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Saudi/US in Trumps Era,

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

April 11, 2017

Saudi/US in Trumps Era, Women’s gains, religious or men of darkness, mass executions

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

Trump and US-Saudi Relations: Projections and Proposals

By Ali H. Alyami, director

CDHR Analysis: The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) has received numerous inquiries asking for predictions about what US/Saudi relations will look like under the Trump Administration. While it is difficult to predict what President Trump and his senior team might do, especially in the face of the constantly changing landscape in the Middle East, there are pronouncements of parallel interests and objectives suggesting that US/Saudi relations are likely to follow historical tendencies despite President Trump’s characterization of the Saudis not only as “…the world's biggest funder of terrorism, but who use “our petro dollars to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people while the Saudis rely on us to protect them.” Interestingly, President Trump’s characterization echoes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement about the Saudis.

However, based on historical facts, the Saudi royals know that occasional criticism by US officials are not reflective of US policy toward them since FDR declared in 1943 that “the security of Saudi Arabia is a ‘vital interest’ of the United States.” FDR’s statement was formalized in 1945 with the signing of a pact establishing the foundation of US/Saudi relations: US access to Saudi oil in exchange for US protection of the Saudi monarchy and its kingdom. This beneficial arrangement survived many critical regional political and strategic developments that have threatened the survival of the Saudi monarchy and its close ties with the US.

Prominent among these developments are intra-Arab conflicts, rise of competitive regional powers and threats from Saudi/Wahhabi-inspired ‎extremist and terrorist groups. In the face of these threats and despite a steady decline in US dependence on Saudi oil and military bases, the US commitment to defend Saudi Arabia and its oligarchy remains the same as FDR stated in 1943. With the exception of threatening to invade Saudi Arabia to protect American interests during the 1973 Saudi-led oil embargo (a threat the Saudis laughed at), consecutive US Administrations provided unconditional defense of Saudi Arabia even after the September 2001 (9/11) terrorist attack on the US by mostly Saudi nationals, an event that exposed the true nature of the Saudi ideological system and the mortal threats it poses to the American way of life.

That tragic event marked an irreversible turning point in US/Saudi relations. It changed the way the American people live their lives and turned American public opinion against Saudi Arabia and thus compelled Americans of all stripes (with the exception of lucratively paid lobbyists) to reconsider close US ties to and unconditional support for the Saudi monarchy.

Notwithstanding such historical jolts to US/Saudi relations and despite the Saudis’ role in the spread and financing of extremism and terrorism, the Trump Administration is showing signs that it’s not only going to protect the Saudi monarchy, but will reaffirm its declining influence, which was tarnished during the Bush and Obama Administrations. Reaffirming the Saudis’ diminishing influence may well undermine President Trump’s stated intention to eradicate Islamic extremism, given the Saudis’ centuries’ old reliance on religious zealotry to maintain control at home and spread their influence abroad.

Early signs of President Trump’s intended policy toward the Saudi regime were revealed by a phone call the President made to King Salman shortly after his inauguration. During the phone conversation, the two men were reported to share “identical views…on the fight against terrorism” and the creation of “safe zones” for displaced Syrians and Yemenis, albeit for different policy objectives. While President Trump’s goal is to keep refugees out of the US, the Saudi rulers’ objective is to control swathes of strategic Syrian and Yemeni lands and populations on whom they can impose their Wahhabi doctrine.

In response to President Trump’s early gesture of embracing the Saudis, the Saudi rulers responded by dispatching the King’s powerful son, Defense Minister and economic reform overseer, Prince Mohammed, to the US. Prince Mohammed was well-prepared and authorized to offer Saudi support for President Trump’s travel ban on some Muslims and for the President’s domestic fiscal plans. More importantly, Prince Mohammed is said to have presented President Trump with a detailed economic, defense and strategic blueprint whereby investments in each other’s economy will provide American companies with profitable opportunities in the Saudis’ economic reform plan, Vision 2030. As appealing as business opportunities sound, especially at this juncture of severe global economic competition, signing onto long term economic agreements with the Saudi regime will oblige the US to defend Saudi Arabia and its oligarchy for years to come, reminiscent of the 1945 US/Saudi pact.

While one of President Trump’s major presidential campaign commitments is to advance American economic interests (“America first”), his other major theme is to defeat “Islamic terrorism.” Saudi Arabia is a country where these two goals intersect and compete. Can these two formidable challenges be reconciled by President Trump, who vowed to re-invent the US economy and keep America safe from Islamic terrorism? While this undertaking is likely to be the key to President Trump’s success, it might prove to be his spikiest foreign policy dilemma. Nevertheless, the following approaches can go a long way in creating an environment where defeating extremism (without which terrorism cannot survive) and providing tangible economic benefits can be achieved:

1-Make it clear to the Saudi religious and political old guard that Saudi Arabia will not be exempt from the US war on Islamic extremism and terrorism. The Saudis are very pragmatic; they will heed this warning if they know that the Trump Administration is not bluffing.

