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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter- February 7, 2012

Newsletter- February 7, 2012

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC

February 7, 2012

Saudi Current News CDHR's Commentary and Analysis

The Wrong Time to Promote Islam

 

“The World needs Islamic guidance” Says the King

CDHR's Analysis: In a speech read on his behalf at an influential Muslim scholars' conference in November 2011, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sounded self-assured that “Only Islam’s mercy, light and guidance can provide people with a way forward in life and toward the Hereafter.” The King went on to implore all Muslims to convince non-Muslims to come to and embrace the Muslim faith [i.e., the Saudi brand of Islam, Wahhabi doctrine] because he inexplicably believes that non-Muslims are in need of redemption and “Islam, with its comprehensive divine values and a balanced view of life, is alone capable of rescuing humankind from its current behavioral predicament…”

The King reminded Muslims that it’s their obligation to convert non-Muslims to Islam, “The Muslim Ummah has a responsibility to call people to Islam through its Da’wa work around the globe.” Perhaps King Abdullah is not cognizant of the fact that he is presiding over one of the most religiously oppressed and least politically free countries on earth. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, home to its two holiest shrines, the Quran is its constitution and the Shariah is its law. In other words, Saudi Arabia is ruled in accordance with Islamic teachings, laws and commands, as interpreted by the Kingdom's Hambali/Wahhabi “religious” men.

King Abdullah’s well-timed and pointed plea to the 1.5 billion Muslims during their holiest occasion, the annual pilgrimage rituals, and its far-reaching implications never made it to Western news outlets, despite the fact that the West is his target. One would think that King Abdullah is asking Muslims to perform the impossible given the current slaughtering of Muslims by other Muslims, but he is not. Millions of people around the world are economically hurting, vulnerable and looking for solutions from any source, specially the divine ones.

It is not accidental that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, particularly in Western societies where the overwhelming majority of the populations see Islam as a belief, not as a domineering value system that controls every aspect of its adherents’ lives, perceptions and relations with non-Muslims. The majority of Muslims have been brainwashed into believing that the rule of law, freedom of choice and individual liberty are antithesis to divine laws, therefore blasphemous.

King Abdullah's call on Muslims to spread Islam and its Shariah law must not be taken lightly. He is the “Custodian” of Islam’s two holiest shrines in Mecca and Madina to which most of the world’s 1.5 billion poverty stricken, oppressed and indoctrinated Muslims look for guidance, instructions and money. It would be naïve and myopic to think that the King’s call would fall on deaf ears as many in the West seem to think. After all, he is the absolute ruler of the most religiously and financially influential country in Arab and Muslim lands and beyond.

Prominent Muslim scholars from the prestigious Al-Azhar University and others have described the Saudi brand of Islam, Wahhabism, as enemy number one of Islam and Muslims. The former President of Indonesia Abdulrahman Wahid, a world renowned Muslim scholar himself, called on the international community to unite and defeat the Wahhabi doctrine because it poses a deadly threat to democracies and harmony among people. The West should listen and prevent Islamist ideology from taking root in Western societies, where it will result in social strife, divisions and conflict as is the case in many Arab and Muslim countries and communities.

Some argue that King Abdullah has made changes to rein in extremist activities. King Abdullah has removed a few clerics and some inflammatory phrases from Saudi schools’ text books, eliminated some terrorists in Saudi Arabia and convened interfaith dialogues. While these activities are considered reforms by some, especially in the West, others see them as deceptive window dressing to silence foreign and domestic critics of the debauched Saudi state- imposed doctrine, Wahhabism.

In reality, under King Abdullah’s leadership, Islamist religious fervor has been heightened as a result of implicit and explicit Saudi accusations that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. He has strengthened the Saudi clerics by making it illegal to criticize them domestically and has united Muslim countries, including Iran and Turkey, through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which consists of 57 states and is headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Spread of Wahhabism throughout the world has been exponentially intensified under King Abdullah more than under any of his predecessors.

Nigerian Terrorists Boko Haram: Another Saudi Trophy?

