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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Saudi Arabian history and patriarchal, successive fraternal (brother) Kingdom

Our radio show discusses decision making by Bush 41 during the Gulf War and Saudi air base support.  It also discusses the origins of his political formation.  Texas hardly had any Republicans in the early 1960's.  Less than a dozen game players.  

Please read the article and listen to the radio show above to get the full concept of Saudi-U.S. relations including the origins of oil development from 1902-1945.

Delicate decision making in the Saudi Royal Kingdom

Part One

Before the modern day reign of the Saudi Royal family which declared its throne in 1932, a young prince  at age 20 wanted to eliminate the Ottoman empire and restore rule of Al Saud who once dominated the region from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.  He didn’t second guess his designated birth-right in the area.  His name was Abd al-Azia Ibn Saud.  He crossed the desert with sixty brothers and cousins to reclaim the land.  He enlisted nomadic Bedouins, local warriors named the Ikhwan who also wanted their own version of a puritan Wahhabi Islamic state.  After the victory in 1902, Ibn Saud wanted to kill 1/3 of the army that helped him win, the Ikhwan.  He consulted the religious elite, the ulama, and got approval.  He killed part of the force that enabled him to win.   Since 1932, there has been no royal monarchy but the House of Saud and each subsequent ruler was a brother.  A few breaches of leadership have tipped the kingdom momentarily but only cost one real life in 80 plus years.  Clandestine deals with the U.S. have kept them interfacing East-West loyalty that may switch up generation to generation.
It is a pragmatic empire that weighs the actions of its neighbors with regional power-brokering beyond religious overtures.  The Saud family has also carefully balanced the initiative of typical geo-politics of defense realism protecting their interests while shepherding strong allies such as the United States to guard them and exonerate them but it has not always worked.   In 1973, President Nixon told King Faisal that an even handed approach would be used toward Israel at the breakout of the Yom Kippur War.  Saudi Arabia had helped financed the war against Israel and sent 3,000 soldiers.  Israel trounced their enemies and Richard Nixon betrayed the Saudis by sending a 2.2 billion in military aid and equipment to Israel.  That is what caused the oil embargo in 1973 which quadrupled oil prices for over a year.  Most of the time, the Saudis did not stand up to the U.S. as in the 1967 Israeli war when King Faisal wanted to punish the Americans by aligning to Israel but did not.
The most romantic union in history, a blind-sighted agreement that reaped unlimited bounty for the Saudi family was when the Americans were looking for the legendary lost Solomon mines and signed a 99 year land grand to look for gold which came to be the best gamble in history. The Quran states that one should not lease land or invite foreigners into a country.   Black gold or oil was found which would propel stability and wealth in the region that would last more than 80 years.   Ibn Saud, the partriach of the House of Saud, fathered over 45 sons in 25 marriages. . To keep his new kingdom united, he married a daughter from every tribe as well as from the influential clerical families.  In Quran rule, you can only marry 4 wives at a time so he ended up divorcing some to marry more.  This created a long term lineage and a kingdom that essentially would never end. King Abd-al Aziz Ibn Saud ruled from 1932-1953.  Unlike many European royal families, Saudi successions are not based on primogeniture; it does not pass from king to his eldest son, it passes to a brother. Due to the advancing age of the second generation of princes, this process is becoming increasingly problematic.  King Salman, the 7th brother to take over, replaced King Abdullah who died last month.  