2-Support Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, overseer of the ambitious Saudi economic reform plan (Vision 2030), if he proves to be serious about breaking away from his family’s habitual deception and manipulation of their people and the international community, especially the US. One way the Administration can do this is to help Prince Mohammed create a political cadre of non-sectarian technocrats and progressive royals (men and women) to be the decision-makers, not proxies for extremists and traditionalists, like King Salman and his anti-modernity and anti-human development generation.

3-Support Prince Mohammed’s economic reform plan (Vision 2030), which will not only generate profitable opportunities for Saudi and American companies and peoples, but will undermine the stifling influence of the Saudi religious extremists, whose defeat will significantly contribute to the success of the economic reform project and to the defeat of Saudi extremism.

4-Anticipate and be prepared to deal with discord within the royal family over empowering young prince Mohammed and non-royal technocrats to implement massive economic reform, which many have argued cannot succeed without concomitant social and political re-arrangements of the status quo. However, the royals will heed matter-of-fact discussions that their income, survival and the defeat of extremism will depend largely on the success of Vision 2030.

5-Support freedom of opposing viewpoints regarding political, social, religious, gender and economic reforms via social, visual and print media, largely controlled by the royals and their zealot establishment. Use social media to advance social change in Saudi Arabia in order to undermine the influence of extremists and anti-modernity elements, something like “Radio Free Europe,” but using pervasive modern technology.

6-Convene an inclusive international Muslim conference to consider revisiting the 15- centuries’-old interpretation of Muslim texts. The participants should include male and female representatives of all Muslims, most importantly of reformers known for their rejection of Muslim extremism, terrorism, religious intolerance and oppression of women and religious minorities. Such an event may not result in an immediate reformation of Islam, but will create a badly needed and overdue public debate among Muslims.

7-Avoid supporting Saudi controlled “safe zones” in war-torn Muslim countries. This will only result in the production of more extremists and terrorists.

Finally, Mr. Trump, his advisors and western allies have to understand and accept that “Terrorism is the final threshold in the hierarchy of extremism. Terrorism cannot be eliminated without fighting extremism. This fact should not be neglected by those interested in it.”

Saudi Clerics: Religious or Agents of Subjugation and Backwardness?

CDHR Commentary: According to this article (Saudi clerics keep mum about concerts in the kingdom) by a well-known Saudi journalist, the Saudi Mufti and his senior clerics recently abstained from criticizing or opposing a concert  organized by an enlightened Princess, Adila Bint Abdullah (daughter of late King Abdullah) on February 14, 2017. Normally, the clerics publicly oppose all forms of entertainment and non-religious celebrations, characterizing them as “depraved” and their advocates as despicable. However, in this case the clerics realized that musical entertainment has been initiated recently by King Salman’s powerful son, Prince Mohammed as part of his   economic reform plan, “Vision 2030.”

Given this reality, it’s not surprising that the clerics acquiesced to the wishes of the royals who hire, finance and control them. However, royal wishes do not exclude the clerics’     ruthless treatment of the Saudi population, especially women and promoters (male and female) of free expression and personal choice. The clerics’ ongoing assignment is to render the population fearful of authority and to enforce total obedience to the king and his family. This is the power bestowed on them by the Saudi ruling clan since the start of the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance in 1744. Now more than ever, the clerics have a staunch ally, King Salman, who shares their Salafist way of thinking regarding how the country should be ruled.

Political decision-making processes reside exclusively in the hands of the Saudi royals; therefore, significant religious de-radicalization and meaningful political, social and economic reforms are unlikely to occur peacefully without active initiatives by influential and pragmatic members of the ruling family, like Prince Talal and Princesses Adila Bint Abdullah, Basmah Bint Saud and Loulwa Al-Faisal, as well as other members of the family who do not share their forefathers’ myopic, exclusive and reactionary way of thinking.  This will require rearrangement of the palace deck chairs, including defying the established order or a palace coup. To save themselves and prevent the country from sliding into violent upheaval, like-minded pro-reform royals should form a faction to push for real change that will give the Saudi people (all citizens) hope for a better future.

Substantial political, economic, social and religious transformative measures are overdue for the sake of the country and all of its citizens, including royals.

Saudi Women’s Struggle Begins to Pay Off

CDHR Commentary: Never mind that they still have to hire poverty stricken expatriate Asians to drive them to and from their jobs because they are not allowed to drive; Saudi women’s struggle for their rights and place in society is paying off. While it’s encouraging to see a few women being hired to manage large financial institutions, the number of unemployed female university graduates, including Ph. D. holders, was estimated at 78.3% in 2012, which has not changed much, especially at the managerial levels.

Faced with an unprecedented domestic financial crisis and simmering demands for political reform, as well as regional military and strategic challenges, the Saudi rulers have to act before social unrest bursts into irreversible street confrontation, as Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bluntly stated. Regardless of the reasons that compelled the Saudi rulers and companies to promote a fraction of the millions of capable and qualified Saudi women to work at and manage prominent financial institutions, this step, while woefully overdue, is a move in the right direction, especially at a time when the country is in dire need of reducing its dependence on 10 million foreign workers and of preventing its economy from disastrous meltdown.

