Why cant we dream in Yemen?

Zain is from Yemen, the starting point of Arab civilization, the origin of Semitic peoples. I feel very lucky that Zain is still alive after the Saudi bombs destroyed his school and the lives of a dozen children all aged under 12. I am so glad Zain still has his nerves together after loosing his father, mother, brother and sister in another Saudi air raid just before Eid. Neighborhoods in Sada have basically turned into make shift open sky hospitals where mothers earned medical degrees overnight. Doctors with proper University degrees are either dead or imprisoned. So its now up to the newly qualified mothers to provide what Yemeni children need the most, a little bit of love and care after the after the horrors caused by Saudi bombings.

Zain talks world politics like a Senator. This is not due to his school, no, it’s because Zain and all the other kids are always faced with political questions at home, at school and in the playgrounds. The question is also almost always the same, which is, “Why are Saudis bombing Yemen”? Answers will also circle around a theme very common in Zain’s area. Kids know that Saudis cant really fight a real war on the ground, for if they did, every Yemeni youth would be firing slingshots enough to blind the attackers back to the other side of the border. That is why Saudis decided to not face real men on the ground.

As for Zain, he thinks Saudis are only doing what their friends in Tel Aviv advised them to do. They are only following friendly “orders”.

How is Yemen important to Israel? Well, Zain thinks its not so much about Yemen as such but its really about the rise of a revolutionary idea. What is that idea? Its this thing called “Hope”. See, Yemen, like so many other Muslim countries, wants to change the normal thought that nothing can be changed, that the status quo must always be maintained, that powerful people must not be challenged, that politics is not the agenda for common people, but now the Houthi movement wants to challenge all that. Houthis want to say that Change is possible and it can happen. Common people can choose to dream differently, to think of changing the society and say bye bye to state hypocrisy. This is Zain’s understanding as a 12 year old.

Zain’s thoughts strike so much similarity with people across the Muslim world that its difficult to whether Zain comes from Sada or Baghdad or Damascus or Cairo. The basic rule seems to be quite common amongst the rulers of the Muslim world. They survive on the pill that makes Muslims loose hope in their identity, history and above all they give up on their natural abilities to change their circumstances.

Why should it be like this? Why should Muslims feel hopeless in their own country? Zain stares at the sky asking whether it was another Saudi jet that he just saw flying over a minaret.

Saudi Proxy War

Saudi Arabia appears resolute: It wants Bashar al-Assad out of Damascus. The Saudis view the fighting in Syria with the same intensity that they did the civil war in Yemen that raged in the 1960s — as a conflict with wide and serious repercussions that will shape the political trajectory of the Middle East for years to come.

The Syrian war presents the Saudis with a chance to hit three birds with one stone: Iran, its rival for regional dominance, Tehran’s ally Assad, and his Hezbollah supporters. But Riyadh’s policy makers are wary. They know that once fully committed, it will be difficult to disengage. And so they are taking to heart the lessons of another regional war that flared on their border 50 years ago.

The war in Yemen that broke out in 1962 when military leaders ousted the centuries-old monarchy and declared a republic quickly turned into a quagmire that sucked in foreign powers. The Soviet Union provided the new regime with air support. British airstrikes aided the royalists and the United States offered warplanes in a symbolic show of force.

More than anything else though, the conflict became a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which backed the deposed imam and his royalist supporters, and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported the new republic. Nasser’s vision of a united Arab “nation” free of Western domination and sterile monarchies resonated across the Arab world. The Saudi monarchy, wary of this republican fever on its border, decided it was not going to stand on the sidelines. The kingdom used all available means to try to check Nasser’s ambitions — but it did not send troops.

By some estimates, Egypt sent as many as 55,000 troops to Yemen, some of whom became involved in fighting well inside Saudi territory, while others were accused of using chemical weapons supplied by the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia provided money and weapons to the royalists. Yet neither side achieved its goals. Egypt’s war with Israel in 1967 led Nasser to withdraw his forces, but the Saudis were unable to turn the tide. Riyadh was eventually forced to recognize Yemen’s republican government.

Now as then, Riyadh sees the struggle in Syria as a defining moment. As the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, it perceives an opportunity to check what it sees as Iranian plans to encircle the kingdom with hostile Shiite-dominated regimes. As the war has taken on a more sectarian character, the usually reserved foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, has described Assad’s onslaught against his own people as “genocide” and Syrian lands as being “under occupation” — a clear reference to the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces.