CDHR's Analysis: It has become customary to associate the Saudis with terrorism attacks anywhere in the world and for good reason; Saudi youth are the most readily available to be recruited by terrorists’ organizations to die for Islam. This is due to Saudis’ ubiquitous religious indoctrination in schools, mosques and the government’s tightly controlled media. Whether terror attacks take place in Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia, Pakistan, Lebanon, North Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen, Indonesia, the Philippines, Europe or in the US, Saudi nationals and/or money are most likely to be involved in one form or another. Saudi youth are raised and taught to mistrust non-Muslims and consider them enemy until they submit to Allah’s will and abide by the Shariah law which rejects non-sectarian laws as interpreted by a religious establishment that is appointed by and shares power with the Saudi ruling family.

In a chilling interview, the spokesman of the murderous Islamist Nigerian Boko Haram, Abu Qaqa revealed what many observers have suspected and predicted: The Saudis train and finance the deadly organization. Abu Qaqa said that members of his terror group have received funds and training from the Saudis. ‘During the lesser Hajj [Umrah, last August], our leader travelled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaida there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them.’ The Boko Haram’s objective is to inflict death and destruction on the 70 million Nigerian Christians until ‘...things are being done according to the dictates of Allah.’ Like the Wahhabi trained Taliban extremists in Afghanistan, Boko Haram’s objective is the implementation of Shariah law throughout Nigeria regardless of peoples’ r eligious belief according to Abu Qaqa. ‘There are no exceptions. Even if you are a Muslim and you don't abide by sharia, we will kill you. Even if you are my own father, we will kill you.’

It’s not just the extremist groups that believe the austere Saudi brand of Islam must be promoted throughout the world. Spreading Islam, Islamic banking and Shariah law have been one of the Saudi government’s and its religious establishment’s top priorities since the formation of the Saudi/Wahhabi state in the early 1930s. On one hand, they believe in Islam’s supremacy over other beliefs; and on the other, they know they can use religion to achieve their objectives as they did during the start of their violent movement in the middle of the eighteen century. Saudis and other Arab regimes, like the former Libyan dictator Kaddafi, have encouraged and supported the spread and strengthening of Islam everywhere, especially in the West where religious freedom is guaranteed by secular constitutions. This is evidenced by the Saudi’s support for the Chicago based Nation of Islam’s founder Elijah Mohammed and his successors since the 1950s, just to name one group.

According to well documented facts in The Looming Tower, and a myriad of other publications, the Saudis, government and businesses, are major contributors to mosques, religious schools and Islamic Study Departments in top educational institutions like Georgetown, Harvard, UC Berkeley and Columbia.

In May 2010, Saudi Crown Prince Sultan who died in 2011, summoned the most powerful princes, religious representatives, ministers and royal loyalists to his elaborate Aziziyah Palace in Riyadh to instruct them to “mobilize all modern means available to serve Islam”. He instructed the powerful attendees “to increase support for all Muslim institutions and organizations around the world”. Sultan’s instructions to spread Islam were echoed by his brother King Abdullah in a recent plea read on his behalf to a Muslim scholars’ conference during the peak of Muslim annual pilgrimage Mecca in Nov. 2011.

King Abdullah asked Muslims to spread Islam globally and convert non-Muslims to the faith because, “The world needs the vision and guidance of Islam and Muslims should work hard to make sure this happens.” ‘Islam is a universal message for all mankind until the Day of Resurrection. The Muslim Ummah has a responsibility to call people to Islam through its Da’wa work around the globe’. Extremists take such declarations as a green light to commit mayhem against non-Muslims and Muslim minorities who don’t adhere to the Saudi twisted interpretation of Muslim text books.

Saudi Arabia is Citadel of Religious Manipulation

CDHR's Analysis: The autocratic and theocratic Saudi/Wahhabi ruling dynasties and their descendants have used religion as an effective tool to achieve their domestic and external objectives since they formed their incredibly well constructed union in the middle of the eighteen century. Domestically, Saudi rulers have used religion to legitimize their absolute authority and to justify their draconian policies. They have used the same methods to extract favorable outcomes from their dealings with other countries, especially Western societies most of whom regard Islam as a belief rather than a value system that controls all aspects of its adherents’ lives, behavior, perceptions and relations with non-Muslims.

