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US-Saudi Rift

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

November 20, 2013

Diminishing Influence And Isolation: Causes for US-Saudi Rift

Commentaries and Analysis

Saudi Arabia Without America?

CDHR’s Commentary: While Saudi streets are not filled with demonstrators calling for the overthrow of their absolute monarchy at this point, something else is emerging that could expedite the downfall of the House of Saud: the United States has begun looking after its interests in Arab and Muslim countries without relying on Saudi middlemen. The Saudi royals have spent decades manipulating American decision-makers, media, businesses, and educators into believing that the authoritarian monarchs are the best defenders of US interests in the Middle East.

Dreadfully, the Americans’ reliance on Saudi mediations among adversaries and interpretation of events and trends in Arab and Muslim countries over the years have undermined US influence and credibility and strengthened the Saudi political and religious position and influence among most Arabs and Muslims. However, things seem to be changing.

The Bush Administration, whose tumultuous term in office was in its embryonic stage when the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US by mostly Saudi nationals occurred, first began to question the prudence of trusting the Saudis to promote and protect US interests. That was a game-changer, the beginning of an irreversible trend. Despite clumsy, and in one illustration, humiliating beginnings in its outreach to Arabs and Muslims, the Obama Administration continued what President Bush started and even intensified America’s role in conducting its strategic, military and diplomatic policies in the Greater Middle East in spite of the Saudis’ and others’ private and public protestations and threats.

Nowhere can the irreconcilable disagreements between the Obama Administration and the Saudis be more blatant than in US policy toward Iran and Syria. The Saudis want the US and others to invade and topple the Syrian and Iranian regimes under the pretext of sparing Syria its regime’s onslaught and preventing nuclear proliferation by Iran, while the US is looking for diplomatic and economic solutions. The lack of Americans’ (government and people) appetite for more wars in the Middle East infuriates the Saudis and has sent them to all corners of the earth to seek support for their goal of regime change in Iran and Syria. They seem to have been unable to garner any support for their campaign. The Russians, the Arab League, the UN, and the European Union have all turned the Saudis down.

Other reasons for the plummeting of US-Saudi relations include US support for the Arab masses’ uprising and toppling of pro-Saudi dictators, such as Mubarak of Egypt, Bin Ali of Tunisia, Salah of Yemen and even Gadhafi of Libya. Additionally, the US did not endorse, publically or privately, the Saudis’ invasion of Bahrain to help their autocratic Al-Khalifa cousins crush the pro-democracy majority movement in that small but strategic island, home to the US Fifth Fleet.

The US decision to pursue its interest and conduct its policies in the Greater Middle East directly not only demonstrates the Saudi royals’ dispensability, but increases their isolation from their most traditional Western defenders. The question that the US and other powers, especially non-Muslims, should be pondering now is what the desperate Saudi royals will do to stay in power at home and to maintain their diminishing influence regionally and globally.

One scenario comes to mind: they will intensify their reliance on religious extremists and terrorist jihadis, in one form or another, to pursue their objectives, as they do in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Will the Saudi rulers use this tactic against their Western “friends?” They already have, and worse is likely yet to come unless the Saudi theocratic and autocratic ruling dynasties realize that using terrorism and extremism to blackmail others will come at a very high price.

Unless the US Acquiesces, The Princes Will Retaliate?

CDHR’s Commentary: A number of current and former US officials, some media outlets and echoing think tank experts in and out of Washington are warning the US Administration against playing with fire when it comes to upsetting the Saudi ruling princes. They argue that the mighty desert rulers could penalize the US if Washington does not capitulate. This is in response to a barrage of threats, accusations and condemnations of the US and the UN for failing to invade Syria and topple its tyrannical Assad regime, whom the Saudis consider heretics (the Assads are Alawites, non-Sunni Muslims) and a proxy for Iran, which is the only remaining strategic, economic and religious threat to the Saudi’s dwindling autocratic and theocratic regional and global  stardom.