It is no secret that the Saudis are supplying elements of the Syrian opposition with weapons. They all but admitted as much when the prince said a few weeks ago that “if the international community is not willing to do anything, then they must allow Syrians to defend themselves.”

The Saudis will use all tools available to oust Assad, while taking measures to ensure that the weapons they’re supplying to the rebels do not fall into the hands of extremists. Nevertheless, following the chemical attack on civilians near Damascus last month, the Saudi foreign minister spoke candidly about the inability of the Arab nations to put a stop to Assad’s campaign through force of arms, adding that any military effort to do so would likely involve actors outside the region. Recent suggestions that the Arab League should assemble a military force to check Assad’s aggression do not seem viable. Disagreements among the league’s member nations have prevented it from agreeing to even endorse a potential U.S. strike.

But on Monday, the Saudi Council of Ministers issued a strong statement making clear that it considered preventing another chemical attack by Assad to be only a short-term goal. In the long-term, he must be ousted.

Saudi Arabia will intensify its efforts to arm the rebels and to use its media outlets and diplomatic clout to rally support for a military strike. Although the kingdom is known for using its troops sparingly, it has done so judiciously in the past. Riyadh did, for example, send troops to Bahrain to show its support for the Sunni regime in the face of extended mass protests. Of course, Syria is not Bahrain, but neither is Saudi Arabia the same country that it was in the 1960s, when it failed to achieve its goals in Yemen.

The oil-rich kingdom of today wields far greater influence than it did half a century ago. There is no question that it will wield that influence forcefully, supporting the rebels with guns and diplomacy as it struggles to outmaneuver Iran, outflank Hezbollah and oust Assad.

Fahad Nazer is a former political analyst with the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

The general who turned Saudi Arabia into a US-Israeli ally

The general responsible for US victory in the 1991 Gulf War, Norman Schwarzkopf, died on Thursday, December 27th from pneumonia. He was 78. Dubbed “Stormin Norman,” Schwarzkopf defeated Saddam Hussein and cemented US power over Kuwait. The battle also marked a shift in which the US began to actively remake itself as a Middle East hegemon, above and beyond other regions and theatres of war.

The US-led war killed up to 205,000 Iraqis during the invasion and its aftermath and decimated Iraqi infrastructure. In one of the war’s most notorious incidents, Schwarzkopf ordered US forces to fire on retreating and disarmed Iraqi forces along Iraq’s Highway 80, causing hundreds of casualties and prompting the name “Highway of Death.”

News of Schwarzkopf’s death comes as former President George H.W. Bush, who ordered the first Gulf War, is in a Houston hospital in intensive care after suffering bronchitis.

While the US played an active role in the Middle East from WWII onwards, the Gulf War defined its position as a Middle East hegemon. In deciding to push Iraq back out of Kuwait and guarantee the status quo ante in the Gulf, George H. W. Bush and his Centcom commander Gen. Schwarzkopf took the fateful step that would lead to the US replacing Britain as the Great Power in the Gulf. Schwarzkopf is said to have helped convince (together with then US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney and Secretary of State James Baker III), Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd to allow the pre-positioning of hundreds of thousands of US and allied troops on Saudi soil in advance of the January 1991 invasion of Kuwait. The Gulf War also redefined US-Saudi partnership, transforming Saudi Arabia’s role from de facto US colony and oil pump, into a key military ally.

Who is behind the Syrian conflict

Another 9 people killed in clashes in southeast Turkey where Kurds are increasingly coming under Turkish fire. This is not at all good news for the Turkish nation. Syrian situation is by far the worst case of genocide by compatriot co-religionis co-linguists in the modern history. Turkey in its role as the uncrowned leader of the muslim world and the only muslim NATO member country should have a moral obligation to rescue the victims of Bashar’s madness. But at what cost is Turkey prepared to do that? Will it risk loosing its Kurdish state in the south for Syrians?

The trouble in Syria is being fuelled by two states Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They are the real financiers with the international political backing of the pro Israeli lobby. For the monarchs Iran and Syria are the biggest threats. One as an Islamist state and the other as a strategic launching pad for the Islamists’ revolutions in the Gulf.

It can be argued that the Islamists will eventually be the winners in the event of regime change as in Egypt and Tunisia. By removing Bashar al Assad how will the monarchs feel more secured? Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy so far has been largely pro US-Saudi, so far. Baathists have been pro Russia-Iran, and that may be the source of the Middle East conflict. The proxy war is not as much between Saudi and Iran but more between US and Russia.

