Tag Archive | "Shah"

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Saudi Arabia’s New Role In The Emerging Middle East

Posted on 28 April 2011 by hashimilion

Saudi Arabia is once more seeking to shape events in the Arab world, encouraged by a regional upheaval that is threatening to bring down regimes in neighbouring territories and to harm national security in the process.

When King Abdullah acceded as monarch in 2005, hopes were high in the kingdom, as well as in the US administration, that the vacuum in the Arab world could be filled with a more activist Saudi leader, able to improve the regional situation to the benefit of the US-allied Arab “moderates” and to the disadvantage of Iran.

But those hopes were soon dashed.

The inadequacies of the Saudi foreign policy-making machine, a lack of Saudi political will partly due to the king’s age and inclinations, and regional and US obstruction, saw efforts to promote intra-Palestinian peace run into the sand.

Mediation on other fronts – Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia – came to naught.

Backbone of Bahrain

This year, the Saudi leadership has watched with horror as the US has in effect rerun 1979 by abandoning a strategic ally – in this case President Mubarak of Egypt instead of the Shah of Iran.

Washington even appeared to sympathise with what Riyadh considers to be Iran’s de facto allies – the Shia opposition in Bahrain.

The Saudi response to events in Bahrain – located a short drive from the Eastern Province where Saudi Shia are relatively populous – has been to stiffen the al-Khalifa regime’s backbone by once again sending its troops into the Bahraini fray. The Saudi Arabian National Guard last intervened in 1995.

Saudi Arabia has come to the aid of the Bahraini ruling family

The Saudi mission is dressed up in a flimsy flag of convenience, that of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), whose assent has seen nominal UAE and Kuwaiti military contributions too.

However, it is Saudi troops that are underpinning al-Khalifa control in the Gulf island, just as Saudi money lubricates the al-Khalifa patronage power.

Yemen has for several years been Saudi Arabia’s pre-eminent security concern. This is due to al-Qaeda’s presence there, as well as perceived Iranian penetration and the threat of internal Yemeni secessionism.

Yemen face-off

The Saudi alliance of convenience with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has however recently collapsed. Saudi Arabia has once again given heft to an apparent GCC initiative – a “peace plan” that requires the Yemeni leader to hand over power to his vice-president.

As both Yemeni government and opposition party representatives are expected to gather shortly in Riyadh to explore the deal, the determining issue will be whether there is a Yemeni will to agree to its terms.

Without such domestic agreement, there will be no Saudi-led breakthrough, even allowing for Riyadh’s political influence, resources and ability to talk to an array of challengers to Mr Saleh’s rule, including Islamist, tribal and secessionist elements.

Yemeni opposition leaders and the GCC have called for President Saleh to step down
Riyadh’s view of the Arab uprisings is shaped by the kingdom’s long-standing concern of maintaining stability in the face of internal and external threats.

Saudi military options have been exercised in Bahrain just as they were 18 months ago in Yemen, in facing down a Yemeni Shia group that had crossed its borders.

As Arab uprisings threaten to increase Iranian and al-Qaeda opportunities in neighbouring territories, Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter them with force, or diplomacy and largesse, as appropriate.

Syrian alternatives

Baathist Syria is not, however, a neighbouring concern. It has long been distrusted as an Iranian ally that has proven unwilling to work with perceptible “Arab” interests.

The Saudi government cannot hope to try to directly influence the regime or events on the ground. In common with the US and Israel, it is not sure that the alternative would be to its advantage, even if it disadvantaged Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s internal authority appears firm because of a mixture of patronage, security and a concern among many nationals – Sunni and Shia – that they stand to lose if the regime is directly challenged.

However the “virus” of popular demands is an uncomfortable spectacle for the al-Saud, seeing, as it does, regional events through the prism of national security and strategic competition.

Saudi Arabia shares with the US a desire to ensure that Iran is also affected by regional popular protests.

But Riyadh does not see Washington as a decisive upholder of this shared interest.

As a result, Saudi Arabia will act unilaterally where it can in order to further its interests. But it is liable to be stymied by a mixture of its own political inadequacies and the force of local events that have a life of their own.

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Women Assert Place in Yemen’s Protests

Posted on 22 April 2011 by hashimilion

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the beleaguered president of Yemen, should have known better. Fighting for his political life (and perhaps for his physical life too), he played the woman card. After last Friday’s prayers, he tried to dampen down the escalating protests against his rule by admonishing women to stay home. He claimed that their presence in the streets, “mingling with men,” was against Islam.   His ploy backfired. Within hours of his speech, text messages raced around the capital demanding a “women’s march” as a rebuttal.  The following day, 10,000 abaya-clad women, almost all wearing the face-covering niqab, marched in protest. Many of the women had never before participated in any political activities. They were there to avenge the honor of all Yemeni women. As one woman shouted into a microphone, “If Saleh read the Quran, he wouldn’t have made this accusation.”

Perhaps if he knew his history better, he would have avoided kicking this hornet’s nest altogether. Throughout the 20th century, women played an important role in revolutions and wars of independence across the Islamic world. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of modern Pakistan, well understood the critical role that women could play in the independence movement – as actors and as symbols. He purposefully addressed women’s gatherings and encouraged their participation in meetings and street demonstrations.  The women’s wing of Jinnah’s Muslim League – comprised mostly of wives, daughters and sisters of prominent Muslim League men – proved crucial in getting Muslim women out of their homes for the first time to advocate for an independent Pakistan.  Although conservative Islamic leaders condemned these actions on the part of women, the Muslim League defended women’s mobilization as a religious duty. Women’s mobilization, even in the conservative North-West Frontier Province, was so successful that the British governor, upon seeing the mass of burqa-clad women in the streets, supposedly exclaimed, “Pakistan is made.”