The Washington’s analysts argue that the angry Saudi princes could use oil as a retaliatory weapon, unleash terrorists to harm US interests and national security, procure nuclear weapons, expel US forces from the Persian Gulf and mobilize Palestinians against Israel, among other things. These warnings are based on a rash of accusatory speeches and interviews by two former and current heads of the Saudi intelligence agency, former ambassadors to the US, first cousins and brother in-laws, Princes Bandar bin Sultan and Turki Al-Faisal.

There is only a small detail the analysts’ seem to have overlooked: their retaliatory predictions have been practiced, in one form or another, by the Saudi royals and their proxies for years. Noticeably ignored by many analysts are the fundamental reasons for Saudi displeasure with the US Administration: Americans doing what’s in their country’s best interest, which is not the same as the Saudis’. Also missing from the intense, but short-lived discourse was the Saudi’s dwindling influence and fear of public uprising against the royals’ autocratic rule.

Having witnessed the expiration of some of their powerful counterparts and close allies in the Arab World, the Saudi rulers know that it’s only a matter of time before their oppressed population rises against them. Additionally, an even more distressing turn of events for the Saudi royals is that the US seems to be bent on reviving its relations with Iran after thirty years of tensions between the two countries.

In the long run, US interest might be better served by having good relations with Iran than with the Saudis, especially after the loathed theocratic Mullahs disappear from the political scene, which better relations with the US could expedite. With a population of about 80 million, Iran is militarily powerful, strategically located and more technologically advanced than any Arab country. If the US were to strengthen its ties with Iran and help stabilize Iraq, the eroding of the Saudi royals’ domestic power and global influence is inconsequential.  

Have The Saudi Princes Overestimated Their Significance?

CDHR’s Commentary: The recent Saudi princes’ denouncements of the US and the UN Security Council for not invading and toppling the regimes in Syria and Iran have exposed the true nature of the Saudi ruling family. Saudi princes have manipulated the US and the UN’s useless General Assembly to endorse and do their dirty bidding in and out of the Middle East for decades. Now they seem unable to convince anyone of the necessity for regime change in Syria and/or Iran. This is due to their inability to realize that the influence they have is artificial. It’s based on replaceable and recyclable materials and strategic regional entities.

The Saudi rulers should conclude that their influence has outlived its weight. This is an opportunity for the princes to spend the billions of dollars they lavishly waste on buying artificial security for themselves on human development and participatory political reforms. The royals’ options are shrinking and their purchased influence is dwindling. The time to transform Saudi society is now, otherwise the royals will face the same fate as their tyrannical counterparts in the rest of the Arab World.

A Lesson for The Saudis and Other Gulf Arab Oligarchs

CDHR’s Analysis: The irreversible homegrown Arab masses’ war against tyranny exposed the Arab autocracies’ and theocracies’ oppression of and atrocities they commit against their populations for centuries. Not only did the Arab peoples’ uprising (Arab Spring) and knocking down some of their entrenched powerful dictators like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Mouammar Al-Gathafy of Libya, Zein El-Abidine Bin Ali of Tunisia and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen empowers the “Arab Street” for the first time in their tumultuous history, but have paved the way for the removal of the residual absolute Arab regimes. This eventuality seem to resonate among the foreign supporters and beneficiaries of the ruling dynasties of the Gulf Arab states where fervor for regime change seems to be gaining momentum.

Looming signs of trouble appear to be in the making for the ruling families of the Gulf, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Having been accustomed to exert disproportionate influence on regional and global regimes and turn most conflicts in Arab and Muslim countries in their favor for a long time, the Saudis are becoming increasingly irrelevant despite their wealth and willingness to use it as they wish, especially on buying domestic loyalties and foreign protection.