From Pravda:

Saudi Arabia and Qatar after the failed pan-Arab campaign against Syria seem to have found the country ready to get into a fight – Turkey. Erdogan urged his people to prepare for war because the parliament gave him a permission to do so. For Russia, this is the worst case scenario.

Saudi Wahhabi monarchies have become independent players in the Middle East. They have both the necessary influence and money. Their co-religionists in Turkey (incidentally, all leaders of the country came from the “Brotherhood”), too, strive for global leadership. Interestingly, the ill-fated Syrian shell landed on the Turkish soil on October 3, the day after Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi voiced his determination not to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria. The call of the Emir of Qatar for punitive action under the auspices of the Arab League made at the UN General Assembly found no supporters, and then the Turkish card was played. On October 4, the Turkish Parliament gave the green light for military operations outside its borders. On Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his people to be ready for war with its neighbor. “You have to be ready at any time to go to war, if necessary. If you are not ready for this, you are not a state, if you are not ready for this, you are not a nation,” said Erdogan.

//

However, such emotional appeals are a product for domestic consumption. In fact, Erdogan will not dare to launch a full-scale war against Syria, though he has a comparable army. First, Syria has a strongest ally in the religion – Shiite Iran. President Ahmadinejad vowed that an attack on Syria will automatically signify an attack on Iran, with all the consequences. It is unlikely that Ahmadinejad will allow the regime of Bashar Assad to fall – in this case, the Islamic Republic would lose its path to the Middle East and will be surrounded by enemies.

Second, for obvious reasons, albeit not openly, Syria is supported by Iraq where power is in the hands of the prime minister, Shiite Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq supplies to Syria oil despite the U.S. sanctions, and its airfields, according to the Americans, serve as transit bases for Iranian aircraft that bring arms to Assad. In Iraqi Kurdistan thousands of Syrian Kurds from Peshmerga unit (“going to die”) are undergoing military training. This is a formidable force, ready to cross the border at any moment, cross the sparsely populated southern Sunni Syria and come to the defense of Syrian Kurds who support pro-Assad position and fight against the so-called rebels, but in fact, mercenaries Wahhabis. The Turkish authorities clearly see the threat, and recently have been making strikes at such camps, despite warnings from Baghdad.  

This implies the third and most serious problem for Erdogan – the Kurdish one. If he starts a war, he will not be able to keep Turkish Kurdistan in the hands. There is already a large-scale war with the Kurds. This is indicated by the news about the losses in the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party last month – 500. According to Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Turkish Center for Economic and Policy Studies (EDAM), the majority of the Turkish population believes that the government’s policy towards Syria is one of a hawk, and many people think that what is happening in Syria is the business of the Syrians and the international community should not interfere.  

Fourth, the chances of support of such a war by the West are very slim. The United States has expressed “outrage” over shelling on the Turkish territory. Yet, President Obama has distanced himself from direct intervention. Similar statements of solidarity with Turkey were made by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but the topic of Syria and conflict on the border with Turkey was not included in the agenda of a meeting of NATO defense ministers on October 9-10. The United States and Europe simply have no money for a conflict that is likely to be a lengthy one. In addition, the fact that the West has lately seen enough (i.e., murder of the American ambassador in Benghazi) does not impress western politicians.

Fifth, what about Turkey’s desire to join the EU? They would have to say good bye to it, because a country cannot become a member if it is in a war with its neighbors.

Sixth, Putin will not let Erdogan get reckless. The victory of the Wahhabis in Syria would free up the gangsters who would rush to the Caucasus and other Muslim regions of Russia. This was indicated by head of the center of the Volga regional and ethno-religious Studies of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Rais Sulemanov. According to him, a great number of radical Islamists from different regions, including Tatarstan, are fighting against Assad today. One group of Tatar Wahhabis returned to Almetyevsk, and then hastily moved to Mari El. According to him, “Tatar Wahhabis may join the underground Wahhabi in the Volga region who badly need people with terrorist skills. We shall see what the outcome of President Putin’s visit to Turkey on October 15 would be.  

Finally, there were signs that the Turks and the so-called “Syrian National Council” (SNA) are seeking to negotiate. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested “replacing” President Assad with Syria’s Vice President Farouk al-Sharra, who in his opinion is a “reasonable man.” The same nomination was made by the SNA. Their leader Abdulbaset Sid said on Monday that he would not object to the participation of members of the ruling party “Baath” in the political future of the country provided that they have not participated in the killings during the revolt.