Many courageous Saudi women have been struggling for emancipation from the state’s institutionalized belittling policies for decades; consequently, if anyone deserves credit for the snail's pace of delayed social change regarding women in Saudi Arabia, it's not the Saudi royals as their lucratively compensated propagandists claim, but women themselves.

Ivanka Trump has an opportunity to influence her father “to do the right thing” for Saudi women, because their victory will weaken extremism and terrorism, a step toward President Trump’s campaign commitment to “destroy terrorism.”

Royals' Contempt for Economically Pinched Population

CDHR Commentary: As this article demonstrates, the Saudi royals continue to live extravagantly while the repressed Saudi people are forced into bearing the brunt of economic hardship that is distressing the country due to the drastic decline in oil prices, the costly war in Yemen, a military escapade in Bahrain and support for like-minded regimes like Sisi’s in Egypt. King Salman and his son, Prince Mohammed--the man in charge of exploring possibilities of finding other sources of income to make up for some of the radical losses in oil revenues--imposed new taxes, eliminated the state’s partially subsidized utilities and social programs upon which many Saudis rely.

The royals’ behavior at a time of economic crisis is indicative of the rulers’ contempt for their population, of which a large number is “poverty stricken” The Saudi royals’ waste of shrinking public revenues is a recipe for social strife and political instability in a society that is already seething with anger against a ruling family which suppresses and bankrupts them. The question is, how long will the US and its western allies continue to support the Saudi ruling family, praise it as an ally in the "war on terrorism" and as a stabilizing force in the Middle East while the contrary is so blatantly the case?

Rash of “Mass Executions” in the Gulf States and Jordan

CDHR Commentary: “Mass executions” arbitrary arrests and lengthy imprisonments without charges in countries like Saudi Arabia are not news, but why are other Gulf states and Jordan embracing the same barbaric practice at this time? Some Middle Eastern experts believe that the recent rash of executions carried out by the autocratic regimes of Jordan, Kuwait and the UAE, are designed to prove to the American decision-makers that these regimes are their best hope to defeat terrorism as promised by President Trump during his quest for the White House.  It’s reported that the Trump Administration has designated the governments of Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait and the UAE as the bedrock of the US’s new strategy to “eradicate Islamic terrorism from the surface of the earth.”

No one disputes that Muslim terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban and Boko Haram are hooligans, but how do they differ from the regimes that commit the same savagery, such as mass executions, flogging, and denigration of women and oppression of religious minorities, especially Christians and Jews?

For decades, many Arab and Muslim human rights activists, scholars and experts have been saying that the West is fighting the wrong terrorists; it should be fighting the regimes and institutions that create, nurture and use extremists and terrorists to maintain control over their societies and blackmail the international community, especially western democracies.

Unless President Trump and his nationalist team address the root causes of extremism and terrorism, they will end up strengthening rather than defeating them.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 16:57
 

“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

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“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

CDHR Commentary: After a recent meeting at the UN about human trafficking, the Saudi deputy representative to the UN, Saad Al-Saad, was quoted saying that “Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its strong rejection of all forms of human trafficking and promised to double efforts to eliminate it in coordination with the international community, by ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking.”  He continued, ‘…the majority of victims {of human trafficking} are women, girls and children.’

The Saudi representative to the useless international forum, the UN, is right about the victims of human trafficking. Tragically, Saudi Arabia (the government he represents) has one of the world’s worst records on human rights in general, specifically as they relate to “women, girls and children.”

“Ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking” is worthless unless implemented, enforced and scrutinized by independent civil society and a free press, none of which is permitted in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory to its stringent, wide-range shielding rules and regulations regarding women’s equality and migrant workers’ and their families’ rights. Yet, Saudi women remain marginalized, and abuses of migrant workers, especially maids, are rampant. This is mostly due to the fact that universal declarations on human rights are conveniently considered un-Islamic; therefore, implementing them would be considered blasphemous repudiation of Islam’s unsurpassable teachings. However, this male self-serving arrangement is being increasingly and impatiently challenged by its primary repressed targeted segment of Saudi society, women, as this video demonstrates.

By definition, “Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery and for… providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage.”

Under the Saudi/Wahhabi retributive Shariah-based judicial system, child marriage is legally enforced, gang-raped women can be sentenced to flogging and imprisonment for luring men and polygamy (up to four wives per man) are normal practice. The unspeakable practice of child marriage is religiously sanctioned as stated by the Saudi Mufti, the highest religious authority and overseer of the Saudi educational system and enforcer of the state’s smothering social taboos, which are based on his and his subordinates’ (senior clerics) arbitrary interpretation of proper social conduct.

Why Saudi Arabia is branded “a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery?”

