MIDEAST MIRROR 30.04.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-Fork in the road
2-Prelude to Iraq’s break up
1-Fork in the road
The Sudairi wing of the Saudi ruling family has returned to tighten its hold over the levers of power in the Kingdom. But it has done so via young faces and by means of daring and resolute decisions this time around. The urgent question now is, will this process of change stop at this point, or will it continue? And what will be the reaction of the rest of the royal family princes who have been bypassed in the regime’s new structure, especially the grandsons of the founder-king – and they are many? It would be wrong to issue a hasty verdict. The ink in which the new edicts were written has yet to dry. We need to wait until the dust settles and the main features of the picture are clear. But what can be said is that the new Saudi monarch's path is filled with pitfalls, and riddled with threats and perhaps surprises as well-- pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
[The latest Saudi changes] represent the blows of someone who acts with closed eyes driven by a dream or a vision. Of course, neither the [Saudi] king nor those around him will admit that nothing they are doing can preserve this decaying edifice. Even the corpses of the people who are dying to prop up its pillars cannot help. The curse of Yemen will speed up the collapse of the last kingdom of repression in our nation, leaving only the Kingdom of Israel. The coming phase will expose how flimsy this regime is, and how far its main pillars do not trust each other. We will hear of the discovery of more ISIS cells every day. In fact, they may conjure up claims about the discovery of Houthi or other sorts of cells tomorrow. For they can feel the noose tightening around their necks. And every time they will lash out and strike whatever is before or around them, they will only hit themselves--Ibrahim al-Amin in Lebanese al-Akhbar
We are optimistic about these successive royal decrees. They share a number of factors in common, the most important of which is the empowerment of the younger generation to serve their country, as well as the reliance on qualifications and success as the criteria for choosing new leaders. In fact, the early signs of these new leaders’ success are already evident. Moreover, the other ministerial reshuffles prove that the Kingdom's leadership appreciates the importance of rapid modernization in the various sectors of state. Our country, led by our King, backed by the 'two Mohammads' [bin Nayif and bin Salman] moves forward decisively and with confidence. We are full of hope and trust in a brighter and more prosperous future for our blessed country, thank God--Saudi al-Watan
It is obvious that this [internal] struggle was expected. In fact, it may be that the person who expected it most was King 'Abdullah bin 'Abdulaziz who issued a number of royal edicts before his death in which he sought to consolidate Muqrin as Crown-Prince and protect him against any possible change. This is why it is possible to say that deposing Muqrin amounts to a coup in the full sense of the word. After these changes that are tantamount to a coup, and after the risky adventure of waging war on Yemen, Saudi Arabia is entering a fork in the road that is unprecedented in the Third Kingdom's history. The coming weeks and years will be full of surprises in the 'Kingdom of Sands'--Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Lebanese al-Bina'
The radical reshuffle of top government posts carried out by Saudi monarch King Salman yesterday (Wednesday) amounts to a major coup that breaks with the previous phase and paves the way for a new generation of Saudi rulers, maintains the editorial on a pan-Arab online daily. But it is too early to judge whether these changes will proceed smoothly or whether they will face resistance from members of the ruling family. The Saudi monarch's latest decisions have pumped new blood into the Kingdom’s ruling body, with the right men chosen for the right posts, says the editorial in a Saudi daily. The changes in Saudi Arabia were motivated by two main forces: The U.S. and its concern to ensure a smooth transition of power to its trusted men in the ruling family, and the struggle for power within the third generation of the Saudi princes over who has the right to accede to the throne, argues a Lebanese commentator. The changes at the summit of power in Saudi Arabia are reminiscent of those carried out in the last days of the Soviet Union, insofar as both will be useless in preventing the ruling regime from collapse, maintains the editor-in-chief of a left-leaning Lebanese daily.
NO EXAGGERATION: "It may be no exaggeration to say that the unexpected and 'decisive' royal edicts issued by Saudi monarch King Salman bin 'Abdulaziz at dawn on Wednesday amount to a 'coup' that is only matched by what his late brother Faisal bin 'Abdulaziz did in 1965 when he deposed his brother King Saud, despite the many differences between the two cases that we do not need to go into here," writes the editorial on Thursday on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
King Salman bin 'Abdulaziz deposed his brother Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince only a few months after he was appointed. He replaced him with Prince Mohammad bin Nayif, and promoted his own son Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the post of Deputy Crown-Prince, the post that Prince Mohammad bin Nayif had occupied for only three months.
The basic rule set by the late Saudi monarch King Fahd bin 'Abdulaziz grants the king the power to appoint and depose the crown prince. He may have devised this rule in order to change his own crown-prince 'Abdullah, and appoint his son Prince 'Abdulaziz bin Fahd in his place. But Prince 'Abdullah's eruption of anger, the backing he received from his non-Sudairi brothers, the fact that the National Guard forces were his power base, and the fear of conflict within the ruling family's ranks, separately and collectively contributed to convincing King Fahd to alter his plan and issue an edict endorsing Prince 'Abdullah as his successor, in the hope that circumstances would change later. But illness did not give him enough time to realize his plans.
