الصفحة الرئيسية | السيرة الذاتية مراجعات أعمال د. الصويان الأعمال المنشورة | الصحراء العربية: شعرها وثقافتها | أساطير ومرويات شفهية من الجزيرة العربية
 الثقافة التقليدية مقالات صحفية في الأدب الشفهي مقالات صحفية بالعربية محاضرات عامة معرض صور تسجيلات صوتية موسيقى تقليدية
ديواني
| كتب في الموروث الشعبي مخطوطات الشعر النبطي أعمال قيد النشر لقاء تلفزيوني مع محطة العربية مواقع ذات علاقة العنوان

Home | Curriculum Vita | Reviews | Publications | Arabian Desert Poetry | Legends & Oral Narratives  
Traditional Culture
|
Articles on Oral Literature | Articles in SaudiDebate | Public Lectures |  Photo Gallery | Sound Recordings
Traditional Music
| Anthology | Folklore Books | Manuscripts | Work in Progress | TV Interview | Relevent Links | Contact


SA and USA: the rejuvinated alliance

Some people tend to forget that the Saudi dynasty is the oldest in the Middle East, if not in the whole World today. It was established as the result of a pact between Muhammad b. Saud, the baron of Diriyah, and the religious reformer Muhammad b. Abdalwahab concluded in 1745, 30 years before the American independence from Britain in 1776 and 44 years before the start of the French Revolution in 1789. The dynasty had its share of ups and downs and it withered many crises. There were times when it was thought that it went down never to recover again. The native habitat of the dynasty is the Arabian heartland, Najd, where the inhabitants learned survival skills from their harsh desert environment. The Najdis compare an exceptional man to a camel, camels being proverbial for patience, endurance, tenacity, and forbearance, all valued personal traits in tribal desert culture. The supple fronds of a palm tree, a desert plant, bend and twist under a violent storm, but no sooner the weather is calm and quite than the fronds are back in place again. The seeds of desert shrubs could lay dormant in the sands for tens of years waiting for a gush of a rain shower to sprout again.

From its rather long history, with all its trials and tribulations, the ruling dynasty of Al Saud seems to have learned very well the lessons of governing and perfected the art of ruling and staying in power. Staying in power is the key idea here. The first capital of Al Saud, Diriyah, was razed in 1818 by the Egyptian armies of Muhammad Ali by the order of the Othman sultan.This led to the demise of the regime in its first phase. That encounter with the Othman empire taught Al Saud to be realistic and never to meddle again with big powers. The bickering of Abdullah and Saud, the sons of imam Faysal b. Turki, the second ruler of the Saudi regime in its second phase, led to the disintegration of the regime and the occupation of its second capital, Riyadh, by Muhammad b. Rashied of Hayil in 1889. This taught Al Saud always to stay united and contain their differences and never let them get out of hand. The rift between king Saud and king Faysal is a case in point. The turning of the Rashiedis, originally their vassals, against them taught the Al Saud to reserve high government posts and governance of important regions to members of their own family. The clash of the late King Abdulaziz with the Ikhwan movement, a movement he himself had created at the start of the third and current phase of the Saudi dynasty, taught the Al Saud to deal delicately with internal discontent and to co-opt religious movements.

In an article entitled The Expansion of the First Saudi State: The Case of Washm Michael Cook of Princeton University concluded that what gave the Saudis an edge over the other contenders for establishing a state in Central Arabia was their possession in exceptional measure of sublime obstinacy and persistence of faith. For him, the emergence of the Saudi state against all odds was an act of God.  Such a conclusion does not offer much of an explanation, but even among the Saudis themselves there is a feeling that God is always on their side. There were times even in its more recent history when the Saudi regime seemed at a very low ebb. I am thinking of the aftermath of the 9/11 and, before that, the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Yet once again, the regime sprung back more immune and stronger than ever. There were even rumors and published media reports then that the USA is seriously considering the invasion and fragmentation of the country. But destiny had other plans.

When the Americans invaded Iraq they were counting on its shiah majority, who were persecuted severely by Saddam Hussein, to be on their side and help counterbalance the sunni extremists. Like most of the time, the Americans got it wrong. Many leaders of the various shiah factions in Iraq were exiled by Saddam and Iran was the only place for them to find refuge, where they spent many years of exile there. They were only happy to return the favor and cooperate with their Iranian coreligionists once they were back home.

