In the last six or seven years since the Arab Islamist Spring, the general movement of Middle Eastern countries has been more Islamist and more dictatorial, the exception being Tunisia and the best example being Turkey. With the power-grab underway by Prince bin Salman, could the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be going the other way? Possibly, and that would be a good thing in the birthplace of Islam.
There are several signs which point that way: The symbolism of allowing women to drive, bin Salman’s stated pursuit of a “moderate Islam”, putting the screws on Qatar (which has been too friendly with Iran and militant Islamist groups), and his Vision 2030 plan which would create a mega entertainment city near Riyadh (think of an Orlando of the Middle East), a new Red Sea resort and new tech city. Such a venture would cost trillions and require the Kingdom to liberate its economy, which is now only moderately free.
While the current smackdown is fairly ruthless, I’m less uneasy about it because it is ruthlessness for the sake of a more moderate Middle Eastern country. I’ve fairly well given up the notion of a Muslim-majority country embracing Jeffersonian democracy, so the best we can hope for are benevolent monarchies such as in Jordan or Morocco. Perhaps the Kingdom can go that way?
There are a lot of substories and complexities with the Saudi royal family, but the bottom line is that, once his father put him at the head of succession, Prince bin Salman moved quickly to consolidate power. Not just quickly, but without precedent and with force.
Prince Aziz (44) who was the youngest son of King Fahad.
The Duran’s Adam Garrie points out that Prince Abdul Aziz was deeply involved in Saudi Oger Ltd, a company which until it ceased operations in the summer of this year, was owned by the Hariri family. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in charge of the company until it ceased operations.
Prince Abdul Aziz’s strange and sudden death which is said to have occurred during an attempted arrest, sheds light on the theory that the clearly forced resignation of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had more to do with internal Saudi affairs than the Saudi attempt to bring instability to Lebanon.
The Lebanese angle struck me as odd. A Saudi internal purge had repercussions across the border into Lebanon, resulting in the resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, but he is a victim of the larger conflict between Iran (a country that is expansionist and has not moderated at all) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah.
Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya TV that Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday, had been told that acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil”.
I’ve criticized Trump on all manner of things, but he made the right call in his support of the current Saudi regime, especially if they’re truly committed in ridding militant Islamism. So far, the purge is widening.