Skip to comments.Free the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia
Posted on 05/13/2002 12:44:54 PM PDT by swarthyguy
The peace plan of Crown Prince Abdullah has put the Saudi Kingdom at the center of Middle Eastern diplomacy, as well as at the center of media attention. Misconceptions about Saudi Arabia, which are rampant, need to be dispelled in order for the US to adopt policies which will be in the interests of the free world.
Saudi Arabia is commonly thought to be an ancient kingdom with a homogeneous people. But, in fact, the kingdom is less than 80 years old, the result of the British-supported conquests of Abdul Assiz ibn Saud, a magnificent feudal potentate and shrewd diplomat who conquered most of the Arabian peninsula and created the country that now belongs to the Al Saud family which has been able to keep its power over the diverse peoples of the peninsula because of the oceans of oil discovered under the conquered territory.
Ibn Saud, whose family is from the central desert province of Najd, put the country together during a reign of over 50 years by modern methods of money and force combined with the traditional technique of cementing relations with leading tribes and clans by taking more than 20 wives. One result is that he had 44 sons and literally countless daughters (because no one there counts daughters). Thirty-five of the sons were alive when Ibn Saud died in 1953. Since then, four of them have become king, and the royal family has grown to an estimated 6,000 consumers of the national wealth.
Before its conquest by Ibn Saud, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (EP), which lies along the shore of the Arabian Gulf and which contains all of Saudi Arabias oil fields, was populated mostly by two groups of Shiite Moslems who were quite different culturally and religiously from their Najdi conquerors. One group was Bedouins and settled date-growers and farmers living around two groups of oases. The other was pearlers, fishermen, and traders living in coastal villages along the Gulf.
Since the vast recent expansion of the oil industry, the population of the EP has multiplied, partly from natural growth of the original local population, but also by migration from other parts of Saudi Arabia and a much larger immigration of foreign Arabs and other Muslims and some professionals and managers from Europe and the US, all of whom are excluded from citizenship.
APPRECIATING THE predicament of the people of the EP requires some information about the official religion of Saudi Arabia. It is unofficially known as Wahhabism which is conventionally described as a form of Salafi Islam begun by the Najd preacher Mohammed bin Abdul-Wahhab in 1745, who spread his faith by partnership with the local Najd warlord, who became the founder of the Al Saud dynasty. (Some Moslems resentfully say that calling Wahhabism a school of Islam is like calling the Branch Davidians of Waco a school of Christianity.) Wahhabism is an austere desert belief, based more on fanatic intensity than scholarly roots in Islamic writings and teaching. In addition to objecting to any memorials to the dead, and any freedom for women, it holds that most Moslems who are not Wahhabis are polytheists who should be treated like infidels, and killed if they refuse to convert to Wahhabism. They specifically deny that Shia Moslems are true Moslems and therefore insist that they have no rights in Saudi Arabia, even in areas where they had been living for many centuries before Saudi Arabia existed. (A newly published book, Wahhabism: A Critical Essay, by Berkeley Professor Hamid Algar calls Wahhabism a peculiar interpretation of Islamic doctrine that was stigmatized as aberrant by the leading Sunni scholars since it was first put forth.)
Wahhabi clerics have established an official religious police force that walks the streets of the EP with whips to lash women whose skirts or sleeves are not long enough or who are with a man other than a family member. They stop couples to demand identification proving that the woman is under proper supervision.
For many years the Wahhabi religious persecution of minorities, the Najdi exclusion of other clans from participation in government, and the vast spending on palaces and decadence by the thousands of descendants of ibn Saud have been treated as quaint customs of a country with which it is good business to maintain good relations. But in recent years, Wahhabi actions have taken on a more dangerous cast.
Since Saudi oil wealth exploded in the early 80s, Wahhabi organizations have been given more and more money to spread the Wahhabi message of anti-American and anti-Western hatred around the world. Recently they have been spending well over a billion dollars a year converting young Moslems from Indonesia to America to their intolerant brand of violent zealotry. And in most of the world it doesnt take much money to get a lot of attention. Even in the US the Saudis have spent enough to buy control of the majority of the mosques and schools, many of which they built.