But the Syrian authorities feel that they can sustain their line, as long as they can save the president from direct physical elimination. “We are no longer living in the Ottoman Empire,” said Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi. He encouraged the Turkish government to stop pushing personalities acceptable to the Turkish people. The position of the legitimate government is simple: Assad will remain in office until his seven-year term expires in 2014. Then an election will be scheduled where the Syrians will choose a new president.  

House of Sauds still standing but for how long

They are not elected and neither will they accept any democratic process in their kingdom. Its not rocket science to know why. The house of al Saud does not want o risk its kingdom to popular choice of the citizens. For if they did most probably the Brotherhood or Hamas would win. Just as the Brotherhood swept through Tunisia and Egypt so it is expected to have large influence in Lebanon and Syria. Can the al-Sauds survive this storm?

Deep inside the kingdom people know there is something painfully wrong with their governments. They have an understanding that the royal families are spoiled brats experts at squandering peoples’ wealth and traitors to the first degree when it comes to islamic bonding on values, principles, and defences. But there is silence from the people. Its either due to life being easy thanks to the generous social benefits. Or because of the dreadful secret service ensuring the prosperity of a totalitarian government.

Time however may soon be running out for the western backed regimes of the sheikhdoms. When those governments are long gone people will remember them as unhappy episodes in their otherwise traditional culture of bravery and honesty. Something like the times of Salahdin Ayubi. Kings, and there were many, were icons of pomp, luxury and treachery. Their fall quickly united the provinces and kingdoms under the powerful sultan Salahdin. He ofcourse went on to liberate al Quds (Jerusalem). Are we re-living history?

 

More strategic reading:

The state department spokesperson in Washington Victoria Nuland stated on Tuesday that the United States does not plan to use military force in Syria. This came in the nature of the Barack Obama administration’s reaction to Moscow’s warning earlier in the day against any western military intervention in Syria in any form including the creation of a buffer zone or no-fly zone.

Nuland said, “I think we’ve made clear what we’re looking at in terms of US support for the [Syrian] opposition. We’re talking about nonlethal support. We’re talking about training. We’re talking about trying to help those in Syria who are trying to manage and provide for people in parts of Syria that have now been liberated from regime dominance.”
 
On the face of it, Nuland reiterated the US position but the fine print is what matters in such statements. For one thing, she spoke even as the Syrian government forces beat back yet another rebel assault on Aleppo masterminded from outside and inflicted a serious blow to the armed opposition inserted from Turkey. Meanwhile, the US statement also comes amidst reports that Turkey and Qatar have given an ultimatum to the Syrian rebels that unless the disparate groups united, they wouldn’t arm them further. Again, Egypt is pressing ahead with a regional initiative to solve the Syrian crisis and it is showing signs of gaining traction in a near future, as evidenced by the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s meaningful decision to work out of Cairo in his mediatory mission.

But what stands out above all this is that Nuland’s statement comes after the tragedy in Benghazi where the Islamist progenies of the Libyan revolution murdered the American ambassador recently.  This last point is important since in the opinion of many US experts, a reappraisal has since been going on within the US administration as to where the Arab Spring is heading. The well-known academic and author John Mearsheimer said in an interview on Monday, “The US has begun to pull back in noticeable ways. The Americans have learned that social engineering in any country is never easy, especially in the Middle East. So they have backed off.”
 
He was talking specifically with reference to Syria where, he said, the US estimations that a regime change was imminent have gone haywire and Washington has belatedly come to realize that any involvement would only land the US in another quagmire like Iraq. But a point of great interest Mearsheimer made was about the imperative need of course correction in the US policies.
 He said, “A good number of people in the [US] government have reservations about the Arab Spring now. When the Arab Spring first started, the Americans had unrealistic views of what was going to happen. But state-building and nation-building is always going to be a messy process, and now it has been proven to be messy.”
 
Indeed, the happenings later this week on Monday is going to deepen the pall of “reservations” in Washington about the Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan has called for massive public demonstrations in Amman on Friday calling for political reforms. A situation like in Egypt could develop, and the regime in yet another key ally of the US in the region could fall into oblivion.
 
The Brotherhood in Jordan gave notice to King Abdullah II that he had time till October to accede to their demand to transform the Hashemite Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy. That deadline has passed and the negotiations between the government and the Brotherhood have failed, with Abdullah unwilling to concede the Brotherhood’s demands and the Islamists in turn announcing a boycott of the new elections he has promised.