Ayatollah Khomeini was also a master of mobilizing women.   One of the turning points of the Iranian Revolution occurred on September 8, 1978, a day that is remembered in Iran as Black Friday. A number of revolutionary groups planned a large demonstration in Jaleh Square in downtown Tehran. By early morning, thousands of people from across the Iranian political spectrum–from Khomeini’s Islamist supporters to intellectuals to Communists–had gathered.  Among them was a sizeable group of women covered from head to toe in their dark chadors. These revolutionary “sisters,” as they came to be known, heeded Ayatollah Khomeini’s calls to leave the confines of their homes to support the protesters–an act previously considered blasphemous in traditional homes, but now legitimized by Khomeini.

As the demonstration progressed, the Shah’s troops closed in on the square. Suddenly, the security forces began firing indiscriminately on the crowd. Hundreds were killed and many more wounded. The Black Friday Massacre was the first time the Shah had used such a heavy hand in stopping a public protest. The fact that women were among the casualties inflamed public opinion. For many protesters, the Shah irrevocably crossed the red line on that Friday.

In some ways, it seems Saleh’s cynical comments about women (he is hardly known for his piety) crossed a red line for Yemenis. Women are now more engaged than ever in Yemen’s struggle for a better government. When I was in Yemen in January, I spent a day with Tawakul Karman, one of the most vocal and active leaders of Yemen’s youth movement who has been leading student demonstrations against Saleh’s corrupt rule for two years now.   Karman, a young mother of three and a member of the Islamic Islah party, has developed a high profile in Yemeni opposition politics. Her name has been bandied about as a possible presidential candidate to succeed Saleh. A female president is unlikely in a country that suffers from some of the worst gender statistics in the world. Then again, so does Pakistan, which has elected a woman leader twice – albeit the same woman.

Saleh, who has lost the backing of both the Saudis and the United States, seems to be in the process of trying to negotiate a handover of power.  Women have made it clear that they are determined to be part of Yemen’s transition. Undoubtedly, conservative forces will try to sideline women once the goal of overturning Saleh is achieved, much as they did in the Iranian revolution and in post-Independence Pakistan (and as some are trying to do in Egypt today). But Yemeni women, like Tawakul Karman, are not about to take a back seat.

By Isobel Coleman

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Saudi Arabia: The Sanctuary for Tyrants

Posted on 20 January 2011 by hashimilion

The former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali could not find a sanctuary other than Saudi Arabia.

He was rejected by his close friend Muammar Qaddafi and abandoned by the French (Sarkozy) who supported him for more than 22 years.

The number of countries that have refused to received Ben Ali is unknown, which reminds us of the events that took place when the Iranian tyrant was received by the late Egyptian tyrant Anwar Sadat.

Suddenly and out of know where Ben Ali’s plane lands in Jeddah. The Royal Court quickly releases a statement justifying Saudi Arabia’s action. It read as follows:

We understand that the People of Tunis are going through exceptional times right now and hope that security can be reistablished in this dear Arab and Islamic country. We also support any step that will bring benefit to the Tunisian people. The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has welcomed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family to the Kingdom. The Saudi Government declares its full support for the people of Tunis and hope that all Tunisians come together in this very difficult time. God bless you.

Saudi Arabia has become a sanctuary for tyrants.

Ben Ali is not the first leader who has found himself  in exile and on the run before being embraced by the warm Arms of Saudi Arabia. Previous rulers include: Jaafar Numeiry before settling in Egypt, Siad Barre from Somalia, Idi Amin from Uganda, Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan and other little dictators.

What is the secret behind Saudi Arabia’s complex in hosting dictators whilst the world rejects them?

Is Saudi Arabia sympathizing with tyrants because of humanitarian reasons?

The Saudi Royal Court statement considered Ben Ali’s reception as a step that will have a positive effect on Tunisians.

The Saudi Royal family did not show any kindness or mercy when it abducted members of the Tunisian opposition movement, whilst they were preforming their pilgrimage and sent them to Ben Ali for execution.

The best way of showing solidarity with the people of Tunisia is to keep their former rulers on the run, like rats looking for a safe refuge, and far far away from the Arab world, just as Ben Ali had done to his opponents.

Ben Ali was and still is Saudi Arabia’s friend.

The Saudi Princes have always admired Ben Ali and the West because both fought Islamic fundamentalism!!!

In the early 1990s, the Wahabi Sahwa movement accused Prince Naif of following in the same footsteps as Ben Ali, and using the same techniques when suppressing opponents.

The Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif, adopted Ben Ali’s policies in the 1990s in what was regarded as the campaign to “sapping terrorism of its sources”.

Prince Naif used to spend most of his vacations in Tunisa and would be hosted by his friend Ben Ali. Naif’s brothers on the other hand prefer to spend their vacations in Morroco.

The Saudi dictators don’t believe that they are putting their kingdom at risk by receiving the tyrant Ben Ali, even though alot of Ben Ali’s friends are cutting off their ties with him.

Saudi Arabia is a despotic monarchy, which loathes revolutions, especially those that are directed at its friends or allies. The Saudi princes are not accustomed to welcoming any revolution or uprising.

The Al Saud family fear the spread of dissent and revolution fever amongst its happy population. The people’s of Arabia own the largest oil reserve in the world, yet 30% of the population lives under the poverty line (based on official statistics).

The people of Arabia have seen corruption that is unrivalled in the Arab world. The corruption of the Saudi princes exceeds that of the whole Arab World put together.

Saudi University graduates and youth are unemployed, and their levels are far greater than that of Tunis!

Based on these facts, the Al Saud tyrants have a right to be apprehensive towards the revolution taking place in Tunis.

The hearts of the muslim faithful long for Mecca but the Saudi Royal family want to turn it into a sanctuary for tyrants and criminals.

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