Saudi Arabia needs powerful enemies more than ever

Tariq Alhomayed, Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, advises his readers that they should develop their understanding of the Washington bombing plot by paying attention to official statements — not the media. As the editor of a publication supporting the Saudi government, I guess he sees himself as more of a mouthpiece of government than as a journalist.

Reviving one of the favorite claims of the neocons, Alhomayed insinuates that al Qaeda is a proxy for Iran:

Had the planned assassination of the Saudi Ambassador succeeded – God forbid – we would have seen a statement issued by al-Qaeda claiming that the operation was in retaliation to the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the real story would be lost as usual.

Alhomayed then gets even more carried away by likening Saudi Arabia to the World Trade Center and Iran to the 9/11 hijackers:

Tehran wants to target the only high-rise building in our region, namely Saudi Arabia, more than ever before. With the consecutive impact of the Arab political earthquake upon most principal Arab states, only one Arab edifice remains intact; Saudi Arabia, with its religious, economic and political weight.

What for others is likened to Spring, for the Saudis feels like an earthquake.

Ironically, Saudi Arabia and Iran both face the same enemy: democracy. Yet each must direct attention away from this internal threat by pointing to an external and existential threat. The fact that the US government is such a willing collaborator in this counter-democratic program suggests that it too is becoming unnerved by emerging and unwelcome democratic possibilities.

The Obama administration’s willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s counter-revolutionary efforts has nowhere been more evident than in Washington’s tepid response to the brutal suppression of Bahrain’s democracy movement. This has provided part of the context in which the Saudis now feel at liberty to inject yet another twist to a story that is still being written.

McClatchy reports:

[A]n adviser to the Saudi government said that Gholam Shakuri, named in the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal complaint as the Iranian official supporting the plot, was already known to the Saudi government as one of the officers who directed Iranian support to Shiite Muslims in Bahrain when they rose up in February to demand political rights from the minority Sunni regime.

“The officer does exist, and we have known him for a while,” said the adviser, Nawaf Obeid. He said that based on telephone intercepts and other intelligence, the Bahraini and Saudi governments believe that Shakuri, a colonel, had urged protesters to go to the Saudi embassy and backed a plan to take control of Bahrain’s state television.

Like Gaddafi, the Saudis want to cast the Arab Awakening as a destabilizing force, not only as great as the threat from terrorism but intimately tied to terrorism.

Meanwhile, the people of Bahrain understand that an American president who shows much more concern about the danger posed by a scatterbrained used-car salesman than he does about the threat the Bahrain government poses to its own people, also know that the struggle for freedom is one they must continue to fight largely on their own. Obama has no tangible support to offer.

Reuters reports:

In a defiant show of unity, Bahrain opposition parties have jointly denounced the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab island as a police state and demanded a transition to a constitutional monarchy.

Five groups, including the main Shi’ite party Wefaq and the secular Waad party, vowed to keep up a pro-democracy campaign with peaceful rallies and marches — despite a Saudi-backed government crackdown that crushed similar protests in March.

In their “Manama Document,” the first such joint statement since the unrest, the opposition groups said Bahrain was a police state akin to those that prevailed in Egypt and Tunisia before popular uprisings swept their leaders from power.

The document, issued on Wednesday, said the ruling Al Khalifa family’s role should be to “govern without powers” in a constitutional monarchy, drawing attacks from pro-government media which described it as a power grab by majority Shi’ites.

Unrest still roils Bahrain months after the ruling family brought in troops from Sunni allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help crush a protest movement they said was fomented by Iran and had Shi’ite sectarian motives.

The government says nightly clashes between police and Shi’ite villagers and other forms of civil disobedience are hurting the economy of the banking and tourism hub. Many firms have relocated elsewhere in the Gulf.

A military court has convicted 21 opposition figures, human rights campaigners and online activists who led the protests of trying to overthrow the ruling system. Eight were jailed for life. Waad leader Ibrahim Sharif, a Sunni, received a five-year sentence.

“In pursuit of democracy, opposition forces intend to fully and solely embrace peaceful measures,” the Manama Document said, calling for a direct dialogue between the government and opposition, backed by unspecified international guarantees.

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One thought on “Saudi Arabia needs powerful enemies more than ever

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Note the article in today’s Der Spiegel about Merkel signing an agreement to export 200 to 270 Leopard II tanks to Saudi Arabia. I asked in a feedback to Der Spiegel if they would be fitting them with extra-wide pad tracks in order to crush more protestors per pass.

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