The Saudis have always built a long lasting friendship with Americans.  The first land grant in which Americans were only searching for gold was met with an exchange of 500 horses to be provided to the Saudi kingdom.  The Americans did pay $170,000 for land concessions eventually.  The Saudis did not want money.  Later, when the Americans found black gold, Ibn Saud gave them the right to develop and manufacture oil.  The oil companies and the Saudi government set up a joint enterprise that later becomes the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco). Its shareholders include America's four largest oil corporations.   During WWII, the U.S. urgently needed oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War.  Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Ibn Saud’s concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.   Later, when President Roosevelt dies suddenly, President Truman does not offer inside deals and warm exchanges to the Saudi leader.
Another friendship formed with Ibn Saud was St. John Philby, who was a British diplomat in the Middle East.   Philby was sent to the interior of the Arabian peninsula to head a mission in 1917.  Ibn Saud was a strict enforcer of the Wahhabi sect of Islam and a cardinal enemy of Sherif Hussein.  Philby was impressed by the reputable “Lion of the desert”, a title he earned by conquering holy territories.  Philby started sabotaging raids against the Hashemite ruler of the Hejaz, leader of the Arab Revolt.  Philby secretly began to favour Ibn Saud over Sherif Hussein as "King of the Arabs", opposing British policy, which was promising support for the Hashemite dynasty in the post-Ottoman world. In 1916,  the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state. Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective, the Allied victory in World War I resulted in the end of Ottoman suzerainty and control in Arabia.  In January 1926,  Ibn Saud declared himself King of the Hejaz and later Nejad. For the next five years, he administered the two parts of his dual kingdom as separate units. On return Philby crossed from Riyadh to Jeddah by the "backdoor" route, proving Ibn Saud was in control of the Arabian highlands.  Philby enabled Ibn Saud to gain the prized Hejaz territory.  The Saudis had aligned themselves with Western allies such as Britain and the United States to overcome the Ottoman empire and the Central Powers of WWI.  When the Armistice was signed and a Balfour declaration agreed to make Israel a nation, Philby felt the Western allies deceived the Saudis.  Philby and Ibn Saud’s friendship lasted a lifetime in which they would go into the desert to practice the ways of the Bedouin nomads.  Philby argued that Ibn Saud was a "democrat" guiding his affairs "by mutual counsel" as laid out in the Quran (Surah 42:38).  Another interesting tidbit is that King Saud first rejected the idea of radio in his country that the Americans introduced.  He later allowed it because the radio could recited prayers and vigils during Ramadan and it was an effective communication.
By 1945, the U.S. urgently needs oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War. Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Ibn Saud’s concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.
Since WWII,  Saudi power has upchanged leadership within their own blood.  King Saud, the next in line, only ruled 11 years from 1953-64 because he was unable to effectively manage the finances of the kingdom.  The family inquires with the ulama, the religious authorities, and get a fatwa sanctioning Saud's abdication.  His brother, King Faisal took over in 1964.  He was educated at Western universities and very dedicated to modernizing his regime.  One time while attending a party at Berkeley, he put caviar on his hot dogs.  King Faisal begins a program of upgrading the kingdom, stressing economic development and educational improvements including the education of women beginning 1965. During his reign oil revenues increase by more than 1,600 percent, enabling Faisal to build a communications and transportation infrastructure and set up a generous system of welfare benefits for all citizens. Even today, Saudi citizens do not pay taxes.  He also introduces television which becomes his fate.  Protestors rushed into the streets to prevent television from being developed in the nation. When a nephew of the king is killed at the protest in clashes with the police, the king does nothing to punish the policemen.  In 1975, the brother of  nephew shoots King Faisal and he is assassinated.  
This is Part 1 of a two part series.  Next week I will discuss  division of profits of Aramco and new leadership that just took over as well as changes after Iran’s overtake of the Shah.

