The Arabian Peninsula is in chaos as the Prime Minister of Lebanon was forced to resign only to recant once he had escaped back to his country, eleven Saudi princes were arrested, held by Blackstone Mercenaries, and one was strung up upside down, and a helicopter carrying eight high level officials and the estimable Prince Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz crashed near the border with Yemen. Action must be taken to consolidate a coherent line of reason before allies and enemies alike react. So House of Saud Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman telephones shameless propagandist-ideologist Thomas L. Friedman. In a NYT article titled Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last; The crown prince has big plans to bring back a level of tolerance to his society, Friedman writes:
[…] House of Saud Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (M.B.S.) insisted that the Saudi-backed war in Yemen, which has been a humanitarian nightmare, was tilting in the direction of the pro-Saudi legitimate government there, which, he said is now in control of 85 percent of the country, but given the fact that pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, who hold the rest, launched a missile at Riyadh airport, anything less than 100 percent is still problematic.
His general view seemed to be that with the backing of the Trump administration — he praised President Trump as “the right person at the right time” — the Saudis and their Arab allies were slowly building a coalition to stand up to Iran. I am skeptical. The dysfunction and rivalries within the Sunni Arab world generally have prevented forming a unified front up to now, which is why Iran indirectly controls four Arab capitals today — Damascus, Sana[‘a], Baghdad and Beirut. That Iranian over-reach is one reason M.B.S. was scathing about Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.” What matters most, though, is what Saudi Arabia does at home to build its strength and economy.
But can M.B.S. and his team see this through? Again, I make no predictions. He has his flaws that he will have to control, insiders here tell me. They include relying on a very tight circle of advisers who don’t always challenge him sufficiently, and a tendency to start too many things that don’t get finished. There’s a whole list. But guess what? Perfect is not on the menu here. Someone had to do this job — wrench Saudi Arabia into the 21st century — and M.B.S. stepped up. I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts […] The emphases are mine, all mine.
(i) Friedman’s picture juxtaposes two constrasting images,
Image (a) a socially- and culturally-backward kingdom that by personal decree of a single 32 year old sovereign pursues a top-down “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” a revolution-by-administrative-fiat that takes the form of the Western norms of women’s rights, religious reform, social-cultural pluralism, and a purge under colour of an “anti-corruption” campaign of members of the royal family that featured the anti-Trump Prince Alwaleed strung up upside down as an example to his peers. The purge is endorsed by a “silent majority” of aggrieved Saudis, Friedman asserts based on anecdotes.
Image (b) M.B.S. as Warlord whose project is to unite the Arab capitals to “stand up to Iran.” Friedman asserts that (1) M.B.S. is “slowly building a coalition” to “stand up to Iran.” (2) M.B.S., on the other hand, calls Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the Second Supreme Leader of Iran appointed by the Assembly of Experts, “the new Hitler of the Middle East.” (1) suggests counterbalance or resistance whether diplomatic or in the form of a military build-up or re-deployment to check Iranian ambition. (2) Suggests the precise opposite, open aggression through coalition warfare, perhaps in the strategic form of clearing the four Arab capitals of Damascus, Sana’a, Baghdad, and Beirut of Iranian influence, which means Shia influence, which means a reorganization in advance of an intensification of the Sunni-Shia Sectarian Civil War.
(ii) The Crown Prince claims the House of Saud controls 85 percent of Yemen. This is 85 percent of empty space, open desert. Ansar Allah–the Houthi movement–controls the cities including Sana’a, also the civil and commercial infrastructure, and in 2016 organized a popular government in republican form that collects taxes and allocates resources, delivers services, and supervises an independent judiciary.
(iii) Conjecture: The Ansar Allah Reaction to the 2011 Yemeni revolution, and 2014-15 coup d’état, will enter a phase of accelerated development with the consolidation of Syria under the Aliwa of al-Assad. Personnel and material resources active in Syria will soon be redeployed to spread insecurity to Saudi Arabia’s South.
(iv) Friedman’s article is both a call for, and justification for, war, a war to suppress the Shia in favour of the U.S.-Israeli vassal-state headquartered in Riyadh. The contrasting images developed in (i) of (a) Prince-as-Progressive-Reformer and (b) Prince-as-Warlord, are in the Friedman-as-progressive-ideologist’s account the justification for continuous war. Friedman depicts M.B.S. as a young progressive; he depicts him as himself, a younger self precisely half his age, though flawed by indecision, an impulsive nature, and a lack of follow-through. The progressive Friedman can only endorse a warlord and the adventures of a warlord if he is a progressive. Similarly then-Secretary of State Clinton endorsed Bashir al-Assad as a “reformer” when he was in favour with the U.S. Federal administrative classes.
(v) The Shia are everywhere on the march. Yet Friedman depicts an ascendant House of Saud despite (a) what appears to be a palace revolution as the result of a financial collapse–Friedman makes passing reference to the Kingdom’s declining revenue base since the price of oil collapsed in 2008 and never recovered–and (b) the collapse of the partitioned Syria Project now that Damascus under al-Assad and his Russo-Persian Alliance has cleared its cities and most of its hinterlands of its Sunni insurgents, formerly sponsored by Ankara-Riyadh-Doha-Washington-Tel Aviv.
(vi) The Partitioned Syria Project was doomed by the decision returned November 8 2016 in the U.S. when President Trump ascended to the White House. The Trump State Department and Trump Pentagon’s latest signal in the region was to abandon the Kurdish project in the form of arms, funds, training, and what the Kurds imagined to be diplomatic support for an independent Kurdistan. Yet Friedman reports with neither irony nor any sense of curiosity that M.B.S. supports Trump.
(a) M.B.S.’s precarious coup relies solely on mercenaries. As some speculate, Blackwater mercenaries. This indicates that the Prince does not enjoy broad support among the police, military, or paramilitary formations of the Kingdom. He operates largely alone, like the expendable bastard son of an Italian prince of the Early Modern era of Medicis and Borgias, a seemingly rogue actor free to pursue reform by sword and by sorcery until his head is mounted on a pike to mollify the forces of reaction he himself provokes. Until that point M.B.S.’s task appears to be to consolidate Royal power by reducing the other princes, confiscating their wealth and depriving them of their positions, and regrouping Sunni operations and alliances after their defeat in Syria.
(b) Awamiya was once a town in the Shia dominated East of the peninsula. Last summer Saudi military and paramilitary elements reduced the town in detail like Raqqa or Mosul to the North. Friedman and the New York Times have taken sides in a Sectarian Civil War.
dr. g.v. wilkes iv