Reshuffle of the Saudi monarchy: exposes the intensifying crisis of the regime

After the initial misadventure of attacking the Houthis in Yemen, arrogantly promoted by King Salman’s youngest, the more serious strategists within the despotic regime are trying to calm down and bring Prince Mohammad bin Salman to some degree of sanity. The despotic regime is wavering in the face of the failure of its acts of aggression.

This new generation of royal brats is now in a severe hangover after the initial euphoria of blind power and spouts of grandeur. Not only is the regime pensively trying to find an escape route from this blunder, but they are tacitly accepting to negotiate with the Iranian mullah oligarchy. If its conceived power has waned internally, its allies in the region are not that subservient as they used to be. The recent reshuffling of the hierarchy also lays bare the internal conflicts within the House of AL Saud.

mohammad-bin-salman-al-saudMohammad bin Salman al Saud - Minister of DefenceThe new king,  Salman, has  named his nephew and powerful Interior Minister, now ‘Crown Prince’ Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and his son the present defence minister Salman’s as second in line, under a shakeup that also saw the world's longest-serving foreign minister replaced.

The appointment of bin Nayef further solidifies control of the Sudairi branch of the house of Saud and underlines the internecine conflicts within the royal family. Their influence had waned under Abdullah. Khalil Jahshan, the executive director for the Arab Centre of Washington from Fairfax, Virginia, told Al Jazeera that the reshuffle constitutes a "political earthquake of the greatest magnitude. The Saudi Arabia we knew a few hours ago is no longer… these are serious changes that will have repercussions not only domestically but also internationally.”

Despite claims to the contrary and the bragging of the monarchs about the Kingdoms ‘riches’, the country is not immune to the crisis in the world economy. According to the IMF’s 2009 report, Saudi Arabia had a fiscal deficit of up to 3.1% of GDP, a marked decline from surpluses of 22.8% of GDP in 2008. Similarly, GDP growth slowed down to 0.8% in 2009 (down from 5.5% in 2008). The main impact of the global crisis was through lower oil prices and revenue, which reduced oil export receipts by almost 50 percent in 2009. This translated into a drop in government balances of payments of some 36% in 2009. In the subsequent period the oil prices helped by the upswing in China picked up again, but that has now ended. The kingdom imagines that it has the reserves to overcome the present decline in oil prices, but sooner rather than later the declining income will have an impact on the economy of the country.

As previously, this will have ramifications such as growing unrest amongst the migrant workers forced into virtual slavery and the indigenous population of Saudi Arabia. However it will be on a far larger scale.

The Arab Spring that started with the 2011 Tunisian revolution initially influenced the protests in Saudi Arabia. Protests started with a self-immolation in Samta followed by street Jeddah in late January 2011 and by protests in February and early March in Qatif, Riyadh and other cities and towns of the Kingdom. There were also widespread protests for the release of political activists held without charge or trial that continued in April and May 2011 in Qatif, al-Awamiyah and Hofuf in the Eastern Provinces. There were also demonstrations and protests against the Saudi military intervention and demands for the withdrawal of ‘Peninsula Shield Force’ from Bahrain and the youth activists were chanting slogans for the downfall of the House of Saud. In the following years there have been simmering revolts, protests and strikes that have been censored or sparsely reported by the western media.

During workers’ strikes in the oil industry in the region of Dammam and along the eastern coast, where most of the oil reserves are located, there was brutal repression of the workers and the youth in protests. Due to a large section of the population of Shia background, the tyranny of the Wahhabi ruling elite became even more severe. According to a BBC source, in November 2014, unknown assailants in the al-Ahsa governorate in the Eastern Province attacked a procession during Ashoura and killed eight Shias, including children, and left over 30 people wounded. The following week deputy governor of the province, Emir Jalwi bin Abdul-Aziz, was sacked by a royal decree.

The immigrant workers who were already suffering the worst exploitation are subjected to even more drudgery and repressive labour confined in congested and filthy camps. At the same time thousands are being deported and those being brought in from other south Asian countries are subjected to even harsher contracts amounting to nothing less than slavery. The beheadings, mainly of migrant workers, like the Gladiators of the Roman Coliseum, goes on unabated. This internal repression will only worsen with this new regime and the shuffle within the ruling elite.

The protests in the kingdom have been smaller than other recent mass movements in the the Middle East, but that is natural in such a brutal dictatorship where most of the anger and rage can be suppressed until it erupts in a revolutionary explosion. However, they have been significantly bigger and more frequent than the previous period.