                                                                                                      Road from Damascus

In essence, the Brotherhood is rejecting the King’s formula for a parliament, which would bear the look of a representative body, but where effectively he will continue to call the shots. Like in Egypt, a variety of other groups are also voicing the Brotherhood’s demand for reform. Arguably, the situation in Jordan is not acute as it was in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt since it is a small country, relatively stable under a monarchy that is not brutal and may even be judged as “popular” monarchy. But the fact of the matter is that the winds of change are blowing in the region and so far they seemed to have bypassed Jordan, but no more. The Brotherhood no doubt feels exhilarated that in Egypt, their kinsmen are in power.
 
Trouble has been brewing in Jordan for the past year and more but a critical mass was not yet forming. That may change with Friday’s planned mass rally in Amman (“Save the Homeland”), which is already being anticipated as the biggest-ever public protest the Hashemites ever faced. Around 80 other reform groups and local organizations are teaming up with the Brotherhood, including the leftist Wihda and the opposition Nahda Party. The Brotherhood has put forward seven demands, which effectively seek that the people will be “at the source of authority” instead of the royalty and that in immediate terms the King allowed the formation of a “national salvation” government.

Clearly, the attempt is to create the dynamics of the Tahrir Square in Cairo. To be sure, Jordan is on the crossroads. Debkafile, the Israeli journal with links to the country’s intelligence, estimates that Abdullah has three options: bow to the Brotherhood’s demands and transfer executive power; crack down on the opposition; or, negotiate a compromise. It says a crackdown will be risky, given the fragmentation of the Jordanian society, especially with the Bedouin tribes whose allegiance to the Hashemites remains doubtful and, secondly, the Palestinians who form 60-70% of Jordan’s population.

An advisory on Wednesday by the American embassy in Amman warned the US citizens that there is “a possibility of violence” during the Save the Homeland Rally on Friday. The Debkafile says, “ Israeli and Saudi intelligence watchers are becoming increasingly concerned about the approaching climax of the conflict in Amman between Islamists and the throne… Most observers believe that he [Abdullah] has left it too late and by now the Muslim Brotherhood has got the bit between its teeth.”

Enter Obama. A Middle Eastern crisis is once again tiptoeing toward the doorsteps of the Oval Office. The predicament is acute: to stand by a loyal ally and friend of the US in his hour of supreme distress, or, to be on the “right side of history.” The dilemma couldn’t be more acute since the Obama administration has hardly recovered from the fateful decision it took to dump Mubarak overnight and to move on with life by endeavoring to build bridges with Egypt’s Brothers. But to the US’ dismay, Brothers in power in Cairo turn out to be something lese than what they appeared to be in a priori history, especially in the vital spheres affecting Israel and the US’ regional strategies on the whole. Israel complains that Obama misread the tea leaves and have been taken for a ride by Egypt’s Brothers who posed as “moderate” Islamists. The Saudis also feel the same way as Israel does.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are “stakeholders”, so to speak, in the outcome of the confrontation building up in Jordan. From the Israeli viewpoint, a Brotherhood victory in Amman completes an Islamist arc stretching from Libya and Egypt to Lebanon and potentially Syria. Furthermore, the overwhelming Palestinian population of Jordan dramatically changes the alchemy of the resistance that Israel encounters. Over and above, Abdullah was a rare Arab leader who wore his friendship with Israel on his sleeve. Simply put, he is irreplaceable.

As for Saudi Arabia, the stakes are even higher. All sorts of Manichean fears will be racing through the Saudi mind this week. If the Brothers on the march in Jordan succeed in overthrowing the regime, it could well be Saudi Arabia’s turn next. There is some evidence that the Saudi regime is in panic. No Saudi official showed up for the foreign minister level meeting that Egypt called in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session to discuss Cairo’s initiative on Syria, which was attended by Turkey and Iran It is the second time this is happening. The Saudis gave the pass to an earlier meeting of the foreign ministers in Cairo ten days ago. After the meeting in New York, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel kept a straight face saying, “We inform Saudi Arabia about everything going on.” Many explanations have been offered for the Saudi absence – Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal’s ill health; Riyadh’s wariness over Egypt’s Brothers; Saudi antipathy toward Iran, etc.  But Debkafile has yet another explanation.