In a well calculated preemptive strategic move, the Saudi rulers are renewing and intensifying their fondness for Salafi (early period, genesis) Islam practiced during the first three generations that followed the establishment of the Muslim faith by Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century. Addressing a symposium on Dec. 27, 2011, titled “Salafism: A Shariah approach and a national demand,” Crown Prince Naif, first in line for the Saudi throne after King Abdulla, renewed his family’s commitment to ensure that ‘Saudi Arabia would continue to follow the Salafist ideology and denounce those who create doubts about this moderate Islamic ideology and link it with terrorism and extremism’. Calling the Saudi Salafi system “moderate” defies reality on the ground and can only be interpreted to mean that a transition from an autocratic to democratic political structure in Saudi Arabia remains elusive under Prince Naif’s f amily’s rule.

By embracing and advancing Salafism, Prince Naif in reality is pursuing the same objective stated in Al-Qaeda’s ideological manifesto. Had he read the manifesto, he would have found that it was copied from and based on the teachings of Taqi ad-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), a renowned and revered Muslim scholar who is known for his Salafi repudiation of Sufi and Shi’a Muslims and more so of Christianity and its adherents. In addition, Prince Naif should have known by now that Ibn Taymiyyah was a follower and admirer of Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, the founder of the most austere brand of Islam, the Hambali, upon which the zealot Saudi/Wahhabi state’s religion is predicated and physically enforced on all Saudi citizens regardless of their religious orientations.

Renewing their claim to and praising Salafism at this time is not accidental, but is in response to the Arab Uprising and its consequences. The Saudi rulers are terrified by the current Arab people’s Revolt, but for reasons other than the spread of democratic fervor. They are afraid of being marginalized by the rise to power of Muslim parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia, among others. The Saudi autocracies know that the majority of their religiously indoctrinated population is more susceptible to less repressive Muslim rule than to secular forms of governing institutions. The Saudi regime’s worst nightmare is the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ikhwan, in Egypt and their rising influence among the populations of the Gulf region, especially in Saudi Arabia.

During the height of Arab nationalism and the anti-autocratic Arab monarchies era under the tyrannical and charismatic former Egyptian orator President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1960s and 70s, the Saudis went out of their way to support the Muslim Brotherhood group against Nasser. When Nasser turned against the Brothers and hanged their spiritual leader Sayyid Qutb in 1966, the Saudis welcomed the Brothers with open arms and large bank accounts in the hope that they would mobilized their followers in Egypt and elsewhere to overthrow or neutralize Nasser whom the Saudis had supported at one point to keep the Brothers from overshadowing the Saudi/Wahhabi doctrinal influence in the Muslim World. What the Saudi ruling family failed to take into account was the Egyptian historical contempt for the Saudi/Wahhabi rulers whom they consider backward nomads. For example, while under “nominal Ottoman rule,” another charismatic Egyptian leader, Mohammed Ali Pasha, sent his troops to crush the Saudi/Wahhabi first state between 1811and 1818.

While living in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s and 70s, the escapees and exiled Brothers pursued a duplicitous agenda of their own. They formed alliances with and established strong ties with many Saudi clerics and ordinary subjects which resulted, according to the Saudi regime, in the Mecca1979 Uprising and the occupation of Islam’s holiest shrine, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The Uprising was led by a charismatic Saudi leader (messiah, mehdi), Jhaiman Al-Otabi, with the intent of delegitimizing and overthrowing the Saudi ruling family and its religious establishment. That was averted with help from some Muslim and Western governments, see The Siege of Mecca. Until this day, the Saudis blame the Muslim Brothers for radicalizing and inciting the men who carried out Mecca Uprising and subsequent terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Brothers and other Egyptian religious scholars disagree with the Saudi accusations and labeled Wahhabism “as an idea and movement, a mortal threat to Islam and Muslims”. Given the history and practices of both the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brothers, astute observer won’t find it unreasonable to agree with either side.