While these wild acts and intensification of domestic repression expose the internal decay and frictions of the monarchy, its regional hegemony has also eroded significantly. The reluctance of the Saudi-subservient leaders and regime in Pakistan to send troops officially and overtly came as a shocking surprise for the Saudi Monarchs. Although it was not due to any lack of loyalty of the reactionary Pakistani rulers, it did lay bare the intense crisis within the Pakistani state and the intrinsic weakening of the regime to unprecedented levels.

The Saudi regime sent the Imam of Kaaba to whip up Sunni chauvinism and retrieve the waning support for the ‘Custodians of the Kaaba and Medina’ in Pakistan.

Addressing the faithful after prayers, the Imam, Al- Sheikh Khalid al Ghamidi said that, “the people of Saudi Arabia had great love for Pakistan and the Pakistani people, and they were proud of Pakistan and their Pakistani brethren.  The security of the ‘Haramain Sharifain’ was the collective responsibility of the Ummah (Muslim nation). Saudi Arabia had initiated action against Yemen’s rebels not on its own, but on the appeal of the lawful Yemeni ruler.”

The real aim of the visit was to pressurise the leaders of the various pro-Saudi Sunni sects to whip up reactionary support and enhance the allegiance of the Pakistani state for the Saudi monarchy, as was the routine in the past. He praised them publically while scolding them behind the scenes. Two of the most prominent ministers of Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet were also part of these parleys. He probably increased their payrolls and doled out cash to the bosses of the Wahhabi, Deobandi, Salafi and other most bigoted Sunni sects that work under Saudi tutelage.

The leader of Pakistan’s most reactionary and oldest Islamic party, the Jamaat a Islami, Siraj ul Haq vowed to the supposedly most sacrosanct Imam, “In the presence of the Imam e Kaaba, we reaffirm our commitment to continue our struggle for establishing the Islamic system of life in this country and we would lay down our lives for this noble cause.” One relatively liberal Sunni sect, the Barelvis, were left out and their leader Maulana Naeemi protested against this discrimination against them by the Saudi Imam. But with the exposure of these sects as terrorist instigators there is a rising revulsion towards them amongst the masses.  

However, after almost a century of playing a reactionary role and with tyrannous rule of the house of Saud with the backing of western imperialism, now their crisis, anxiety and fragility are palpable. Ever since the advent of modern imperialism, the market and financial prerequisites of expanding capitalism, have pierced the boundaries of the nation states, unleashing wars, annexations, military aggressions, occupations and colonisation of vast regions of the world.

Apart from the innumerable wars fought between the rival imperialist powers, these were continued in the occupied territories and the masses of those lands where the capitalist revolutions weren’t initiated or completed had to suffer a new form of slavery and colonial oppression. However, to execute this colonisation the ages old and tested policy of the ancient Roman emperors of divide and rule was employed by the twentieth century rising imperialist powers.

The main weapon of this policy was narrow nationalist, ethnic, religious and communal hatreds propped up through their local ruling stooges and religious stalwarts bribed by the imperialist masters. In the so-called Muslim world the reincarnation of Islamic fundamentalism is not a very new phenomenon. What is being portrayed today by the western media as the main bestial evil and threat to the western liberal, secular and democratic values has still not been abandoned and is being used as a weapon to impose imperialist hegemony and plunder of corporate capitalism.

In the second decade of the twentieth century as the Ottoman Empire (Caliphate) was collapsing, the imperialist strategists rushed in to catalyse its breakup and carve out ‘new countries’ from the vast territory of the Ottoman Caliphate. The Sykes-Picot treaty, the Balfour Declaration and the Treaty of Versailles were some of the diplomatic manoeuvres that were carried out for the Balkanisation of the region and gaining dividends for plunder between the imperialist states.

In December 1915 the Anglo-Saud friendship treaty was concluded. This treaty made the House of Saud an outpost of the British Empire. Britain was given trading privileges and became superintendent of Saudi foreign policy. A guarantee of British military protection and arms supplies ended the Ottoman writ in the Arabian Peninsula. Between 1917-1926, Abdul-Aziz Bin Abdul-Rehman (Known as Ibn-Saud) and his armed Wahhabi desert hordes, with the help of the British military, took control of what was known as Najd and Hejaz.