The new Saudi monarch’s edicts relied on that basic rule. He did not refer to the 'Succession Body' established by late King 'Abdullah which includes senior princes who are the sons of the founder of the Kingdom to choose the successor to the throne. In his speech to the people in which he announced these changes, King Salman said that Prince Muqrin had asked to be relieved of his post, and that he [the King] had complied with his wish.
However, ever since he came to power, it has been clear that King Salman has wanted to get rid of his predecessor King 'Abdullah's legacy, and to change the structure of the regime by pumping new blood into it under the banner of modernizing the main instruments of state. This is why he appointed Prince Mohammad bin Nayif as deputy crown-prince, and his son Prince Mohammad bin Salman as Defense Minister. He also replaced nine ministers and had previously deposed the former head of the royal diwan Mr. Khaled at-Tuwaijari from his post, even before the late king was buried.
The signs that Prince Muqrin would be deposed were clear for all to see. His role had totally shrunk recently, and he has been absent from the inner decision-making circle. His appearance on official occasions became limited and a matter of mere protocol. Some may argue that he did represent the Kingdom at the Cairo Arab summit a month ago; but while true, this was also a matter of mere protocol and did not carry any real political weight.
When a Saudi king takes major and crucial steps such as those at dawn on Wednesday, it is only natural for rumors to grow and multiply, and for the social media to be rife with stories and explanations. Some claim that Prince Muqrin opposed the Saudi military intervention in Yemen; others said that his mother is not Saudi; and so on and so forth. But such stories and others remain unproven, and it is difficult to accept them as the truth.
Nonetheless, we may pass a verdict regarding these decisions and the events that preceded them over the past three months based on matters as they appear on the surface. And on that basis, we may conclude that from the first day he came to the throne, the new Saudi monarch was determined to change the regime and push new faces to the forefront, departing from customary practice. The change was not confined to the crown-prince, but reached the seasoned foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal as well, who was deposed from his post after serving there for forty years. He was replaced by Mr. 'Adel al-Jubeir, the Kingdom's ambassador to Washington. This is one appointment worth considering because it is the first time that this post has been occupied by someone who is not from King Faisal's family and goes to someone who is not, in fact, royal.
The other no less important issue is the exclusion of Prince 'Abdulaziz bin 'Abdullah, the son of the late king, who was deputy foreign minister. Most speculation indicated that he was the most likely candidate to succeed Prince Saud al-Faisal. This act of exclusion falls within the same context in which his two brothers – Mish'al the Emir of Mecca, and Turki the Emir of Riyadh – were ousted. The only son of the late king who remains in a ministerial post is Prince Mutaib bin 'Abdullah who is Minister of the National Guard. But even this post is not guaranteed, and his replacement may be only a matter of time.
Operation Decisive Storm that has been the most prominent Saudi foreign policy surprise under King Salman bin 'Abdelaziz has not been confined to bombarding Yemen, intensifying intervention in Syria, and joining the Turkish/Qatari axis at the expense of the Egyptian/Emirati axis. It has begun to have an impact inside Saudi Arabia itself by affecting the regime's makeup and changing it radically, without taking any other matter into consideration. These include the late king 'Abdullah's edict appointing Prince Muqrin as crown-prince, stressing that he should not be changed or deposed until after he dies, and insisting that he should be made king if the post went vacant.
The Sudairi wing of the Saudi ruling family has returned to tighten its hold over the levers of power in the Kingdom. But it has done so via young faces and by means of daring and resolute decisions this time around. The urgent question now is will this process of change stop at this point or will it continue? And what will be the reaction of the rest of the royal family princes who have been bypassed in the regime’s new structure, especially the grandsons of the founder-king – and they are many?
It would be wrong to issue a hasty verdict. The ink in which the new edicts were written has yet to dry. We need to wait until the dust settles and the main features of the picture are clear.
"But what can be said is that the new Saudi monarch's path is filled with pitfalls, and riddled with threats and perhaps surprises as well," concludes the editorial.
CONTINUING THE MARCH: “At the hands of King Salman bin 'Abdulaziz, the Servant of the Two Holy Shrines, our country continues its march towards renewing the youthful character of this young national entity, working towards providing the opportunity for more young blood to serve this blessed country," writes the editorial in Thursday's Saudi daily al-Watan.
King Salman believes that change and development provide the bases for progress and renewal. The successive modernization of state institutions and its senior posts is nothing new. This is the custom of the renewing kings who have served this state, and who understand the requirements of every phase and its rapid changes.
The royal decrees issued yesterday morning, declared a new phase of stability for our homeland. Prince Mohammad bin Nayif is now Crown-Prince, Deputy PM, and Interior Minister. This comes after Prince Muqrin – may God preserve him – asked to be relieved of his post. Prince Mohammad bin Salman is now Deputy Crown-Prince, Defense Minister, and second Deputy PM, based on what Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Nayif had requested. In addition, the symbol of Saudi foreign policy Prince Saud al-Faisal has been relieved of his post in compliance with his own request in light of his health condition– may God cure him and reward him for all he has done for his homeland and nation – and 'Adel al-Jubeir has been appointed Foreign Minister.
