Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fear & Loathing in the House of Saud



Fear and Loathing in the House of Saud


By Pepe Escobar

Asia Times

April 21, 2011


Early last week, US President Barack Obama sent a

letter to Saudi King Abdullah, delivered in person in

Riyadh by US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon.

This happened less than a week after Pentagon head

Robert Gates spent a full 90 minutes face to face with the king.


These two moves represented the final seal of approval

of a deal struck between Washington and Riyadh even

before the voting of UN Security Council resolution

1973 (see Exposed: the Saudi-US Libya deal, Apr 1, Asia

Times Online). Essentially, the Obama administration

will not say a word about how the House of Saud

conducts its ruthless repression of pro-democracy

protests in Bahrain and across the Persian Gulf. No

''humanitarian'' operations. No R2P (''responsibility

to protect''). No no-fly or no-drive zones.


Progressives of the world take note: the US-Saudi

counter-revolution against the Great 2011 Arab Revolt

is now official.


Those 'pretty influential guys'


The wealthy, truculent clan posing as a perpetual

absolute monarchy that goes by the name House of Saud

wins on all fronts.


Last month's ''Day of Rage'' inside the kingdom was

ruthlessly preempted - with the (literal) threat that

protesters would have their fingers cut off.


With the price of crude reaching stratospheric levels,

and with Saudi refusal to increase production, it's a

no brainer for Riyadh to dispense with a few billion

dollars in pocket change to appease its subjects with

some extra 60,000 ''security'' jobs and 500,000 low-

rent apartments.


King Abdullah also recently ''received a verbal

message'' from the emir of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin

Khalifa, on the thriving ''bilateral issues'' - as in

Saudi Arabia ruthlessly repressing the pro-democracy

protests in Bahrain by invading their neighbor and

deploying their ''security'' advisers.


The House of Saud's violent reaction to the peaceful

protests in Bahrain may have been a message to

Washington - as in ''we are in charge of the Persian

Gulf''. But most of all it was dictated by an absolute

fear of Bahrain becoming a constitutional monarchy that

would reduce the king to a figurehead; a nefarious

example to the Saudi neighbors.


Yet as much as real tensions between Iranian Shi'ites

and Arab Shi'ites may persist, the Saudi reaction will

end up uniting all Shi'ites, and turning Iran into

Bahrain's only savior.


As for Washington's reaction, it was despicable to

start with. When Sunnis in Iraq oppressed the Shi'ite

majority, the result was Iraq shocked and awed to

destruction by the neo-cons. When the same happens in

Bahrain, liberal hawks have the Sunnis get away with

it. (As much as there's been plenty of spinning to the

contrary, the Pentagon's Gates knew Saudi Arabia would

invade Bahrain on the spot, on a Saturday (the invasion

started on Sunday night).


Not that Washington cares that much any way or another.

Last week, in a Chicago restaurant, President Obama

qualified the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa, as a

''pretty influential guy''. He praised him as ''a big

booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the

Middle East'.' But Obama didn't notice there was an

open mike, and CBS News was listening; so he added,

''he himself is not reforming significantly. There's no

big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part

of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is

$145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.''


Translation; who cares whether these ''pretty

influential guys'' in the Gulf reform or not as long as

they remain our allies?


The Saudi war of terror


Way back in 1965, the opposition in Bahrain was accused

(by the colonial British press) of Arab nationalism

(the nightmare of assorted colonialists and also US

imperial designs). Now, it is accused (by the al-

Khalifas and House of Saud) of sectarianism.


The House of Saud has predictably terrorized the

majority-Shi'ite democracy movement in Bahrain with

fear, loathing and - what else - sectarianism, the

ultimate pillar of its medieval Wahhabi ideology. For

intolerant Wahhabis, Shi'ites are as heretical as

Christians. Shi'ite holy sites in Bahrain are being

demolished under the supervision of Saudi troops.

Bahrainis via twitter are stressing Saudis are using

''Israeli tactics'', demolishing ''unauthorized'' mosques.