Now that the Muslim Brotherhood Party has risen to power as a result of the first free elections in Egypt, the Saudis are reportedly supporting the Egyptian Salafi Nour Party to make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood Party does not pose a real threat to Saudi/Wahhabi rule at home and its regional and global influence. The intent of Saudi support for the Salafi Nour Party is to create schisms among Egyptian religious groups as they have done successfully in their own society. The Saudis may find it equally advantageous to support weak liberal groups to form a regime that cannot bring unity, democracy or economic prosperity to Egypt without the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood Party. Even though the Saudi regime’s initial interference in derailing the hard won Egyptian Revolution may succeed, in the long run it’s doomed to fail because neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Nour Party has anything to offer other t han Shariah law. The Egyptian people did no revolt and die to replace a repressive and corrupt autocratic system with an Islamic totalitarian regime.

Saudi Heroines & Western Ostriches

CDHR's Analysis: While President Obama and his European counterparts are going out of their way to assure Muslims, especially the rich Gulf royals, that the West is not “at war with Islam” but rather with terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda, a cadre of Saudi women is unabashedly challenging Saudi religious extremism and its destructive impact on them, their children, society and the international community.

Prominent among those opposing the ferocious, divisive and hate promoting religious extremists is a fearless Saudi Princess, Basma Bint Saud. According to a recent interview by the Independent newspaper, UK, “She is the 115th - and last - child of King Saud, the eldest surviving son of Saudi Arabia's founding monarch Abdul Aziz.” Basma (“Smile” in Arabic) grew up in luxury, was trained by nuns, is a divorced mother of five and a successful restaurateur who is now residing in London to protect her children from possible family reprisal because of her outspokenness. She challenges her family’s tyrannical rule, rampant corruption and dysfunctional institutions which she justifiably blames for the government’s colossal failure to meet its obligations toward its marginalized populations, especially women and children.

One of her targets is the ferocious Saudi government’s religious police, known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or the “Hay’ah” in Arabic. She has correctly challenged their religious legitimacy and their offensive treatment of the public, particularly women. Like many Saudis and human rights groups, she largely attributes the country’s backwardness to the Stone Age mentality and spiteful behavior of the Hay’ah as exemplified by their condescending treatment of people as guilty until they prove their innocence. In one of her piercing and expressive narratives she wrote, “I searched and re-searched in history’s archives, in the Prophet and in his Companions’ books and found no mention of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice; but found a phrase in the Quran that said: All Muslims should promote virtue and prevent vice.”

Princess Basma stands out because of her status and royal affiliations which make her work considerably weighty. However, she is not the only or most productive woman who is challenging the government’s fierce “religious” police and their relentless social, political and economic war against Saudi women whom the illiterate “religious” police consider incomplete human beings, “perpetual minors.” There are many courageous non-royal Saudi women activist pioneers in academia, businesses, finances, media and technical fields, as well as ordinary mothers, sisters and wives who are demanding better and humane treatment including removal of all denigrating restrictions inflicted on women, such as the dehumanizing male guardian system, the driving ban, denial of economic opportunities and forced and childhood marriages which under international declarations on human rights are considered rape and child trafficking.

Women like Eman Al Nafjan, Fawzia Al-Bakr, Wajeha Al-Hwaider, Reem Asaad, Alia Banaja, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Suhair Al Qurashi, Manal Al-Sharif, Ebtihal Mubarak, Hissa Hilal and even two of King Abdullah’s daughters, Sitta and Adella, just to name a few, are in the forefront in the struggle for women’s rights which the religious establishment considers a Western value designed to destroy Islam’s holy traditions, which translate to male domination over every aspect of women’s lives and livelihoods. This institutionalized system of social, political and economic discrimination against half of Saudi society, women, could not succeed if it were not for the blessings of the Saudi ruling elites, especially its staunchest supporter, Interior Minister Prince Naif, the next in line to inherit his family’s throne.