It’s estimated that there are between 9 and 10 million defenseless expatriate laborers in Saudi Arabia, of which two to three million are maids. These maids are mostly poverty stricken Asian and African women who traveled to Saudi Arabia in the hope of earning honest income to feed their starving families they left behind in their poverty ravished homelands. As has been abundantly documented by human rights groups and some western governments, they are not only overworked and underpaid, but many (if not most of them) are sexually abused, beaten, starved and burned.  The inhumane treatment of many of the maids in Saudi Arabia has been highlighted by this organization (CDHR), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US Department of State, among many others, including some Saudi newspapers.

However, maltreatment of Saudi women is producing a corps of right activists, mostly women, but some men too. They are saying enough is enough, not only to institutionalized male domination, but to the ruling elites, the real culprits behind child marriage, human trafficking and doctrinal extremism. Despite the deleterious conditions under which they operate and the heavy price they pay, Saudi women are in the forefront of challenging one of the world’s most extremist and misogynistic ruling class that treat women with utter contempt for no other reason than their gender.

Supporting Saudi women’s struggle against vilification and exploitation serves far-reaching objectives, including extracting the claws of religious extremism and its byproduct, terrorism.

 

Homeland Security Nominee General John Kelly is Accused of Moral Bankruptcy

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Homeland Security Nominee General John Kelly is Accused of Moral Bankruptcy

CDHR Commentary: According to Naureen Shah (a female American Muslim and harsh critic of US policy toward Islamists) “It may be naive to think that Kelly — or anyone else in the Trump administration — would risk his career to stand in the way of anti-human rights proposals.”

I could not disagree more.

To insinuate that American generals (active or retired) are cold-blooded avengers and a bigoted bunch who are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to destroy America’s second-to-none democratic institutions and tolerant traditions is a fear-mongering, attention-seeking and profit-making scare tactic. Many Muslim and non-Muslim groups and individuals in the US are spreading exaggerated fear among Americans of Muslim origin for personal fame and financial gains. Their tactics are based on distortions of America, its diversified society, powerful democratic principles and its deeply-rooted distribution of power and decision-making processes.

The overwhelming majority of Americans, including generals, do not discriminate against people because of their beliefs until      followers of a faith or ideology kill and destroy in the name of their religion (“Allahu Akbar”.) In a democratic society, winning elections is based on promises and commitments to improve people’s lives and uphold the laws of the land. Those who betray public trust for personal gains will not only be unemployed quickly, but disgraced for life.

As a father of a War Veteran, I had the privilege of meeting many patriotic men and women in uniform who “Solemnly Swear” that they will defend America against domestic and foreign enemies. This oath goes for all government officials, appointed or elected. Their commitment to obey the law is enforced by a non-sectarian, non-racial and non-ethnic-based independent judicial system, staffed by men and women who also swear to defend our freedom and who have as much concern about protecting our liberty as any American, regardless of faith, ethnicity or political orientation.

Like any prior President of the United States, President Trump will be accountable to formidable independent-minded members of Congress, an autonomous judicial system, free media and a multitude of civil society overseers. Regardless of their political orientation and preferences, President-elect Trump and his appointees are accountable to all Americans and a brutal media that thrives on sensationalization, exaggeration and character assassination. Most of Trump’s supporters are not “a basket of deplorables;” they are the ones ignored by the system they and their offspring defend. Traditionally, they are among the first to volunteer to join American armed forces and are willing to pay the ultimate price to defend America at home and abroad.

American Muslims, or any other group, can best serve their adopted country by cutting the umbilical cord attaching them to the lands from which they escaped seeking emancipation from the yoke of religious and political totalitarianism, poverty, intolerance and fear. Their priority should be to teach their children that their first and foremost loyalty is to America, its security, prosperity and, above all, its empowering democratic values.

American Muslims and Muslims in the West, in general, need to understand and accept the fact that the current surge Western nationalism is emboldened by publics’ fear of and reactions to Muslim terrorist attacks on their liberty and way of life. Only then can Muslims in the West have a constructive dialogue about their religion, instead of blaming others for reacting to Islamists’ stated objectives: destruction of the individual’s liberty and freedom of choice.

 

Trump is not the Saudis’ Choice

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

December 24, 2016

Trump is not the Saudis’ Choice, Institutionalized Violence Against Women and Relapsing Arab Development

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

Saudis Hoped for Clinton, Instead, They Got Trump

CDHR Analysis: The Saudis’ (and other Gulf Arab ruling families’) vocalized optimism about better relations with US President-elect Donald Trump does not conceal their disappointment over Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Favoring Secretary Clinton does not reflect any desire on the part of the Saudi rulers to empower women. But in this case, having her in the Oval Office would have spared them uncertainties about what to expect from President-elect Trump and his cabinet appointees, many of whom “…are convinced Islam’s moral rules, the sharia, not only imperil the safety of Americans but their very way of life.” The Saudi rulers and businessmen have known and established auspicious official and personal relations with Bill and Hilary Clinton for decades. To the Saudis, Secretary Clinton represents the established American political order with which they are familiar and against which Trump campaigned and triumphed.

