ROVING EYE Fear and loathing in the House of
Saud By Pepe Escobar
follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt,
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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.
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.
'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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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).