April 19, 2011
Assad family’s Syria has been credited by an Arab expert, wrongly I believe, with being the political model emulated by the likes of Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein or Ali Saleh. The same expert calls the Arab countries led by presidents-for-life and by their offspring “monarchic republics”. Whilst the label is appropriate, the political model for such pseudo-republics, dictatorial and highly repressive, is, in my opinion, to be found in the Gulf kingdoms.
Until now, the issue has not received the scientific attention it so richly deserves. Still, evidence is accumulating that the absolutist kings of the Gulf states and Morocco have been the envy of republican Arab dictators. As if to oblige, Saudi Arabia supported the Mubarak regime with investment funds. Bahrain and UAE were, in turn, major foreign investors in Gaddafi’s Libya. Most deposed dictators, from Idi Amin to Ben Ali, were given sanctuary by the Saudis, making Jeddah their home away from home. As Hassan Khader explains it,
“After the October 1973 war, the rise of Saudi Arabia coincided with the inauguration of a system of military and political alliances in the Middle East under the tutelage of the United States. The Americans wished to ensure regional stability, to safeguard the securityof Israel and to dissociate the supply of oil from the Palestinian question. This [ arrangement n.n.] gave rise to the idea that everything was possible as long as there is money, doing away with any moral considerations. Saudi Arabia’s regional role was determined by its sudden and immense wealth. It is this wealth which allowed it to export its values and to convince others of the validity of its political system, coming straight from the Dark Ages.” (“The End of the Saudi Hegemony”, Al-Ayyam, 15.02.2011)
In the first decade of this century, a version of a monarchic republic has even crept up in the United States. The cosy and close relationship of the Bush dynasty with American oil interests and the house of Saudi is too well known to insist upon. What remains to be established by specialists is the measure in which the use of religion as a policy tool under the Bush Jr. presidency was influenced by the religious practices of the Saudi Arabian regime. If anyone cares to remember, during Condoleezza Rice’s tenure at the State Department, neo-protestant sects were empowered to proselytise with a vengeance, even in traditional Christian countries in Europe and elsewhere. Not by accident, both the Saudi and the American Republican leaders have ended up as the target of the same enemy, the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
A member of the Allawi minority of Syria, Assad Jr. is under heavy pressure from the Sunni Muslim protesters calling for his demise. As matters now stand, no amount of brutality used by his security forces or vague promises of political reforms could douse the revolts. In fact, Bashir Al Assad should have started worrying years ago, when demonstrators in Damascus took to the streets carrying not his, but Tayyip Erdogan’s portrait. Turkey, whose Islamic brand of democracy is widely admired in the Middle East, is an inspiration to many Syrians . As the momentum for major political change in the Arab world looks unstoppable, Assad’s inherited position might prove yet another casualty of this process. (sources: Reuters, Courrier International, Europe’s World, Al Ayyam)Spotlight on Geopolitics