Trump’s victory is expected to alter the personalized and cozy Saudi/American relationship and subject it to an intensive examination, even with the appointment of an oil man, Rex Tillerson, to conduct America’s foreign relations. However, Tillerson may be the last person the Saudis and other Gulf rulers want to see in charge of US foreign policy. He has publicly rejected the Saudis’ calculations regarding the US ability to produce more oil cheaply and in a short period of time to ensure that oil supplies remain globally adequate. Moreover, Tillerson has a robust relationship with the Saudis’ top oil producing competitor, the Russians, who resent and mistrust the Saudis for an assortment of reasons dating back to the Russians’ humiliating defeat by Saudi financed and armed Mujahideen (Al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Unlike any of his predecessors in recent history, Tillerson will have no political, business or ideological opponents in the Trump Cabinet, given Mr. Trump’s appointees to top national and foreign policy posts.

While it’s too early to predict how Mr. Trump and his Cabinet appointees will govern when they take office, it’s assumed that they will not deviate fundamentally from their personal convictions and from the promises they made to those whose fears and hopes made their victory possible. One of Mr. Trump’s resonating campaign promises was the commitment to defeat ‘Radical Islam,’ of which Saudi Arabia is considered the epicenter. Pursuing this objective will not only further erode the already frayed US-Saudi relations, but will provide the increasingly isolated and weakened Saudi oligarchs with a lethal tool to mobilize Sunni Muslims against the “enemies of Islam,” specifically Western Civilization.

It’s Time to Take Muslim Terrorists At Their Word

CDHR Commentary: Preserving Western Civilization and evading costly (in human and material terms) lengthy ideology-based conflicts, as stated in this chilling account, demand total defeat of “Radical Islam.” As evidenced by the carnage committed by Muslim terrorists in western countries in recent times, most westerners continue to live in a state of denial, failing to develop an effective strategy to protect their populations and democratic way of life. An effective strategy to defeat terrorism requires addressing “Radical Islam” in its varied forms. This applies to regimes and institutions that nurture, perpetuate, use and disseminate Islam as a tool of violent political subjugation, such as the Wahhabi doctrine.

By deluding themselves and deceptively reassuring their populations that killing a few Muslim “extremists” will win the war against dedicated radical Muslim ideologues, Western governments are neither “degrading nor defeating” terrorism, as President Obama has repeatedly declared.

Institutionalized Violence Against Saudi Women

CDHR Commentary: “Princess Lamia Bint Majed AlSaud, Secretary General at {Prince} Alwaleed Philanthropies,” is quoted to have said that ‘Female victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to speak up about their abuse because of their fear of scandal or the society’s disapproval. Our role as NGO’s is to educate women about their legal rights and remind the society that domestic violence is an illegal crime.’ While it’s encouraging to hear members of the autocratic ruling family speak to the plight of most Saudi women, they are either detached from the reality on the ground, or trying to mislead the world into believing that abused women are entitled to protection by an independent legal system that’s enforceable and applicable to all.

There is no denying that some of what Princess Lamia is saying (such as social stigmatization) is true, but the overriding  reason for Saudi women’s “reluctance” to seek justice is due to the institutionalized injustice and systematic discrimination they face from cradle to grave. As has been amply documented, there is no country in the world where women’s lives, livelihoods, choices and movements are more controlled by men than in Saudi Arabia. The state’s institutionalized male guardian system legitimizes men’s outright control over women, regardless of their age, education, accomplishments or social status. A male guardian could be a woman’s juvenile son.

This debasing institutionalized system is   enforced by the state’s religious police and sectarian court system, which are staffed by the King’s hand-picked religious Wahhabi judges, who consider women inferior and incapable of making sound decisions. Given these judges’ misogynistic prejudices, women are held responsible for a multitude of social wrong doings, including for being raped, as in the case of Bent Al-Qatif, who was raped 14 times by seven men. Instead of helping her overcome her trauma, the judges sentenced her to 6 months imprisonment and 200 lashes. Another heinous example of women’s devaluation under the male guardian system occurred when the state’s cruel religious police prevented young girls from fleeing for their lives from their blazing school because they were not fully clad in state imposed black abayas. 15 girls were burned to death and another 50 were injured.

It’s neither society nor tradition that Saudi royals and non-royals should be blaming for marginalization of and violence against women, but the violent system the Saudi and Wahhabi dynasties created centuries ago and maintain by brute force. If members of the numerous Saudi ruling family (male or female) are genuinely concerned about the rampant domestic violence against women, they ought to confront their family’s draconian policies, misogynistic Shariah-based courts’ arbitrary practices and the archaic parochial educational system. These are the forces that perpetuate the relegation of women to subhuman status and endanger their lives for no reason other than their gender.

Saudi Princes on Women’s Right To Drive

CDHR Commentary: Prince Alwaleed (one of the world’s wealthiest men) recently professed that continuing to prevent Saudi women from driving is burdensome for most Saudi families. He is right, and we have no doubt that he and a small number of the large and mostly detached-from-society ruling princes and princesses would like to see the mortifying and contemptuous ban on women’s right to drive delegitimized, as long as it does not endanger the royal family’s control over the country, its population and wealth.

