dependent beings unworthy of respect from each other, their rulers and from the rest of the world. The evidence of this reality is abundant everywhere, in-and-outside of Saudi Arabia.
These contemptuous treatments of Saudis by the men and institutions that rule them have painfully and dangerously succeeded, at least until now. Saudi society, in general, is among the most divided in the world, is intolerant of differences and worst of all, has accepted a fate of submission to ferocious men, to helplessness and to hopelessness.
However, this cannot continue for long. Saudis, specifically women, youth and many of the educated are becoming less fearful, more vocal and more inward-looking instead of blaming the US, Israel and colonialism for their staggering homegrown political, economic, social and educational failures. This wellspring of discontent is mostly the result of the unprecedented flow of uncontrollable information via the Internet, satellite channels and further globalization of commodities, services and values.
Dr. Abdulwahab Bin Mohammed Al-Migthil’s long list of facts in the Arabic article below is not fiction, nor is he the only one who feels this way. Just imagine how the millions of Saudis who are not as privileged as he is experience every day of their lives.
The Saudi elites and their supporters in the West will lose some power and prestige by empowering pro-democracy and social justice advocates in Saudi Arabia, but they will lose much more, if not everything, by maintaining the pre-modern and unacceptable status quo or by decreeing misleading adjustments.
Saudi Judicial System Remains Arbitrary and Primitive
Director’s Comment: Despite praises heaped on King Abdullah for humanizing and reforming the Saudi judicial system, it remains arbitrary, swift and pre-modern. According to the article (in Arabic) below, a Saudi Judge in Jeddah, the most liberal city in the country, sentenced a 27 year old man to 500 lashes, SR50,000 ($13,333) and five years imprisonment for being accused of wearing women’s attire and owning see-through women’s garments.
Similarly, the highest Council of clerics issued a Fatwa, a religious edict, (see article below, Islam Under attack?) forbidding women from working in any job where they can interact with men. Saudi Arabia is an economically and religiously influential country and yet remains among the most backward countries socially, politically, religiously and educationally. Very few countries, if any, can get away with what the Saudi government and its institutions do and get away with. This is mostly due to the West’s support for the Saudi ruling autocratic family because of oil, market stability and cash.
Read Article (in Arabic)
“Saudi Arabia’s Iraq Policy”
Director’s Comment: Students of Saudi-Iraqi relations know that there has never been a love lost between the two countries even before the Baath Party Revolution in 1958. The Hashemite Kings of Iraq, who ruled until 1958, were from the same dynasties that used to rule the Hijjaz region, the West Coast of what is now Saudi Arabia. As in tribal feuds, the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Iraq did not trust or like each other but did not pose direct threats to each other’s domain. Therefore, things were calmer until 1958 when Iraqi nationalist generals killed King Faisal of Iraq, his family and trusted advisors and steered the country toward Arab radical politics that favored the East (Communism) over the West.
The generals, the Araf brothers, Abdul Kareem Kasim and others were Arab nationalists who found a perfect ally in former Egyptian President Nasser, who was determined to get rid of all Arab monarchies. He succeeded in Yemen and Libya, but not in Jordan and Saudi Arabia because of the Saudi and Hashemite monarchies close ties to the West. The Saudi conflict with Iraq heightened during Saddam Hussein’s reign that climaxed in the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It is believed that Saudi Arabia was Saddam’s target which led the US to send 500,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia to protect its ruling family not only by rebuffing Saddam tanks but also to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Many people believe that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was to prevent Saddam Hussein from destroying the Arab Gulf States’ monarchies and set their rich oil fields afire as he did in Kuwait in 1991.
To make sure their influence in Iraq continues, the Saudis took a direct and indirect role to support their Sunni Muslim kin, especially in Fallujjah and the Anbar region when they learned of US plans to get rid of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Saudi support of the insurgent minority Sunni Muslims pushed the majority Iraqi Shiites to seek help from the Iranians with whom they share the same brand of Islam and a long border.
The Saudi policy toward and design on Iraq go much further. They fear a successful democratic Iraq will encourage Saudis to demand political, social, economic and religious reform and power sharing with the Saudi dynasty. Furthermore, the Saudis want to make sure Iraqi oil production remains low so that the Saudis continue to be the main producer, exporter of petroleum and manipulator of the international oil market through OPEC. The Saudis keep the oil consumers on leash especially the West. This is mostly done to ensure the West’s, specifically the US, protection of the Saudi royal family from external and domestic threats.
Islam Under Attack?
Director’s Comment: The theocratic and autocratic Saudi ruling men, their controlled media, apologists in the West and many Saudi citizens, who have no choice but to heed their government and media which filters and in many situations manufactures information and continue to accuse the West of distorting the Muslim faith. Saudis argue that Islam is a religion of tolerance, equality and peace; yet reality on the ground in Saudi Arabia and most Muslim countries does not match such claims. They also argue that the West does not know enough about Islam; therefore, Westerners’ suspicions of Muslims and their faith are racially, culturally, politically and ethnically motivated. Much of this came to light during the unfinished and emotionally charged debate about constructing a mosque near where the World Trade Center towers used to stand before Saudi terrorists obliterated them.
This argument is ridiculously disingenuous, to say the least. Prior to the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attack on the US by mostly Saudi nationals and the international attention it generated, very few people knew or cared to know about Islam or any other religion besides Christianity and Judaism. The attack forced the international community, especially the media, to focus on the root causes of what pushed young Muslims to commit these and other heinous crimes against each other and non-Muslims.
Saudi Arabia and its rigid Wahhabi brand of Islam, school books, policies toward women, religious minorities and non-Muslims became the focus of unprecedented investigation by Western media, religious communities and scholars (including Muslims), human rights and religious freedom advocates. They read the Quran, the Shariah, the Hadith, their interpretations, applications and implantations in Arab and Muslim countries and Muslim communities in the West. This undertaking was not difficult because Muslim textbooks are written in and translated to dozens of languages. In addition, many non-native Arabs speak fluent Arabic and some media outlets, civic groups and governments hired some of the most learned Muslim scholars to interpret what precisely Muslim text books say about non-Muslims, Muslim minorities and women.
The findings were not very pleasant or complimentary. The media, researchers and officials were appalled by what they discovered and by what it meant for democracies and free societies. They wrote articles, books and even started to teach what Muslim textbooks say about non-Muslims. This unprecedented exposure of Islam and Muslims forced the Saudi government, for example, to remove some inflammatory phrases from its school textbooks, but this was not enough to silence its extremist religious establishment from continuing its religious incitements against non-Muslims, Muslim minorities and especially its unnatural and inhumane treatment and marginalization of women.
The Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization based in Washington, DC. CDHR provides new and accurate information for the benefit of the public, the business community and policy makers about the current situation in Saudi Arabia. CDHR’s goal is to help bring about a peaceful democratic transition from a single-family autocratic rule to a participatory political system where the rights of all Saudi citizens are protected under the rule of civil laws.
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