What’s becoming increasingly and inexplicably clear to the Saudi people in general, but specifically to Saudi women and to other human right activists and analysts, is the West’s continued support for the Saudi autocracy at a time when many Western governments support the Arab people’s uprising, with the exception of Bahrain, against despotism, oppression and the rampant squandering of public wealth. The Saudi people hear, read and see the West fighting Muslim terrorists in many parts of the world, and in the meantime, they are supporting a system whose intuitions are well known for their propagation and financing of religious extremists and terrorists worldwide.

Furthermore, many Saudis and other Arab thinkers, analysts and observers in the Arab World have become increasingly suspicious of the West’s overt support for the unprecedented Arab people’s uprising. Many began to theorize that the West is in favor of empowering anti democracy Islamist and Salafist groups as is the case in Egypt and Tunisia now. These speculators argue, mostly in social media and in one-to-one discussions, that by reaching out to and embracing religiously based parties who rose to power as a result of the Arab Uprising, the West has duplicitous objectives. They use the West’s acquiescing to Saudi efforts to derail and/or Islamize the Arab Uprising as further evidence of the West’s hidden objectives.

The most convincing argument about the West’s double standard and assumed objectives is presented by man Saudi women activists. Many Saudi women from all walks of life ask simple questions that are hard to dismiss as conspiratorial or fabricated stories. They ask: If we are willing to face imprisonment, lose our jobs and families, be stigmatized and humiliated under the autocratic and theocratic Saudi system for trying to rid ourselves and the world of dangerous ideologues why does not the West, which claims to be fighting the same extremists, support our struggle publically and unequivocally?

The Saudi women’s march for their legitimate and citizenship rights are unstoppable or reversible whether the Saudi ruling men and their supporters in the West like it or not. Given this irrefutable reality, wouldn’t it be prudent for Western government and their institutions to support Saudi women, especially since they are in the forefront in the fight against religious extremism which poses a real threat to democracies worldwide?

Saudi Arabia Needs Less, Not More, Religious Police (Hay’ah)

CDHR's Analysis: As the Saudi government’s top behavioral, social, religious and political disciplinary and spying agency, the religious police (known caustically as “The Commission for Promotion of Vice and Prevention of “Virtue” is the state’s only entity whose mostly illiterate recruits are given absolute authority to stop, interrogate, humiliate, beat and imprison anyone at anytime, anywhere in the country and receive praise for their barbaric misconduct. They are instructed by their handler Crown Prince Naif, who is also first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to consider all citizens guilty until proven innocent.

Referred to as Mutaween (domesticators) the religious police’s top priority is to make sure that women are camouflaged in black, men and women are segregated in public and that men have to prove that the women they walk with are their wives, mothers or sisters. The religious police are also empowered to make sure that any gathering of more than three or four people is interrupted and dispersed. All of this is done to eliminate any possibility of public cohesiveness that might lead to public unity which the system considers a mortal threat to its absolute rule.

The Mutaween are the most feared and loathed government agency by the overwhelming majority of the Saudis and expatriates. The Mutaween’s overriding task is to instill fear of authority and ensure people’s distrust of each other. As advised by the 16th century Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, the Prince is better off being feared not loved. This is the most used phrase by the religious police: obey God and Wali Elemr, the master of your affairs, the Prince. This is not accidental, but is a convoluted royal scheme designed to deflect the public’s wrath from the real source of their country’s multitude of rampant social, political, religious, economic and educational deficiencies.

The leadership and the management of the religious police is not a straightforward operation. Whoever is appointed by the king to rule it has to make sure that the wish of its top overseer Prince Naif is met despite increasing public condemnation of the religious police’s heavy-handedness and the role they are supposed to be assigned to play. In other words, the public has begun to see that the role of the religious police is anything but religious.

The public’s resentment toward the religious police and the deceptive role they play is not covertly ignored by the royal family. King Abdullah has changed the management of the religious police three times since he inherited his family’s throne in 2005. The recent appointment of Dr. Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh, a member of the ruling family’s power base the Al-Sheikh religious establishment, to manage the violent and mean spirited religious police is seen as a clever maneuver by the King.