Like his cousin, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who incorrectly stated that ‘it is up to Saudi society’ to decide whether women should be allowed to drive or not, Prince Alwaleed blames the disenfranchised Saudi society for its ‘unjust act’ against Saudi women. Like the rest of their ruling family, the two disproportionately privileged princes, whose lifestyle does not allow for comprehension of the suffering of the majority of the population, are pointing fingers at the wrong source of women’s usurped fundamental rights.

Contrary to the princes’ condemnation of society’s opposition to women’s rights, the Saudi people have no input in the decision-making processes, nor can they influence the state’s institutions. All domestic policies and decision-making are initiated and executed by the Saudi ruling family with the support of its theocratic religious establishment, which the ruling family uses as a “scapegoat” for the regime’s economic, educational, political and social failures. While misogynic and “dangerous”, the religious establishment is no more than a corps of repressive hatchet men for the ruling family. The clerics are carefully selected, empowered and paid by the government to enforce the ruling family’s legitimacy and absolute rule, using religion to justify their ruthless methods of coercion.

Instead of continuing to blame centuries old tradition and their self-serving interpretation of religion for the repression and marginalization of Saudi women, the second and third generations of royals (many of them educated in modern non-Saudi secular schools) ought to focus on changing their ruling family’s pre-modern thinking and ways of ruling via coercion and claims of the God-given right to rule eternally.

Arabs Are Inching Toward Becoming Global Pariahs

CDHR Commentary: According to this UN Arab Human Development Report (which is worse than the scathing 2002 Report), the Arab World is inching toward anarchical disintegration. Poor education, entrenched stifling social and traditional mores and lack of economic opportunities are attributed to religious and political totalitarianism and squandering of public revenues. These facts translate into a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, extremism and envy, thus fueling a rise in terrorism, death and destruction at home and around the world. Transformation of Arab beliefs, education, perceptions and, above all, political and religious institutions is the only way to save the Arabs from each other and potential global retaliation.

Contributions are tax exempt: your contributions to CDHR’s efforts to address tough issues, invoke thought-provoking discourse and propose peaceful solutions are crucial. We need to continue our educational outreach worldwide. CDHR is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt educational organization.

Please go to our website www.cdhr.info and click on donate.

Or send checks to this address:

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR

1050 17 St. NW, Suite 1000

Washington, DC 20036

 

 

Imploring Israelis, Fallout of Yemen War

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

Nov. 14, 2016

Imploring Israelis, Fallout of Yemen War, Wahhabism, Congress Rebellions

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

Saudis implore Israelis for help

CDHR Analysis: The Saudi royals are petitioning the Israelis to save them. As the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, Salman al-Ansari, says in this Hill blog post, the Saudis are imploring Israel to resuscitate their collapsing economy and defend them against their Iranian Muslim brethren.

This should not have come as a surprise, given the Saudi ruling family’s obsession with its security and mistrust of Arab and Muslim regimes, especially the Persians, with whom they share strategic borders and reciprocal religious hatred.

Having risen to and maintained their power by ruthless force, the Saudi rulers have mastered the art of ensuring their survival by all the means they possess, can invent or can buy.

For instance, after concluding that there would be long-term adverse reactions, especially by Americans and their Western allies, to the terrorist attack on the U.S. by mostly Saudi nationals on Sept. 11, 2001, the Saudi rulers resorted to what they know well: creating a diversionary stratagem.

After the 9/11 attack, global media embarked upon an unprecedented exposure of the Saudis’ repressive policies, toxic doctrine and support for Muslim extremists and terrorists worldwide. To counter this, the Saudi rulers tried to refocus global attention on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

They proposed an Arab Peace Initiative, with the intention of achieving two major objectives: to deflect attention from their role in the 9/11 attacks and to pave the way for a future defense alliance with the Israelis, with whom they have shared similar security anxieties about Iran since the fall of the shah and the establishment of the theocratic Islamic Republic in 1979.

However, due to the unrealistic concessions the Israelis were asked to make, they considered the peace plan an unacceptable Arab gambit.

The Israelis saw the peace plan not only as a threat to their country’s identity but to their country’s survival. Given this reality, the plan was shelved until the Obama administration reconstructed U.S. policies toward the Middle East, particularly toward Iran, with which the U.S. and the other members of the United Nations Security Council consummated a nuclear deal vehemently opposed by the Saudis and Israelis, albeit for different reasons.

The Saudi rulers are terrified of being dwarfed by Iran’s burgeoning regional and global influence, and the Israelis are fighting for their survival.

After failing to convince the Obama administration of the flaws of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Israeli and Saudi governments were simpatico in their opposition to the agreement and in their mistrust of the Iranians’ commitment to give up pursuit of nuclear weapons. Consequently, they found themselves more open to each other’s overtures.

