Sunday, November 12, 2017 3:04 pm
By Tunde Asaju
A desert storm is sweeping through Saudi Arabia. Its gale-force winds have blown sandstorms into the golden teacups of hitherto powerful and seemingly untouchable princes of the House of Saud. They are now accused of corruption and that is a bad tag that seals the fate in one of the few countries still left in the world where mundane offenses requiring psychiatric evaluation leads to decapitation in the city square. One family has ruled Saudi Arabia since its foundation in 1932 and that is not about to change.
When fate crowned King Salman the new monarch in 2015, he began to align his favourite son to the same line that assured his promotion by making him defence minister. Observers say he is conscious of his own failing health and fears passing the monarchy over to his own brothers. Mohammed bin Salman, the 31-year old Crown Prince, dubbed the minister of everything has lived up to his father’s bidding. Shedding the toga of a heavy socialite who organises randy parties and enjoys the debauchery of western life, the young prince has instigated a war that has destroyed Yemen. Under his leadership, the country has led an Arab blockade of Qatar with demands for the disbandment of the powerful Al-Jazeera as a precondition for reconciliation. But beyond the surface, there is an economic war, the Saudis remain the world’s largest oil exporter while the Quataris have the highest gas reserves. There is a battle for doctrinal supremacy with Iran.
Some of Crown Prince Salman’s older cousins have disappeared without official trace. At least one of the three who escaped into exile was kidnapped and shipped back home for trial. For now, the more than a dozen princes involved in the latest anti-corruption drive have better fate; among them Alwaleed bin Salman, one of the world’s richest men with extensive stakes in many foreign businesses. They are detained in the opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
King Salman, the man behind this revolution is a beneficiary of the conservatism he appears to be fighting but his efforts to alter the divine codes of masochism is evidence that it does not always take a saint to make change happen. While the status of the King’s health is unknown, there are talks that he might abdicate to pave way for his son and perhaps take a back seat as adviser. In that case, his son oversees the father’s announced reforms. One such is to allow women take the wheel by the middle of 2018 without fear of fitna or disorder. Another is a decree empowering them to issue fatwas or religious decrees.
Whether the King continues with his reform or steps aside for his son, the hype over the country’s current anti-corruption drive in the West is unlikely to last too long. Saudis are unlikely to be voting soon. The last time there was euphoria for this type of change was in Syria when a young Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father. The West expected Assad to open the wealth of his country to imperialist control but instead; Assad consolidated his hold on power.
The Crown Prince might wipe away a thousand or so uncles, cousins and nephews; but at the end of the day his reforms are likely to fall below western expectations. The Arabians need the reform. While the top echelon of monarchical cum political leadership is swimming in opulence, the generality of the populace barely eke out a living. With growing discontent and unstable oil prices, coupled with the unstable future of oil in the new climate change world order, it is obvious that what the Crown Prince has tagged corruption trial would need to go further.
King Salman, the man behind this revolution is a beneficiary of the conservatism he appears to be fighting but his efforts to alter the divine codes of masochism is evidence that it does not always take a saint to make change happen….The Saudis have been accused of sponsoring terror with their conservative brand of Wahabism, a charge that the current monarch takes seriously enough to promise moderation. While clinging to old ways, other Gulf member states have moved on. One of such is Dubai, the new haven for Nigerian nouveau riche and the vanishing middle class.
The Saudis have been accused of sponsoring terror with their conservative brand of Wahabism, a charge that the current monarch takes seriously enough to promise moderation. While clinging to old ways, other Gulf member states have moved on. One of such is Dubai, the new haven for Nigerian nouveau riche and the vanishing middle class. It is said that its oil-dependent economy is so well managed that it would be able to sustain the current standard of living and GDP for 45 years if oil dried up today or if the world decides to go green. Here is something the Saudis can learn to do. The Kingdom recently announced it would create islands of debauchery or avenues for western-style tourism to highlight its own perestroika and glasnost.
For now, the West is watching but not showing too much open interest. It’s media hides under the pretext that much of what happens in Riyadh is shrouded in secrecy. In other climes, it would have called the purge by its real name – a monarchical coup by a hungry youngster to entrench himself in power and stifle likely opposition. When you have money and influence plus what the world still needs, you have many friends. Let’s hope that King Salman and his Crown Prince can keep the momentum within the approval of its citizenry but strong enough to retain Western adulation.