No more the Saudi royals’ diminishing influence is obvious than in their failure to prevent the overthrow of their powerful Arab authoritarian allies and to convince their Western supporters of the Saudis’ claim of being the best defenders of the US and other Western interest in Arab and Muslim countries. Realizing that the West was not going to sign on the Saudi agenda, the Saudis tried to find other sources of foreign protection, but were rebuffed by major powers like Russia as well as regional recipients of Saudi largess like Egypt and the rest of the members of the irrelevant Arab League.

Having failed in their in attempt to find substitute for the US and order to regain some of their diminishing influence and restore their tarnished image regionally and globally, the Saudi princes turned down the UN Security Council symbolic seat which they spent years lobbying to obtain. They blame their rejection of the seat on the US and the UN Security Council for failing to invade and topple the Syrian dictator and to create a Palestinian state in Palestine. These failures of the Saudis and their Gulf brethren autocratic dynasties in the Gulf should be taken seriously by these rulers. They should either abdicate or share real power with their restless populations. As the cliché goes, half of the loaf is better than no loaf at all.

Heavens’ Destructive Wrath is fast approaching: Saudi women are determined to drive

CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi government’s paid narcissistic power-mongering clerics are determined to keep the country stagnant, divided and unstable. The government’s religious agency’s relentless campaign to vilify and ostracize the female half of Saudi society is neither moral, accidental nor in the interest of society. Their intended objective is political, economic, social and mental control as opposed to their discredited claims of maintaining religious and cultural purity which in their eyes are superior to all others even though they have nothing to show for such entitlement except oppression and injustice. Their continued assault on women, specifically, but society in general, will only lead to more anger, frustration, germination of antipathy and social strife. These are ingredients for violent explosion.

Denying women their basic citizenship rights is designed to keep the population divided and to exonerate the system of meeting its obligations to all citizens. By ensuring that half of Saudi society, its women, is unaccounted for relieves the system from creating decent jobs, national cohesiveness, a science-based and competitive educational system and a sound workforce which are the bases for civil society, accountability and transparency. A divided, unemployed, dependent-on-handouts and disunited population is easier to rule, control and exploit. If the clerics’ job is religious guidance as they deceivingly claim, they would not be terrorizing people physically, using sectarianism to discriminate against minorities, suppressing women and emphasising fear of authority and Heaven’s wrath if the population does not totally submit to the king’s wishes and the state’s personalized and dated institutions.

The rulers’ continued refusal to allow women to drive is indicative of their major failures to understand basic logic, common sense and to adhere to one of nature’s simplest laws: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unless the authorities, the medieval system’s creators and operators, recognize that their ways of ruling is not only antithesis to modernity and its fast changing and ubiquitous demands, they will only expedite the demise not only of their rule, but possibly of their survival. They don’t seem to comprehend basic reality: Women’s need to drive is not a luxury, it’s a response to an imposition of modern life and economic necessities, let alone a basic human right.

People like Sheik Nasser el-Omar, a paranoid and possessed teary cleric, should not be deciding what’s right or wrong in the 21stcentury. He belongs to the 7th century epoch when locusts were the main meals for the few desert dwellers and camels were their means of transportation. One of his conspiratorial theories and unfounded interpretation of reality and logic is exemplified by his claim that America is behind Saudi women’s basic and legitimate demand to drive. He claimed that getting-behind-the-wheel day is made in America because its organizers chose a Christian date, October 26.  ‘Why was the date of the protest’ (by women2drive) given a Western date instead of Islamic date? ‘This suggests the campaign was made in the U.S.A.’

Unemployed Youth: Waiting to Explode

CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi population is getting younger, savvier, more creative, less religious, restless and see very little political and social change that could improve their lives. “About 27 percent of the Saudi labor force aged 20 to 29 is unemployed.” The system is not doing anything for this time bomb except bribing them (government’s handouts) to stay home, roam malls in the hope of getting glimpses of mostly invisible women (covered in black garment from head to toe except for the luring eyes) and use social media to pass time and talk to each other about the royal family’s corruption and repression. This boredom and sense of hopelessness are ingredient for instability and civil strife, at best.

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