By Pepe Escobar
A very quiet summit recently took place at a North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) base in Molesworth, in the United Kingdom. Facing the British was none other than Prince Turki al-Faisal, former director general of Saudi Arabia’s feared Mukhabarat (intelligence services), and once a very close friend of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Prince Turki was there to explain the House of Saud’s take on the great 2011 Arab revolt. In a nutshell; he told the British – and the Americans – to forget their silly ideas about “democracy”. This was all an Iranian plot.
The deployment of Saudi Arabian troops in Bahrain and Yemen, and the deployment of Wahhabi mercenaries in Libya and Syria was nothing other than tools to fight in ideological combat – and engage in hardcore repression – against the spread of Shi’ite Iran’s influence.
The icing in this desert cake is the ongoing transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council – in fact now a Gulf Counter-Revolution Cub – into an alliance of Sunni monarchies, with the incorporation of Jordan and Morocco to current members Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
The House of Saud remains the proverbial staunch ally of the Washington/London “special relationship” – its petrodollars ($300 billion in oil revenues in 2011, made possible by owing 12% of global oil production) buying everyone in sight from Egypt to Libya and Palestine, while Arab al-Qaeda-linked networks merrily bolster the uprisings in both Libya and Syria.
Yet – in this House of supreme paranoia – what if the day comes when they wouldn’t be regarded as indispensable, staunch allies anymore? What if Washington/London are convinced that a more acceptable Middle East should have Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood as “models”?
On the crucial energy front, the House of Saud didn’t fail to notice the fact that the US will prefer to concentrate its future energy needs on gas – and not oil, and this while Saudi oil reserves are declining and China is already Saudi Arabia’s top trade partner (that’s one of the key reasons China abstained from United Nations resolution 1973 on Libya; Beijing didn’t want to antagonize Riyadh).
Washington/London certainly increased their own fears of a regional disaster when Prince Turki was very clear Saudi Arabia would go for its own nuclear bomb in case Iran did the same – although there’s no evidence whatsoever, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. By the way Prince Turki himself made it clear on a separate occasion; the only regional actor allowed to have nuclear weapons is Israel.
So Prince Turki’s message at this “secret” NATO meeting was essentially that we’re top dog in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, and from now on we do what we want to do first, not necessarily what you want us to do.
That could be the definitive hint for Washington to finally drop this inconvenient, medieval but staunch ally that stubbornly wants to stop the flow of history – but it won’t be interpreted as such.
All about Iranophobia
The House of Saud has used the great 2011 Arab revolt to propel Iranophobia in the Sunni Arab world to all-out hysteria. Iranophobia has been deployed as a Saudi-orchestrated psy-ops for years now – geared towards isolating Iran in the arc from Northern Africa to Southwest Asia.
While trying to depict Iran to Arab public opinion as the ultimate evil, the House of Saud may hope to obscure the role of the real profiteers – Western neo-colonial powers which occupy or control, directly and indirectly, the Arab world. Most of all, Iranophobia is extremely useful for the House of Saud, as well as the al-Khalifa Sunni dynasty in Bahrain and the Emirates rulers, to mercilessly repress their own people.
In the West, Iranophobia has been misunderstood as a cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. No; it’s a counter-revolutionary pys-ops conducted by the House of Saud out of supreme fear of Iran’s regional alliances – with Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad – as well as Iranian support, for instance, for the Houthi rebellion in northern Yemen in 2009.
There’s also a running myth that Saudi King Abdullah, 86, illiterate and close to meeting his maker, has tried to integrate Saudi Shi’ites – especially via the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue. There’s no way to understand Saudi Arabia without examining its historical prejudice against Shi’ites. Saudi schoolbooks treat Shi’ites as non-Muslim infidels, or worse – evil “polytheists”.
The heart of the matter is that the House of Saud is bound by blood with the Sunni Wahhabi clerical establishment. As long as the monarchy follows their medieval interpretation of sharia law, the king is incensed as the legitimate “custodian of the two holy mosques”.
So Iranophobia – as it’s being deployed especially after Tahrir Square in Egypt – only serves to bolster Wahhabi medievalism, and to demean Shi’ites, inside and outside the kingdom. Thus the overall belief in Saudi Arabia that Iran forced the overwhelming majority of Bahrain’s population to cry for democracy.
The power of the Saudi counter-revolution should not be underestimated. As much as the House of Saud was horrified by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak being “dumped” by the Barack Obama administration, they have been clever enough to bribe the Tantawi junta currently in power with almost $4 billion. The House of Saud is furious that Mubarak will have to stand trial.
Asia Times Online has extensively reported on the Saudi invasion and repression in Bahrain. In Yemen, Saudi “made-in-the-USA” jets have routinely pulled an Obama AfPak gimmick, bombing Shi’ite rebels across the border. But now the House of Saud craves “stability” – that is, to pick up the new post-Ali Abdallah Saleh ruler.
In Syria, it’s more complicated. The House of Saud, officially, is silent – while Saudi media has a ball demonizing President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi-financed networks, mildly Islamist and even jihadi-oriented, work in the shadows.
Welcome to the end of history
House of Saud minions are all over Saudi-controlled media talking about the kingdom’s “non-interference” policy. That’s absurd; the House of Saud for decades has interfered against scores of progressive or leftist movements all across the world, and pushed several countries to civil war, from Lebanon to Yemen and Somalia – either serving Washington’s interests or most of all the interests of their medieval Wahhabi clerics.
King Abdullah recently ordered that the grand mufti and other top clerics simply cannot be criticized. If you are even mildly opposed to the House, you go to jail; 11,000 people have been arrested since 9/11, and more than 5,000 remain in prison. No one has a clue who these people are. Transparency is zero. And there’s no legal system responding to internationally accepted standards.
Beheadings abound; 121 people last year. There’s no elected government, no political parties, no free press. Two women were arrested last Sunday in Riyadh because they were demanding a fair trial for their relatives, according to Amnesty International. On the same day, at least 20 people – including 16 women and children – were arrested outside the feared Ministry of Interior because they were demanding the release of political prisoners, according to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.
Iranophobia is just another facet of a House living in perpetual fear – and paranoia. Wanna see the end of history? Board a flight to Riyadh.
Pepe Escobar 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 new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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