It wrote that the Saudi rulers have belatedly woken up to the peril of the Arab Spring and are in panic realizing that “their preoccupation with helping Syrian rebels overthrow Bashar Assad misdirected their attention from the enemies lurking at their door. Thousands of articles in the Arab press in the past year have predicted that after the Muslim Brotherhood seizes power in Damascus, Amman would be next in its sights, followed by Riyadh.”

                                                                                                               A Pandora’s box

It is not only Arab commentators but also American specialists on the region who fear that after the departure of the Hapsburgs, Romanovs and Pahalavis – and now the Hashemites – the turn may be finally coming for the House of Saud. The noted area specialist at the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy in Washington, Bruce Riedel wrote last week:

“Perhaps the greatest international challenge the next U.S. president could face is a revolution in Saudi Arabia if the royal family’s time runs out… Since the start of the revolutions in the Arab world in early 2011 the most important question has been will they spread to the Kingdom? The stakes are huge, since one in four barrels of oil sold in the world are Saudi produced.
 
“Today the United States needs Saudi Arabia more than ever.  Our oil imports are up from the kingdom. The alliance with Egypt is in doubt. Iraq is tilting toward Iran.  The Saudis are our critical partner in the war against al Qaeda in Yemen and elsewhere… Saudi support is important to containing Iran. Yet the kingdom is also a source of anxiety. European intelligence sources say the kingdom’s rich are still the No. 1 source of finances for extremist Islamic groups including the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan’s Lashkar-e Tayyiba. And the kingdom has all but annexed its small neighbor Bahrain to squash a democratic revolution on the island that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“The Saud-Wahhab alliance remains crucial to the Kingdom’s stability today.  Since the Kingdom is also home to Islam’s two holiest cities, that partnership has global implications… Saudi state will soon face an unprecedented succession challenge… The House of Saud will enter a new world then, without the legitimacy its leaders have enjoyed for a century.  History is not encouraging; the second Saudi state fell apart over succession problems in the late 19th century.  

“Revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable.  Ironically, the more successfully the revolutions in other Arab states develop, the more likely Saudis will also want a government that is modern, accountable and chosen by the people.  But revolution in the Kingdom may come from angry extremists outraged by the Kingdom’s alliance with America… There are several possible directions for the future. Absolute monarchies are not usually capable of reform… The downfall of the shah 35 years ago proved to be the defining crisis of the Carter administration.  Will the next president face a similar crisis across the Persian Gulf?”

A sense of imminent danger has gripped the US strategic community. Indeed, the time is fast approaching for the US to shed its ambivalence and take a definitive stance on Islamism. Any prevarication over Saudi Arabia will be catastrophic. This is one thing. Again, the revolution in Saudi Arabia is bound to come into the hands of angry Islamists who are a strong force and kept under the surface so far through brute force masquerading as “counter-terrorism” effort (with American help and expertise). On the other hand, the US cannot have any misconceptions, either, that Saudi Arabia is “seething with internal tensions and anger”, as Riedel put it, and that in such explosive situations, swimming against the tide of history can have dire consequences, which was the lesson to emerge from the Carter administration’s disastrous decision to support the Shah right till the flood gates of the Islamic revolution of 1979 opened.

The point is, Saudi Arabia is a shockingly young country with 60% of the population below the age of 20 and with dismal job prospects ahead for the bulk of them. Forty percent are below poverty line; seventy percent cannot afford to own home. And yet, 25000 princes and princesses live it up. Meanwhile, regional imbalances, gender discrimination, Shi’ite empowerment – name it and it is all there. It is a veritable Pandora’s box. And to cap it all, the lid of strict Wahhabism, which is imposed from the Nejd central district, is stifling the Hejazis in the West and Shi’ites in the East, and they can’t take it anymore.

 In a manner of speaking, therefore, it all comes back to Syria at the moment, where the uprising which was instigated, aiming at regime change, is becoming radicalized with homegrown Muslim jihadists and “foreign fighters” from the al-Qaeda surging into prominence and asserting their prerogative to opinionate on the directions of the “resistance”. They could as well be doing the trial run for the “forces of history” in Saudi Arabia under the black banner of the Prophet Muhammad, pushing an agenda based on jihad, rooted in the staunch belief that they have a divine mandate to fight – and to rule.

Mearsheimer could be right. Nuland might have articulated a sobering thought in Washington – to take a deep breath and survey what happened in Benghazi, is happening in Aleppo and can happen in Amman. This is going to be a momentous Friday when the muezzin calls the faithful to the noon prayer at the Al-Husseini Mosque in Amman.