Dr. Al-Sheikh has spoken against severe gender segregation and restrictions on women’s right to work in segregated workplaces. However, he is planning to increase the already ubiquitous presence of abrasive religious police. He ‘…has plans to open up even more branches’ and to tame the trigger-happy religious police to ‘…treat people politely and not to lose their temper quickly if they are agitated.’

However, the Saudi people, especially women, have to keep in mind that Dr. Al-Sheikh is a member of the two absolute dynasties that have ruled parts or all of Saudi Arabia since 1744. He and his Al-Asheikh family have a lot to gain by ensuring the continuity of the Al-Saudi ruling family.

Unity Among Gulf Monocracies Doomed to Fail

CDHR's Analysis: Threatened by developing domestic and regional challenges, the six autocratic Arab monarchs of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) huddled in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Dec. 19 and 20, 2011, to strategize against internal and external threats to their regimes. Their fears were voiced by King Abdullah warning that “the security of Saudi Arabia and its Arab neighbors [meaning the ruling dynasties] was being targeted.” He implored the monarchs of the smaller Gulf States to ‘move beyond the stage of cooperation and into the stage of unity in a single entity’, which translates to a formal union dominated by the Saudi ruling family.

Prior to the Riyadh meeting and King Abdullah’s call for unity, the GCC had invited the two remaining autocratic Arab kings of Morocco and Jordan to join the GCC even though they are geographically distant from the Gulf. Indigenous analysts of Gulf dynamics and critics of the ruling dynasties speculated that the intent behind this move was to form a united front among these autocracies against the spread of the pro-democracy Arab Uprising. The GCC’s membership invitation has been shelved due to unfavorable public reaction, especially in the social media since public criticism of the ruling families is impermissible.

King Abdullah’s call for a united Arab Gulf States ‘in a single entity’, ostensibly to protect all GCC members from internal and external threats is destined to fail. Gulf Arab analysts attribute such failure to the fact that the primary objective of establishing a “single entity” is perceived by the smaller states’ rulers as an attempt to consolidate Saudi hegemony over the Gulf States and thus strengthen the Saudis’ bargaining position regionally, particularly regarding future settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, there are more compelling reasons why the “single entity’ proposal would fail.

Prominent among the reasons for the likely failure of the Saudi proposal is the historical mistrust of the Saudi royals among the ruling dynasties of the smaller and weaker Gulf States. Based on their historical experience, the overlords of these smaller Gulf Arab States consider the Saudi royals to be condescending, too rigid, heavy-handed, and confrontational. In addition, the rulers of the smaller States see the Saudi policies as a menace to their “live and let live” strategies, not only within their heterogeneous societies, but also with Iran, with whom they share borders and beneficial relations. The recent transition of power from the ailing and aging Saudi King Abdullah to two well-known pugnacious Princes, Naif and Salman, is more likely to lessen instead of increase cooperation, let alone create unity among the autocracies of the Gulf.

Furthermore, the ruling dynasties of the smaller Gulf States can afford to reject the ambitious Saudi plan to form a “single entity’ which they know would be dominated by the Saudi ruling family and its Wahhabi ideology. In the early 1990s, the West began to shift its military presence from Saudi Arabia to the smaller Gulf States; as time passed, the West found these rulers more responsive to Western needs than the Saudis. The gradual shift of Western dependence from the Saudi ruling family to the rulers of the smaller States has diminished Saudi influence in the region and has rendered obsolete the smaller Gulf States’ need for Saudi protection.

The efforts by the Saudis to recruit the kings of Morocco and Jordan to the GCC cartel in order to fend off the spread of the Arab Uprising to the Gulf have been unsuccessful. This and their apparent failure to unite the Gulf Arab States rulers “in a single entity” under their control are more likely to increase the Saudi rulers’ reliance on domestic oppression and intense use of religion to promote their self-interest. However, pursuing these policies will increase the Saudi people’s discontent, which will to domestic strife and regional isolation, eventually hastening the fall of the Saudi monarchy to the very forces they are trying to escape.

 

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