The Saudis have intensified their public efforts to lure the Israelis into a defense collaboration. But despite their unease over Iranian threats, the Israelis don’t seem to be in a hurry to enter into an alliance with a shifty authoritarian regime — at least without a tangible public commitment by the Saudis not only to recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish state but to end its vitriolic demonization of Israelis and Jews at home and abroad.

The Saudis are not in a position to reject Israeli demands, given global awareness of the Saudis’ duplicitous behavior and current conditions in the Middle East.

The question is whether it’s worth it for the Israelis to risk saving and prolonging a crumbling and increasingly isolated system that could turn against them if a better deal with any Israeli enemy is deemed more beneficial by the Saudis.

Given the tumultuous current and foreseeable conditions in the Middle East, Israelis might be better served to stay out of deadly intra-Arab and -Muslim conflicts, despite the Israelis’ desire for normalization of relations with their neighbors.

With or without Arabs’ and Muslims’ recognition of its legitimacy, Israel is in a better position to continue its unparalleled development instead of collaborating with the world’s last absolute, unpopular and unstable monarchy, whose fate is uncertain at best.

Prince Mohammed: Lavishing $500 Million on a Yacht While Squeezing Citizens

CDHR Commentary: According to this effusive account, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi “economic reformer,” spotted a Russian vodka maker’s luxurious yacht while vacationing in southern France and immediately purchased it for $500 million. The neophyte prince, who just happens to be the “favorite” son of Saudi King Salman, has been charged with saving the Saudi kingdom’s faltering economy. At the tender age of 28, he was designated Defense Minister, Deputy Crown Prince, overseer of the Saudis’ collapsing economy and the Chief of the Royal Court. Other than being educated in outmoded Saudi schools and being the son of the most conservative (Islamist) member of the ruling family, Mohammed bin Salman had no previous official title or experience in any of the powerful positions with which he is entrusted.

To assist Prince Mohammed, the Saudi government hired a major Western consulting firm (McKinsey & Co.) to draft an elaborate economic reform plan (dubbed Vision 2030), in hopes of weaning the Saudis from reliance on oil revenues for most of their income. Included in the numerous proposed items in Vision 2030 that the Saudis must undertake to reform their ailing economy are: termination of or drastic reduction in social programs, imposition of new taxes, end subsidized public services and hire millions of unemployed Saudis, among other items.

While the proposed transformative plan sounds plausible on the surface, many analysts, pragmatic observers and skeptical Saudis (who have heard similar proposals before) have their doubts, not only about the project’s success, but some feel it could potentially boomerang. Their pessimism is based on a multitude of domestic factors, specifically, the lack of a knowledge-based workforce, citizens’ historical reliance on government handouts, absence of tested work ethics, rampant corruption, lack of accountability and transparency. Furthermore, no one believes that the thousands of Saudi royals can give up their insatiable lust for extravagant lifestyles, as exemplified by Prince Mohammed’s purchase of a luxurious yacht for $500 million while he is squeezing the Saudi people to shoulder the burden of his project’s austerity.

Yemen: From the Shadows of Obscurity to Potential Regional and Global Quagmire

CDHR Commentary: The ongoing bloody war in Yemen is dangerously spreading and is increasingly becoming more than a civil war in that impoverished country. The Saudi-led coalition’s invasion and indiscriminate bombardments of Yemeni cities, grocery stores, humanitarian hospitals and funeral homes are pushing the Zaidi Yemenis (Houthis) and their supporters into unleashing missile attacks not only against Saudi bordering regions, but deep into Muslims’ holiest city, Mecca. It’s likely that other Gulf states will be targeted because of their participation in the Saudi-led coalition.

More baldly and dangerously, the Yemeni Houthis are reported to have targeted US ships, whose presence in the Red Sea (near Yemen) is intended to enforce a blockade, ostensibly to prevent arms shipments from Iran to Yemen, as well as to safeguard the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to international markets. It’s worth noting that the Houthis did not have or use missiles prior to the Saudi-led coalition’s invasion in March 2015.

The US and its western allies ought to reconsider their support for the invasion of Yemen and its looming consequences, including lengthy interruption of oil shipments.

Having failed to achieve a quick military victory (if that was their real intention), to draw Iran into the war directly or to beat the Yemenis into submission, the Saudis are beginning to look for an exit strategy. It has been reported that members of the Saudi-led fracturing coalition have realized that the chances of a military victory and re-instatement of the deposed Yemeni President Hadi {now living comfortably in Saudi Arabia, like former Tunisian President Bin Ali and before that, Uganda butcher, Idi Amin} to power are but nix.

Instead of leaving the dangerous raging war in Yemen for the next administration, President Obama and his western counterparts can facilitate a political solution before he leaves office.

The US Congress is Breaking the Deafening Silence

CDHR Commentary: Never in the 8 decade history of US-Saudi relations have the Saudi rulers been more challenged by the US Congress than they have been between May and September 2016. Both Houses of Congress (100 senators and 435 representatives) unanimously passed a bill to allow American families of the victims of the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks by mostly Saudi nationals to sue the Saudi regime for its implicit support for some of the attackers. Not only did Congress pass the sweeping legislation but overrode President Obama’s veto of the bill.