Saudi Succession into the Modern Age

Part Two

In March of 1975 when King Faisal meets with Kuwait’s petroleum minister, one of the king’s nephews, Faisal ibn Musaid, sneaks into the room. His brother had been killed by police at the 1965 protest against the introduction of television. Ibn Musaid shoots and kills the king. The assassination comes as a violent shock, especially because the killer is a member of the royal family. As his father had decreed, King Faisal is succeeded by his half-brother Prince Khalid, who becomes the fourth king of Saudi Arabia.  Khalid continues the modernization of the kingdom as oil profits soar.  In 1972, Saudi Arabia now has 20% control over Aramco, lessening U.S. control of their production.  Subsequently, In June 1972, the Ba’athist government in Iraq nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company and its operations were taken over by the Iraq National Oil Company.  Iran, who had been in a stranglehold of foreign interests for over 25 years when the ruling class of the Shah of Iran was overtaken by the religious clerics of the ayatollahs in 1979 mobilizing full control over their oil. There was a shift regionally from colonial rule to indigenous rule.  The assertion of regional leaders empowered to control their future destiny with their own Pan Arabic vision could redefine the region.  The legacy of the Iranian Mossedegh was in the crossfire of that intent though his humility and uncompromised resolve exceeded present day leaders. 
With the invasion of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan also in 1979, the Wahhabis, the strict Muslim sect, find a rallying cause. The Soviet Union, whom they consider a godless intruder, invades the Muslim nation of Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. make a secret deal to contribute equal amounts to finance the Afghan war against the Soviets. Thousands of young Saudis are sent to fight alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan. For the next decade, some 45,000 young Saudi soldiers trek to Afghanistan where they acquire military skills and come to believe that dedicated Islamic fighters can defeat a superpower. One of their leaders is Osama bin Laden.  In the same year which is 1979, several hundred Saudi fundamentalists take over al-Haram, the Great Mosque at Mecca and the holiest site in Islam. The leader of the insurgents is Juhayman al-Utaybi, a direct descendant of the Ikhwan, the Wahhabi warriors who helped the Al Saud family take power in the early 1920s. The radicals call for a return to pure Islam, and a reversal of modernization. Juhayman also accuses the royal family of corruption and says they have lost their legitimacy because of their dealings with the West.  The royal family again turns to the ulama, the religious court.  The clerics issue a fatwa that allows the government to use all necessary force to retake the Great Mosque. The standoff lasts for several weeks before the Saudi military can remove the insurgents. More than 200 troops and dissidents are killed in the attacks and, to set an example, over sixty of the zealots are publicly beheaded in their hometowns. With the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Shiites in Saudi Arabia felt courageous enough to try and secure equal treatment as Sunnis had.  Since Al-Hasa and Qatif which were conquered and annexed into the Emirate of Riyadh in 1913 by Ibn Saud, Shiites in the region had experienced state oppression.  Shiites in Saudi Arabia were polarized to Khomeini in 1979 and his position toward the Saudi royal family on the grounds that Islam and hereditary kingship are not compatible with their Shia doctrine.  They decided to celebrate the Day of Ashura, a Shia holiday that was banned. They were also motivated by the fact that Sunnis got paid more wages in the oil field than Shias.   With the open celebration of the Day of Ashura, national guardsmen beat down the crowd through the use of clubs and electric prods, which angered the crowd and was met by protesters throwing stones and wielding bars and wooden canes as weapons. The National Guardsmen then opened fire on the crowd, wounding, amongst others, the 19 year old Hussein Mansur al Qalaf.  The leader was taken to a hospital and refused treatment.  By the time he got to the next hospital, he died.  The Royal family would only release the body if the family stated he was stoned during the demonstration.  The family complied.
The change of geo-politics since 1980, is that Saudi Arabia had decided to strengthen alliances with the United States due to shifting dynamics in the region.  Iran, which is now Shia dominated and verbally attacked the Saudi monarchy, became an enemy.  Saudi Arabia and the U.S. financed the majority of arms and money to the Iraqis during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.  The U.S.. and the Saudis provided support to Osama bin Laden’s fighting faction when he was a part of the mujahideen forces in Pakistan fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  The Saudis were duped by the United States when King Fahd was told in 1990 by General Schwarzkopf that Iraq planned to invade the Sauds within days after invading Kuwait.  The Saudis offered to use their military base so that the U.S. led coalition could defeat Iraq.  Saddam Hussein intended to develop a Pan-Arabic confederation of nations that could emancipate from full Western rule.  However, he did not have the charisma of Egypt’s former Nasser and was ultimately defeated.  
With the change of power in January, 2015 and the death of King Abdullah, King Salman has now taken over the reign.  After the crown prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, he has placed Mohammed bin Nayef, the 55 years old grandson as the deputy crown prince.  He is the first in succession to not be one of King Ibn Saud’s sons.  He was the interior minister during the Qatif uprising of 1979.  He has formed a center to rehabilitate former jihadists.  He survived a terrorist assassination attempt in 2009.  He is popular among youth.  The Saudi kingdom has an uphill battle with recent publicity of Rahif Badawi who was jailed in 2012 for liberal minded blogging.  He was charged with apostacy and given a ten years sentence and 1000 lashes.  The lashes have been stopped since King Salman came to power.  King Salman has said “The direction is to go for more reform, not less.  The environment has changed, you have social media and nobody can control any society now.  I think that is understood by the leadership.”  “The kingdom and the royal family will not be able to move forward unless Nayef has the religious establishment at his side. It will be very, very difficult because the religious leaders are generally older and their base of support is so strong,” says Rachel Bronson of Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  The recent coup in Yemen, during which Shia rebels forced the country’s Sunni president to step down, is viewed by most within Saudi Arabia as a direct threat to Sunni stability in the region.  With encroaching Islamic fundamentalists such as Yemenise insurgents and ISIS who denounced the Saudi monarchy recently and geographically flank their kingdom, the Royal family must retain strong public support within their kingdom to survive.

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