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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - April 02, 2009

Newsletter - April 02, 2009

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Saudi News

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami


Facing an Uncertain Future

Director’s Comment: In less than a month, the disenfranchised population of Saudi Arabia went from high hopes for political and social opening to a state of uncertainty and confusion, or as one person described it, a collective state of depression. This is due to King Abdullah’s recent contradictory actions.

In mid-February, King Abdullah took advantage of his powerful brothers’ weakened grip on power due to their squabbling over inheritance of the gravely-ill Crown Prince Sultan’s positions. Crown Prince and Defense Minister Sultan, Abdullah’s arch contender, was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in Nov. 2008 in New York and was told there was very little that could be done to prolong his life. King Abdullah’s two other equally-powerful half brothers, Interior Minister Naif and Selman (Governor of the capital), have been spending most of their time with their full brother Sultan, first in New York, then in Morocco and back to New York where Sultan remains today.

King Abdullah has been trying to consolidate power under his wing of the family since 1996. Sultan’s illness, and the fact that his full brothers travelled with him seeking guidance, favoritism and blessings, gave the King the opportunity he had been waiting for. He removed some very powerful religious clerics, appointed his son-in-law as minister of education and a woman to be his deputy for girls’ schools. Abdullah also rearranged some military, judicial and religious scholars’ positions and included the other four brands of Sunni Islam in religious councils, which had been dominated by the Hambali (Wahhabi) brand of Islam.

These changes of personnel were welcomed by the Saudi people and seen as positive steps, especially the removal of the loathed religious extremists who are allied with, and under the control of, Interior Minister Naif. These changes were to take effect on Feb. 28, but on March 27 King Abdullah dropped a bombshell on “his people” by decreeing Interior Minister Prince Naif to be a second deputy, meaning he could be the next King if first deputy Sultan dies or is incapacitated.

Naif is the most hated member of the large Saudi royal family. He is the head of the notorious religious police, which many Saudis describe as a legal terrorist organization. Naif is also in charge of the prison system, interrogations, omnipresent informants, police and other security apparatus. He is known for his public opposition to equal rights for women and religious minorities and he considers US and European democratic values as antithetical to God’s will and a threat to all Muslims and their faith.

The Saudi people are dismayed by Abdullah’s appointment of Naif as his deputy, particularly so at a time of promised change and in light of the fact that Naif and his wing of the family (dubbed the Sudairi Seven) are perceived to be in opposition to Abdullah and his domestic and foreign policies. The hopes that surfaced just a short while ago are now dashed by the possibility that the most detested man in the country might inherit the Saudi throne. Read Original Article

Arab Summits: Unity Among Equals

Director’s Comment: It is hard to understand why Arab regimes continue to meet or talk about Arab unity when they and their voiceless population know in advance that the result of their meetings is always the same: insulting each other and blaming the US, colonial powers, and especially Israel for all Arab failures at home.

One Arab historian described Arab summits as “unity among equals” by which he meant that none of the twenty-two Arab regimes are democratically elected, and those that indulge in “elections” win by 99% because they round up the opposition and throw them in prisons during the run up to the “election.” Arab summits are single-issue oriented - The Arab-Israeli conflict - and this issue is normally discussed as the second item on the agenda after personal attacks and accusations.

This summit meeting in Doha, Qatar was no different than the dozens that have preceded it. Right after the host, the Emir of Qatar, finished his welcoming remarks, Moammar Kaddafi, the ruler of Libya, grabbed the microphone and addressed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, “I have been waiting for six years to tell you that you are the liar. You were made by Britain and protected by the United States.” This is in response to a comment made by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, now King, in a summit meeting in 2003, when he referred to Kaddafi as, “a British-made and an American agent.” After Kaddafi’s stinging attack on the Saudi King, who angrily stormed out of the conference room, Kaddafi continued to describe himself as “the dean of the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa and the leader of the faithful.” Read Original Article

Time For a Change Before Change Forces Itself

Director’s Comment: The following article explains how unstable the Saudi rulers are. This is partially the reason the notorious Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif was appointed deputy to the King. Prince Naif is known for his anti-minority, anti-Women, anti-reformers and anti-non-Muslim contemptuous and ruthless polices.

By continuing its oppression and marginalization of its minorities, women and democratic reformers, the Saudi ruling family will only lead the country to more instability, restlessness and rebellious activities from all groups. The Saudi ruling family should start thinking and acting differently. One way to calm people down is to share power with them. This means free elections, regional autonomy and the building of civil society.

The continued oppression and marginalization of religious minorities, as well as the exclusion of women and democratic reformers, will only lead to more instability and invite exterior groups and states to defend their religious brethren in Saudi Arabia. Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the large Shiite communities in the Persian Gulf region, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Egypt and others will intervene to help the Saudi religious minorities. This will force the US to intervene militarily to protect the Saudi and other Gulf autocratic kings, emirs and sheiks so they can maintain the flow of oil without which world economies would collapse.

This is what the West has done for at least one hundred years and look at what has been achieved - instability, insecurity, extremism and terrorism. The US, especially, should reach out to democratic reformers in and outside of the ruling family and promote civil society because the present political arrangement is incapable of accommodating the needs, demands and expectations of the increasingly restless and modernizing population. Read Original Article

First Victim of Naif’s Appointment

Director’s Comment: A group of Saudi progressive men, Ansar Al-Mar’ah (Supporters of Women), has been seeking the government’s approval to establish an organization to support full rights for Saudi women; but the group decided to call it quits after Naif was appointed deputy to the King. Even though the reason given for the group’s decision to pull the plug is bureaucratic fatigue, some of them admit privately that trying to establish anything that might imply independent civil society in Saudi Arabia is dangerous, and under Naif it would be suicidal. Read Original Article

National Instability led to Naif’s Appointment

Director’s Comment: King Abdullah was quoted as saying that appointing Naif as his deputy is in the best interest of the country. Some Saudi analysts took this to mean Saudi Arabia is facing some threats from its oppressed religious minorities, women and possibly expatriates.

Some religious minorities have demonstrated against abuses by Saudi religious police recently. The government’s harsh reaction, spearheaded by Naif’s Ministry of Interior, led a Shiite cleric in Eastern Arabia to threaten Shiite secession from the kingdom unless they are treated with dignity and as equal citizens.

The Saudi religious minorities have suffered severe discrimination under Saudi-Wahhabi rule since the inception of the state in 1932. The Shiite regions are the least developed areas in the county even though the national wealth, oil, is located in Eastern Saudi Arabia where the majority of the Saudi Shiites have resided long before the existence of the Saudi-Wahhabi state. Read Original Article (Arabic)

De Facto Crown Prince

Director’s Comment: The newly appointed deputy to the King, Prince Naif, met with senior military officers as his first order of business. This means he is more likely than not to become Crown Prince and defense minister. Some Saudis believe that Abdullah’s motivation to appoint Naif as his deputy was to remove Naif from the ministry of interior, which he had managed for many decades, and hand it to a less controversial royal or even commoner. Naif’s first comments since his appointment sound like he is going to follow the same polices he has thus far: Islam will be the overriding tool of ruling, which means continuing his support for religious extremists as the state’s best defense. Read Original Article

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