Additionally, an increasing number of Democrat and Republican members of the US Congress are not only repudiating the Saudi regime for its indiscriminate bombardment and starvation of Yemenis, but “questioning” the wisdom of President Obama’s support for the war and its damaging impact on US global image, interests and democratic values.

The unprecedented Congressional passage of the bill not only affirmed the rights of the relatives of 9/11 victims to seek justice, but to demonstrate that no government, friend or enemy, can be above the rule of law upon which the American nation was founded. Whether one agrees with the unprecedented indictment of the Saudi regime and its extremists and agents or not, members of the US Congress are elected democratically, thus accountable to the American people who elected them and pay their salaries.

Nothing can be more irresponsible, if not a blatant violation of the American people's right to seek justice, than accusing the Americans’ freely elected men and women of being reckless.

Given the current Saudi rulers’ aggressive militaristic policies and defiance of international laws, as well as regional and global political, strategic, social and economic developments, it’s unlikely that the steady deterioration in US-Saudi relations will be stabilized, let alone reversed.

The US Congress’ bold action is a wake-up call for the Saudi absolute rulers, who have long relied on US politicians, businesses and armed forces for their economic stability, their survival and for the defense of their vast desert kingdom.

‘Wahhabism’ “has become a Boogeyman”-- Only in the West?

CDHR Commentary: Mr. Mohammed Alyahya, a Saudi advocate, is only half correct by stating that, “The word ‘Wahhabism’ has become a boogeyman in the West, deemed responsible for the radicalization of Muslims around the world. And since Wahhabism is a strain of Islam that has its origins {established} in the Arabian Peninsula and is the dominant {state imposed} religious doctrine of Saudi Arabia, that country is often viewed as the prime culprit in the propagation of violent extremism."

Well stated, Mr. Alyahya, except for the assertions added by me. Most Muslim scholars (not by Saudi definition), prominent politicians like former president of Indonesia Abdulrahman Wahid and Al-Azhar Mosque’s historians and students of Muslim movements described Wahhabism as the foremost threat to Muslims and non-Muslims, أكد علماء الأزهر والخبراء المتخصصون في دراسة الحركات الإسلامية أن الوهابية فكراً وحركة تمثل العدو الأخطر على المسلمين والعالم،. They called on Muslims and non-Muslims to unite and defeat Wahhabism by all means possible.

The Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia agrees with Mr. Alyahya that some of the terrorists’ recruits are not driven solely by religious convictions. However, most if not all Sunni Muslim terrorist groups are inspired by the Saudi/Wahhabi doctrine, indoctrination and text books. As amply documented, these groups including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Jamaa Islamiyah, Al-Shabab, Al-Nusra, Abu Sayyaf and ISIS, among others, are financed by Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies. Given the wide distribution and indiscriminate terrorist actions by these groups, Mr. Alyahya’s deflective argument is part of intense Saudis’ efforts to whitewash their role in exporting and financing extremism and terrorism worldwide.

Western Experts Overlook the Reasons for Iran’s Growing Influence

CDHR Commentary: Western experts tend to overlook the root causes of Iran’s increasing influence in Arab countries, especially since the establishment of the theocratic Islamic Republic in 1979.  The Iranian theocracy capitalizes on the plight of Arab Shi’a minorities who have been oppressed and marginalized for centuries by their ruling Sunni regimes and fellow citizen. As abundantly documented, Shi’a Muslims are considered blasphemous by their Sunni rulers and compatriots; consequently, they are considered unworthy of dignity, equality, trust and access to opportunities. Based on this deeply entrenched religious intolerance and hatred, the Arab Shia (whether minorities as in most Arab countries or majorities as in Bahrain and Iraq), are politically, religiously and economically discriminated against to the point of being untouchables and strangers in their own homelands.

Due to their maltreatment by their Sunni regimes and societies, Arab Shi’a turn to Iranian theocrats for help. Iran’s support for the oppressed Arab Shi’a minorities is paying off, as demonstrated by the rise of powerful proxies like Hezbollah (Party of God) in Lebanon, the current Iraqi government and the Zaidis (Houthis) in Yemen, as well as the strengthening and sustaining of the Allawite regime in Syria. Iranian support for these groups and others is changing the political and strategic landscape regionally and globally.

This trend is more likely to continue due to two factors: one, the Shi’a minorities’ conditions are not likely to improve given the widening Sunni/Shi’a conflicts, which reflect the Saudi and the Iranian autocratic and theocratic regimes’ mutual detestation and competition for dominance in the region. Two, the Iranians are in a stronger economic and political position to embolden their proxies as a result of the recent US-led nuclear superpowers’ deal with Iran. Both factors will continue to increase instability in the Middle East and potentiate global confrontation, given looming threats to flow of oil from the region.

Resolving consuming intra-Muslim conflicts and averting potential global crises stemming from them will require change in super powers’ antediluvian policies and discontinuing their support for the theocratic and autocratic Saudi and Iranian martinets

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