Once again, this may only lead to a total

radicalization of the Sunni-Shi'ite divide across the

Arab world. Everyone who followed the Bush

administration-provoked Iraq tragedy remembers that

when al-Qaeda blew up the revered Shi'ite shrine of al-

Askari in Samarra, in 2006, that was the start of a

horrible sectarian war that killed tens of thousands of

people and sent hundreds of thousands into exile.


The House of Saud (as well as the US and Israel) backed

Mubarak in Egypt until the 11th hour. They all knew if

that ''pillar of stability'' fell, the other (Saudi)

would also be in danger. For all its bluster, the House

of Saud's actions are essentially moved by fear. In

recent years it has lost power in Lebanon, Iraq,

Palestine and now Egypt. Its ''foreign policy''

consists in supporting ultra-reactionary regimes. The

people? Let them eat kebab - if that. Their last

bastion of power is the Gulf - crammed with political

midgets such as Bahrain or Kuwait. With a little

thrust, The House of Saud could reduce all these to the

status of mere provinces.


Not yet. As the House of Saud developed its counter-

revolutionary strategy, the Saudi-Israeli alliance

morphed into a Saudi-Qatari alliance. Qatar could be

destabilized via the tribal factor - the Saudis had

attempted it before - but now they needed a close ally.

And that, unfortunately, explains Qatar-based al-

Jazeera's meek coverage of the repression in Bahrain.


It took only a few days for the House of Saud to force

the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to toe the new hard

line: we are the top dog; there's no room for democracy

in the Gulf; sectarianism is the way to go; our

relationship with Israel is now strategic; and Iran is

to blame for everything. The ''Persian conspiracy'' is

the key theme being deployed by the hefty Saudi

propaganda machine especially in Bahrain and Kuwait.


Israeli hawks, not surprisingly, love it. There's

plenty of flower power - or downright lunatic -

rhetoric in the Israeli press about a ''strategic

alliance'' between Tel Aviv and Riyadh, ''similar to

the one between the Soviet Union and the US against the Nazis''.


And guess what - Obama is to blame for it. Without this

strategic alliance, according to the Israeli narrative,

the whole Gulf will fall ''victim of a nuclear Iran'',

and the Obama administration won't lift a finger to

save anybody. Obama is vilified as someone who ''only

confronts and abandons allies'', while emboldening

''evil'' Syria and Iran. It's a narrative straight out

of the Loony Tunes.


Shallow grave or bust


Trying to understand the stakes, Rupert Murdoch's Wall

Street Journal got it all backwards, blaring there's a

new Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That's what

you get when you regurgitate PR by ''Saudi officials''.


It's the House of Saud incendiary manipulation of

sectarianism which is angering Shi'ites everywhere -

not only Iranians; that may turn the Islamic Republic

into the only substantial defender of all Shi'ites

against Wahhabi medievalism.


It's the House of Saud counter-revolution against the

Great 2011 Arab Revolt - condoned by the US - that has

shattered America's ''credibility on democracy and reform''.


All this while the ''traditional security arrangement''

with Washington is not even working anymore. The House

of Saud is not stabilizing global oil prices; by

refusing to increase production, it will let it reach

$160 a barrel-levels quite soon. And meanwhile the

White House/Pentagon keeps protecting that medieval

bunch that were the first to recognize the Taliban in

the mid-1990s, and whose billionaires finance jihadis

all across the world.


The Gulf political midgets are now in the process of

being homogenized - and kept under a leash - by House

of Saud force. Those Gulf kings and emirs may preserve

their golden thrones - for now. But expect plenty of

cultural and religious violence ahead; plenty of nasty

tribalism and sectarian wars, with no possible

political evolution and no possible development of a

modern civil society. No surprise; fear and loathing

are embedded in this reactionary House - an axis of

multiple evils in itself that should only deserve a

shallow grave in the desert sands.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the

Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble

Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad

during the surge. His latest book is Obama does

Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).


He may be reached at


Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd


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