The increasing meddling of Iran in the affairs of Iraq and Lebanon along with its nuclear ambitions got the Americans in a quandary whereby they are now willing to forget and forgive the supposed Saudi involvement in the events of 9/11 in exchange for Saudi help.

The Saudi regime did not plan or even wish for the USA invasion of Iraq, nor for Iran to develop a nuclear program. But somehow in the end all this worked out to its advantage. These two events combined led to heighten the sectarian tension between sunnah and shiah. Now, the USA is anxious to undermine the Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon by enlisting the help of Saudi Arabia, leader of the sunnis, who constitute nearly 90% of Muslims in the world, against Iran, leader of the shiite Muslims.

The Saudi genuine fear of a nuclear Iran is not only cementing this rejuvenated alliance with the USA, but it is also, oddly enough, bringing it a step closer to Israel. If you browse through websites of sunni fundamentalists on the internet you notice that, as much as they hate Jews, they think that shiah are even worse and more wicked. Such a stance on part of at least the fundamentalist sunnis would surely facilitate the Saudi rapprochement with Israel and make it somewhat palatable. We should also not forget that Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states in general, have no Jews to speak of among their population but they do have a good percentage of shiah. This volatile segment of the population is concentrated in the oil-rich areas, and some of them at least could sympathize with Iran. As much as they despise him, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein left the Gulf states exposed to the Iranian threat. The combined armies of the Gulf countries, which cannot exceed 150,000 soldiers altogether, are no match in number or training to the disciplined 450,000 Iranian strongs. The USA and the Gulf states need each other badly now.

The replacement of Israel by Iran as the archenemy would certainly smooth some of the rough edges in the US-Saudi relations. Lately, there seems to be a discrete arrangement in the making between the USA and the Saudis. In order for the shiah to look like the bad guys, Saudi Arabia is urged to do more towards quelling its sunni fundamentalists in order to improve its image in this regard. As a matter of fact, the kingdom is seriously trying to uproot remnants of al-Qaedah on its soil and eradicate sources of violence and terror. Among the last measures taken by the government, which was printed last week in most local newspapers, was the announcement by the ministry of education that it will no longer hire teachers with fundamentalist leanings. Osama bin Laden is now exiting the Draconian stage to let in Ahmadinajad as the mastermind of terror and the real threat to American interests and national security.

In exchange for its efforts, the USA will coordinate and work more closely with the kingdom in an effort to sort out the knotty problems of the region. Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice have been commuting to the Gulf region quite frequently these days, sometimes unannounced. These frequent visits of such high ranking US diplomats, along with more active regional role taken by the Saudis in recent months, are strong indications of a major realignment of US policies in the Middle East. The Americans are enlisting the help of the Saudis because the Saudi government is free to do what the American administration may not always be allowed to do by the Congress. Having got their hands dirty and feet stuck in the marches of Iraq, the Americans may have finally grasped the complex realities of Middle Eastern history and politics and the way to go about dealing with the region and its people. Now, they are conceding the importance of  enlisting the help of their friends in the region and listening to their advice.

The Mekkah accord between Hamas and Fatah managed to extricate Hamas from the Iranian grip. The Palestinians finally succeded in formng a national unity government. The Saudi peace initiative is back on the table and it is to be reconfirmed by the Arab summit next week in Riyadh. If the Israeli arrogance does not spoil the show, this could usher in the beginning of the end of this complicated and bitter conflict. Should the Saudis contribute positively towards solving the Palestinian problem and succeed in undoing this Gordian knot, this would surely boost the regional and international standing of the kingdom and further its future stability.

So, once more, the Saudi regime proves that it might bend, but it does not break. Centuries of rule have taught the Al Saud how to bide their time, like camels patiently chewing the cud, till the wind of luck blows in their direction. With a popular king, a rocketing oil prices, a booming economy, an overflowing budget and an excellent relations with Europe and the USA, the Saudi regime can ask for no more for the time being.

 







  

<<Previous   |  All Articles  |  Next>>