If the militant strain of Islam, with its belief in the duty of spreading the faith by attacking the US, because it is the leader of the world of non-believers, continues spreading, the US, and later Europe, will have no way of preventing a campaign of terrorist attacks that will make September 11 only a prelude. If terrorists have a safe harbor in the Middle East and in the giant Moslem countries of Asia, there is no way that the US can protect itself from terror attacks, which even without weapons of mass destruction can kill 10,000 Americans a year. And there is no reason to believe that the terrorists would not use biological, and eventually nuclear weapons. Millions of Americans could die if the present opportunity to stop the spread of militant Islam is not taken.
THERE ARE two views about the basic approach to minimizing the influence of militant Islam: One view found in the State Department and CIA and in Middle Eastern Studies departments of universities holds that to prevent militant Islam from becoming stronger, Americans need to understand their responsibility for the root causes of Moslem antagonism and to make concessions to the needs and concerns of Moslem governments.
The other view which is held by some of the most profound students of Islam and the Middle East, such as Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Fouad Ajami, and Kenan Makiya, as well as the political leadership of the Defense Department is that only the determined exercise of American power will prevent the growth of Moslem support for militant Islam.
Fortunately for those who find it difficult to decide between the two approaches, we have recently had a powerful demonstration that the second view is correct. The sight of Americans dying and running in fear on September 11 produced an immense upwelling of support for militant Islam all over the Moslem world. While there were contrary voices, moderate and realistic Moslems were on the defensive when the US seemed as if it might be beatable. The tide of support for militant Islam ebbed only when the US quickly defeated the Taliban in a fearsome display of military power and of the will to use it despite warnings by Moslem leaders and hand-wringing concern throughout the West.
When President Bush displays the strength he will need to resist the immense pressures against attacking Saddam Husseins regime which will disintegrate even faster than that of the Taliban a much bigger step will have been taken in the effort to head off militant Islam before it is too late. Removing Saddam Hussein will make the other necessary steps infinitely easier which is why Arab dictators are so desperate to escalate the conflict in Israel, to divert the US from removing Saddam and beginning a process that threatens their control.
One essential measure will be to stop the flow of Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia. The great vulnerability of the Saudi regime that could make it possible for the US to stop this flow is that the Wahhabis are only a small minority of the population of the EP of Saudi Arabia, from where all their money comes.
It is well within the power of the US to make it possible for the EP to become independent from the Wahhabis, a new Moslem Republic of East Arabia. Especially if the independence of the people of the EP were gained in part by a promise to give half of the oil revenue to non-political Moslem charities throughout the world, instead of to the al Saud family, there would be no objection among Moslems around the world to ending the al Saud familys obscene wealth and to relieve themselves of the Wahhabi preaching to their children that all other Moslems are infidels. The US would neither seek nor gain control of oil policy or any oil profits. Its help to Moslems in the EP, like its help to Moslems in Bosnia and Kosovo, would be a result of US resistance to oppression and pursuit of a safer world.
Max Singer is a Senior Fellow and Founder of the Hudson Institute and the author of The REAL World Order: Zones of Peace/Zones of Turmoil (with Aaron Wildavsky), winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Improving World Order.
An independent eastern province would essentially mean the end of Saudi oil wealth although, technically small amounts (less than 5%) are produced outside of the Eastern Province.
Singer also neglected to point out that 14 of the 15 Saudi hijackers got their visas from the American Counsulate in Jeddah (near Mecca), the 15th from Riyhad, the aboriginal homeland to the House of Saud. Not one got a visa in Dahman, in the Eastern province and might have been exposed had they tried, because a good share of the natives there cannot stand the Wahabis.
On second thought...never mind the missionaries.
Saudi runs on foreigners: American/European technologists, doctors,teachers from India and Pakistan, labor from Filipinos to Bangladeshis. even the stewardesses on some of the Gulf airlines are from malaysia, pakistan, india.
I could be wrong, but I agree.
The problem is that the Bushies are joined at the hip with the Saudi Royal Family. Does Dubya have the guts to gut the Saudis?
It's not like the Iranians are paragons of tolerances. Ask Zoroastrians or Persian Jews.
We need to destroy both Wahabism and Khomeniism before pretending to be the British.
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