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Thread: One Step Forward; One Step Back: The Story of Saudi Arabia

  1. #1
    Ubi dubium ibi libertas Senior Contributor
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    04 Sep 03
    Boston, MA, USPRA

    One Step Forward; One Step Back: The Story of Saudi Arabia

    Terror in Jeddah

    Dec 9th 2004 | CAIRO

    Despite this week's attack on an American consulate, the Saudi state may be beating the terrorists. But it has turned its back on liberal reform.

    LAST month, the Saudi government boasted that it had all but defeated the local Islamist terrorists. This week, al-Qaeda stormed the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's second city, killing five people. Is Osama bin Laden gaining the upper hand in his homeland?

    No. Since May 2003, when a series of bombings in Riyadh made plain the seriousness of the jihadist threat, the Saudi state has fought back. The past six months have been particularly hard on the militants, who had failed to score any “raids”, as they call them, since they killed 22 people in a rampage on May 29th. Of the 26 most-wanted men named last year, only seven remain at large. Dozens of others have also been taken out of action.

    Nor was the Jeddah attack, for all its boldness, very impressive. Four of the five assailants died, and none penetrated the hardened chancellery within the consular compound. Few Saudis believe such violence will achieve its proclaimed goal of ridding Arabia of “polytheists”.

    Dogged police work has whittled down the jihadists' potency, while stricter controls on Islamic charities have reduced the scope of terrorist funding. At the same time, some of the more fanatical interpretations of Muslim scripture have been expunged from Saudi schoolbooks. Perhaps more significantly, the Saudi state has enlisted some persuasive voices to denounce the terrorists. Several once-popular militant clerics have publicly recanted. Earlier this week, Saudi television aired emotional interviews with the parents of several jihadists, who said their sons had been the victims of a deviant death cult.

    Meanwhile, the Saudi government has been buoyed by the price of oil, which remains (for it) deliciously high. Export revenues are set to reach $110 billion this year, up from $61 billion in 2002. The extra cash helps keep the police happy: recent bonuses equalled two months' salary. It also makes ordinary Saudis more confident. Saudi share prices have been at a record high. Not long ago, red ink in the state budget, rising unemployment and declining social services were prompting talk of an imminent crisis. No more.

    Yet though pocketbooks are plump, unease lingers. Many Saudi youths are bored, alienated and angry with America; this combination continues to provide a ready pool of recruits for jihadism. Some of these zealots may meet their doom safely across the border in Iraq. But others may prefer to tilt at “crusader” targets closer at hand. The Saudi state will probably continue to pick these off in small numbers, but senior princes are reluctant to permit the kind of pluralist reforms that might allow them to express their frustrations in less extreme ways.

    When the government was short of cash, the royals appeared to consider liberal reforms, which many Saudi journalists and businesspeople were demanding. But now that their money worries have lifted, and their worries about security have grown more acute, they have gone back to their old reactionary habits.

    In March, a group of reformists were jailed for calling for a constitutional monarchy. Three are still awaiting trial. In September, the government issued an edict banning all state employees, which means most working Saudis, including academics, from publicly questioning state policy. In October it announced that long-promised elections for 178 town councils, now due in February, would be for only half of their seats, with women entirely excluded. Few people have bothered to register to vote, prompting one columnist to lament that Saudis show less interest in polls than in the stock index.

    All this has widened the gap between the aspirations of many Saudis and the realities they must live with. This would not be so bad, except that Saudi society is already deeply split between fundamentalist and secularising trends. This is a country that recently licensed its first female pilot, but which bans women from driving; which boasts the heaviest usage of mobile phones in the world, but has outlawed models that can take pictures. America's invasion of Iraq has further aggravated such divisions. To many traditionalist Saudis, anyone who expresses the least yearning for American-style freedoms is probably an apostate.

    The ruling al-Saud family may have hounded violent radicals mercilessly, but it still coddles the conservatives who run the country's schools, courts and censorship offices. While these “official” clerics blast both extremism and America's perceived war against Islam, they also proclaim that obedience to the ailing king is a religious duty. In other words, they issue a contradictory message that alienates would-be modernisers, religious and secular alike.
    "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"


  2. #2
    Join Date
    24 Oct 04
    The Sauds have the very same interest as every other Arab government--without exception--self-preservation. Ultimately, they are not interested in the liberation of their people because they would be out of a job would such a fundamental societal change come to fruition.

    As such, they will continue to be an enemy to the American way of life, regardless of the smiles they exhibit for media cameras and microphones. Their support of us in any endeavor, political or military, is simply them playing the odds.

    Why we would sell weapons of war to dictatorships is beyond me. Evil is evil, even if it is a lesser evil.
    "If I see further than other men, it is because I stand upon the shoulders of giants."

    --Sir Isaac Newton

  3. #3
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
    Join Date
    20 Aug 03
    The Monster of all Arabs and Islam is Saudi Arabia.

    Just because Mecca and Medina is in their country they think they are Islam.

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