“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The arrest of scores of Saudi Princes (cousins and uncles) in a somewhat bloody purge on charges of corruption stirred the accountability conscience intelligentsia of Pakistan. TV anchors were ecstatic and drew farfetched conclusions. The Paradise Papers heightened this frenzy. But this was never so. A nation and media thriving on Breaking News missed the point once again.
Given the Saudi internal palatial games, such a purge was long overdue; a measure of which came when King Salman of Saudi Arabia ignored the family tradition to appoint his own ambitious son Muhammad Bin Salman as the crown prince. The move set off a mill of rumours and intrigues. There was restiveness in Saudi Arabia amongst the influential sidelined members of Saudi Royal family and clerics. In reaction something had to happen. This something had nothing to do with corruption and reforms. Crown Prince Salman had to move quickly to consolidate his power. True to Arab and Saudi tradition it was to be laced with intrigues, blood and foreign support. The biggest beneficiary of this purge could be USA and Israel. Security of Arab Kingdoms will be secondary. Strengthening Iran will be a logical consequence.
Though Muhammad Bin Salman is projected as a young reformist bent on cutting the power of the clergy and giving women more rights, in Middle Eastern politics he has emerged as a trigger happy individual responsible for the Yemen tragedy and the tiff with Qatar. Still in thirties, he is most likely to succeed his father for a very long time as the most powerful king Saudi Arabia ever had. Though it is yet to be ascertained, his reformist agenda gels well with the aspirations of youth in KSA. Prominently it is his foreign policy that brings Israel and USA to his support. This endorsement works well towards objectives of a greater Israel and US economic gains. In the final analysis it is all about oil money and Zionism.
As gossip has it that two individuals who are not Saudi are instrumental in carving the latest situation.
First is Yousef Al Otaiba and his cohort of princes; a charismatic and shrewd businessman serving as the United Arab Emirate’s ambassador to the United States. Beyond his diplomatic functions, he exercises tremendous influence in USA and other capitals of the world. After Salman’s nomination as crown prince, Otaiba became his lobbyist in USA. It is no secret that Otaiba on behest of Salman played a key role in 350 Billion Dollar defence deal between KSA and USA. This deal emboldened Prince Salman. It is also known and reported in the Middle East that Salman’s reformist agenda is inspired by guidelines from Yousaf Al Otaiba.
Secondly, it is Yousef Al Otaiba who put the young American Jared Kushner, the son in law and advisor to President Trump into close contact with Crown Prince Salman. Prior to the purge both have been visiting Riyadh frequently. There are rumours that the purge with agreement of Israel was blessed by President Trump through his son in law. State Department’s approval of the purge in a roundabout way and ignoring arrests and killings says much more than it reveals.
The edifice of Prince Salman’s policy is built on the historic predispositions carried by the house of Saud. The sense of vulnerability is built on the experiences with Yemen, Turkey and Iran. It is this vulnerability matched by giving him a sense of indispensability to edge him towards more radical decision making that suits both Israel and USA. This way, the Saudis will trade off plenty of sovereignty for the sake of security.
As written earlier, an Ottoman invasion in 1818 through Yemen brought down the first Saudi kingdom to be resurrected post WWI by the British and Americans. Turks remember that North Yemen inherited the Ottoman Empire and also the tragic destruction of the holy sites constructed by them in Mecca and Medina. The Shia Iranians will never forget the massacre and destruction of Karbala in 1802 at the hands of Saudis.
Traditionally, the interplay of Persian-Turk and Saudi rivalries provides space and cause for the Anglo-US Integrated Euro Asian Geo-Strategy. (Nation: Garden of Eden and Forbidden Fruit, April 11, 2015). But with billions in dollars at stake, the rivalry can also stir USA’s domestic economy. President Obama resisted Saudi plans but cooperation between KSA and Israel emboldened President Trump to accept what President Obama had resisted. Therefore, bombing of Yemen became more brutal and KSA challenged Qatar whose royalty claims religious linkages as custodians of holy sites. KSA is also in awe of political reforms in Qatar, its closest neighbor. Qatar also acted as a bridge in the US diplomatic thaw with Iran led by Chuck Hegel and John Kerry. To keep Saudi’s edgy; Iran must be projected as the biggest security threat.
Many critics opine that the latest events are Iran specific that shall heighten Shi-Sunni rivalries. But this argument could prove to be yet another diversion to mask the real intents of diplomacy. Rather than containment, Iran tends to become stronger.
Iran’s ingress into Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen is not without design. It is logical to question why the mighty US allowed it to happen in Iraq. Why must President Trump keeps challenging Iran that now has a US brokered international nuclear agreement? Why must Israel keep threatening Iran and actually do nothing?
As per reports, Iran has over 300,000 indigenous Jews. There is also a diaspora of over one million Iranian Jews spread globally to craftily safeguard Iranian interests. Israel’s rebuke of Iran seems a farce.
Saudi Arabia has had a string of successes that did not benefit it. It has destroyed Libya and Yemen, destabilised Syria and intervened in Lebanon. But these are someone else’s gains. In the final analysis, it is playing a pawn for the sake of political consolidation for a king more powerful.
Given the aggressive role played by United States political economy in Saudi Arabia and Middle East, it is time Pakistan braces itself for difficult times ahead. With a corruption ridden system, pliant politicians, host of weak spots, nuclear capability and CPEC, who knows Pakistan could be next.
The developing situation endorses my apprehensions on Pakistan’s role in Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). The sooner Pakistan gets out of it the better.