Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Saudi Arabia's swan song

Main sects in West Asia
The current developments in West Asia clearly signal the end of the Saudi monarchy: they are trying to control much more than they can ever hope to manage while they have less legitimacy than even North Korea or Israel. 

It must be said first of all that the prominent human rights leader that the House of Saud murdered a few days ago, Nimr al-Nimr can only be compared to figures like Martin Luther King or Monsignor Romero, with whom he shares the cleric profession and now also the condition of martyr, not a mere religious martyr but a martyr for freedom, respect and common sense. 

As the other religious-political figures I mention here, he led a peaceful protest movement against oppression and injustice, against the worst tyranny on Earth: the House of Saud. Not an easy task, he surely knew the risks since day one, yet he and his sympathizers dared to challenge the totalitarian theocracy and hope for the best. The best hasn't come, not yet certainly. The Saudi mafia smashed them mercilessly and invaded Bahrain, where a sister movement was about to topple a similar tyranny. 

I must say that I that I do not share the faith of any of the aforementioned leaders but, even from this significant ideological distance, I must speak for their courage, as well as for that of the many less known people who also fought for freedom, with them or in other places, occasions, movements. 

By killing him, the House of Saud has only brought one step nearer its own end: martyrs are way too often the light that guides peoples to fight for freedom. Making martyrs is a most risky bet, one that even the stinkingly rich House of Saud can't afford to make. 

Much less when they have their hands full with problems they are unable to manage. 

I was reading the almost invariably lucid Pepe Escobar on this matter and I must agree with him: Saudi Arabia does not know how to play geopolitical chess... or backgammon either. I'm an enthusiast of good boardgames and particularly the game of Diplomacy (best multiplayer boardgame ever, not for the faint hearted) and you definitely don't play that way, or rather: you don't play that way and have any chances at winning or even surviving. You do not, definitely, want to fight many conflicts in many different fronts at the same time, you do not definitely want to get into a new war before winning the previous one, and, if you depend on some protector, as the Sauds do, you do not want to cause more trouble than they are willing to put up with, lest you will be sacrificed. 

If at least the Sauds would have a slim hope of winning any of the impossible scenarios they have gotten themselves into, be it Syria, Iraq or Yemen, be it Bahrain or its own internal instability, let alone a possible scenario of direct war with Iran that would automatically cut off global oil provisions for a long term... but they do not. Unlike in the game (can't be that good: the map is not reality), it's not just about winning battles and conquering provinces: in real life you have to win peace, and that's the hardest part of all. And a ridiculously pompous absolutist intolerant sexist medievalist theocracy has not the slightest chance to win even within the palatine circles, every day more agitated at the extreme risks assumed by the new king, by the name of Salman, a very elderly man, and his appointed heir (and de facto ruler) Prince Mohammad. 

It is as if the reactionary European order that dominated the 19th century was managed not by consensus of four or five major powers but single-handedly by King Ludwig "the Mad" of Bavaria. Even Mad Ludwig was not as mad as to attempt so much but his decadent lifestyle ruined the country, Ludwig was deposed and Bavaria was annexed to the new state of Germany, with the only remaining privilege of issuing its own stamps.

Is that the destiny of the palaces of the Saud clan? Probably. I can't define a precise timeline but it is every day more clear that they are totally desperate and that Fate only awaits for the best moment to topple them. 

When Fate decides is the right time, the tyrant will be toppled from inside, maybe after growing unrest, probably after some foreign policy fiasco such as the foreseeable loss in Syria and Iraq in few months, much as happened to Mubarak. A gattopardist regime, probably under some other prince, will then take power and try to bargain some reforms, not too many, but without clear legitimacy and with growing pathetism in every action, things may well spiral out of control and get the realm split in three or more states: a conservative stronghold in the center, an unstable most populated region in the West and a Shia-dominated republic in the East, possibly joined with Bahrain and normalizing relations with Iran and Iraq. This Shia-dominated East is where all the oil is. 

The model that worked until Bush Sr. tricked Iraq into a pointless war, destabilizing everything, was a model established almost a century ago by Britain: the resources were not in the hands of the inhabitants or even some sort of arbitrary but locally legitimate figurehead, but in the hands of rather alien Sunni Arab powerhouses. These powerhouses have been terminated thoughtlessly by the twisted games of the Bush clan, out of fear of secular pan-Arabism and the desire to reinforce the direct military presence in the strategic inner sea. Ironically enough Saud can't exist without Saddam: in spite of one being fanatically religious and the other presumptively secularist, both exerted the domination of Sunnis over Shias by Machiavellan British design inherited by the USA. This kind of undemocratic power system just cannot work in the present time, not for long at least, and therefore the House of Saud is bound to fall. 

There is a lot of confusion about what is the so-called "Arab Spring" among certain Left, which confuses the genuine desire for democracy and human rights, maybe even some degree of socialism, with the crude manipulations of the Western powers. No revolution exists in a vacuum and the Arab one could not be different: the various powers will no doubt intervene one way or another, with more or less success, but the revolutionary process in itself was and is genuine. And it has not yet ended, not at all.

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