In On 8 January 1926 Abdul-Aziz Bin Ibn-Saud was proclaimed king of Arabia through manoeuvres of the British agents. King Abdul-Aziz was embroiled in discussions with the British representative, Percy Cox, for the determination of the borders of the new entity. The British Public Records described Ibn-Saud’s demeaning stature at these meetings. When Cox insisted it was his decision to create frontiers with Kuwait, “Ibn-Saud almost broke down and pathetically remarked that Sir Percy made him and raised him from nothing… and he would surrender half his Kingdom, nay the whole, if Sir Percy ordered. Cox took out a map and pencil and drew a line of the frontier of Arabia”. For his loyalty to the British crown, like so many other British stooges, Ibn-Saud was awarded a knighthood presented to him by his mentor Percy Cox. On September 23, 1932 the ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ replaced the historic names of Najd and Hejaz.

Since then this reactionary monarchy has been in power through mainly US imperialist support and has fomented the vicious Wahhabi sectarian fundamentalist terror to sustain imperialist hegemony and its regional domination.

In the aftermath of the Second World War a new period of mass upheavals began in most of the colonial world. In the Middle East there were numerous revolts and revolutionary takeovers in several countries against the semi-capitalist semi-feudal order under imperialist hegemony. The US imperialists, who now had assumed the role of world policeman, once again employed the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist scourge as a counterrevolutionary force to sabotage and subvert these left-wing regimes.  From the 1950s to the 1980s it was used in countries from Egypt to Indonesia and from Syria to Pakistan. In Pakistan the left wing populist Z. A. Bhutto’s elected government was toppled by the arch-reactionary general Zia ul Haq in connivance with the US imperialists. Zia’s eleven year long Islamic rule was a nightmare for the masses and it scarred society beyond redemption. Bhutto was assassinated through judicial murder and the vicious Zia dictatorship unleashed a harrowing tyranny on the working classes and the youth in the name of Islamisation. The Saudi Monarchs and US bosses were complicit in these brutalities.

The counter-revolution against the left-wing government in Afghanistan was launched in 1978 under the supervision of the CIA, MI6 and the Pentagon. The Gulf States provided huge sums of money, while Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under the despotic Zia dictatorship liaised on the ground with the militant networks being coordinated by Osama bin Laden and others. The Reagan administration in the 1980s provided $2 billion to the Afghan mujahideen, which was matched by another $2 billion from Saudi Arabia. According to the Washington Post, “ USAID invested millions of dollars to supply schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings. Theology justifying violent jihad was interspersed with drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines. The textbooks even extolled the heavenly rewards if children were to pluck out the eyes of the Soviet enemy and cut off his legs.”

However, after the withdrawal and collapse of the Soviet Union the fundamentalist networks not only remained proactive but opened up new fronts of conflict and terrorist attacks. A classified US intelligence report has revealed that the US was fully aware of a secret deal struck in April 1991 between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden, then under house arrest. The covert deal allowed Osama to leave the kingdom with his money and supporters, and continue to receive financial support from the Saudi royal family, only on the condition of refraining from targeting the Saudi kingdom itself.

Mark Curtis wrote in his book, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, “the US and UK government continued to covertly support al-Qaeda-affiliated networks in Central Asia and the Balkans after the Cold War. Saudi Arabia functioned as the conduit for this Anglo-American misadventure. From around 1994, all the way until 9/11, US military intelligence along with Britain, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supplied arms and funds to the al-Qaeda-harbouring Taliban. Under US tutelage, Saudi Arabia was still funding those madrasas. US government-drafted textbooks designed to indoctrinate Afghan children into violent jihad during the Cold War, now approved by the Taliban, became part of the Afghan school system’s core curriculum, and were used extensively in militant madrasas in Pakistan being funded by Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani ISI with US support.”

The reactionary role of the Saudi despots in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries of the region has boomeranged in the form of Frankenstein’s monsters. The IS and Al Qaeda, that the American rulers and the Saudi bosses had built up with cash and logistical support, have now become threats to their masters.

The changes and reshuffling in the Saudi regime which we are witnessing today, with the meteoric rise of Bin Nayef and Mohammad known for their vicious ruthlessness, aggressive character, abrasiveness and stealthy arrogance - which traits  of all Saudi royals - means that out of frustration the Saudis want to crush the conflagration in the region through military might. This will be a fatal blunder that could catalyse the demise of the House of Saud itself. In the period ahead even more instability and mayhem impends.

But one factor that is missed out of the whole equation in the region by the mainstream analysts is the role of the workers and youth of the region. If and when this reactionary edifice of the house of Al Saud collapses due to internal explosions or mass revolts, a period of mass upheavals can open up on an huge scale across the whole region. In such a scenario a revolutionary transformation in the Middle East and west Asia will be on the agenda. The artificial borders will be wiped away by the rising tide of revolutionary movements that will spread across the region.