The royal decrees were not confined to ministries, government institutions and bodies. They affected the very ruling establishment by consolidating a smooth process of transfer of power to the new generation, the grandsons of King 'Abdulaziz – may God rest his soul – who founded this state, once again demonstrating that wisdom and ability are the bases on which the King chooses his men and entrusts them with our country's future.
Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Nayif has major achievements to his credit in confronting and destroying terrorism. This is in addition to the successive leaps in the services provided by the Interior Ministry, one of the ministries that are closest to the citizens' concerns.
For his part, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has proven within a short period of time that he is the right man in the right position. Operation Decisive Storm and the later Operation Restore Hope have shown that King Salman has a sharp and correct eye when it comes to choosing strong men. Princes Mohammad bin Nayif and Mohammad bin Salman – the King's two main pillars of support – also enjoy growing popular support, love, and loyalty.
We are optimistic about these successive royal decrees. They share a number of factors in common, the most important of which is the empowerment of the younger generation to serve their country, as well as the reliance on qualifications and success as the criteria for choosing new leaders. In fact, the early signs of these new leaders’ success are already evident. Moreover, the other ministerial reshuffles prove that the Kingdom's leadership appreciates the importance of rapid modernization in the various sectors of state.
"Our country, led by our King backed by the 'two Mohammads', moves forward decisively and with confidence. We are full of hope and trust in a brighter and more prosperous future for our blessed country, thank God," concludes the daily.
MAJOR CHANGES: "Saudi King Salman bin 'Abdulaziz has introduced major changes, some of which were not expected, at least not by people in general," writes Hamidi al-'Abdullah in Thursday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.
Prince Muqrin bin 'Abdulaziz has been relieved of his post as Crown-Prince, and Deputy Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Nayif has been appointed in his place. Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman has been appointed Deputy Crown-Prince. In addition, Saud al-Faisal has been relieved of his post as foreign minister, and Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Washington 'Adel al-Jubeir has replaced him. At first glance, it may seem that the man behind these changes is King Salman himself. But the fact is that two parties are really behind them:
- The first is the U.S. It is well-known that Prince Mohammad bin Nayif, who is now the exclusive Crown-Prince, is among the Saudi princes closest to U.S. policy. Even inside the Kingdom and among the other princes, he is known to be the man most trusted by the Americans, regardless of whether the administration in Washington is Democrat or Republican. This is because, during his service as Interior Minister, he succeeded in establishing close relations with the American ruling elite and in gaining their absolute trust.
What further confirms that Washington is behind these changes is the appointment of Saudi Ambassador to Washington 'Adel al-Jubeir as Foreign Minister. This is the first time that the Saudi foreign minister does not come from the ruling family.
Moreover, all of those who have been targeted since King Salman acceded to the throne have been princes who have dared to criticize U.S. policy on a number of issues, seeking to provoke Washington by threatening to establish relations with Russia and other states that are classified as U.S. enemies or competitors. Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Prince Saud al-Faisal are well known to have been among the princes who have criticized U.S. policy severely for failing to deal with certain issues.
In fact, the changes by which Muqrin and Saud al-Faisal were toppled resemble those that Qatar witnessed when Prince Hamad and his prime minister Hamad bin Jassem –-who was known as the main engine of Qatari policy – were toppled, before Hamad's son Tamim became Emir of Qatar.
- The second factor responsible for these changes is the struggle that was expected to break out in light of the fact that the throne was going to move from the sons of Saudi Arabia's founder King 'Abdulaziz to his grandsons; a struggle over who has the right to accede to the royal throne. This struggle is now being renewed.
For it makes little sense for Prince Saud al-Faisal and Prince Muqrin to ask to be relieved of their posts for health reasons, similar to how the Emir of Qatar justified conceding the throne to his son Tamim. After all, while Saud al-Faisal suffers from many ailments, nothing indicates that Prince Muqrin suffers from any diseases sufficient to relieve him of his post. In fact, even the royal decree making these appointments and relieving others of their posts mentioned health reasons only in Saud al-Faisal's case – and even these were not serious reasons.
It is obvious that this struggle was expected. In fact, it may be that the person who expected it most was King 'Abdullah bin 'Abdulaziz who issued a number of royal edicts before his death in which he sought to consolidate Muqrin as Crown-Prince and protect him against any possible change. This is why it is possible to say that deposing Muqrin amounts to a coup in the full sense of the word.
After these changes that are tantamount to a coup, and after the risky adventure of waging war on Yemen, Saudi Arabia is entering a fork in the road that is unprecedented in the Third Kingdom's history.
"The coming weeks and years will be full of surprises in the 'Kingdom of Sands'," concludes 'Abdullah.
POINTS OF SIMILARITY: "Salman Al Saud is very similar to Mikhail Gorbachev," writes Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Amin in Thursday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
Gorbachev led a process of disintegration of the great Soviet Union, one that many people think was inevitable. And now Salman is inaugurating the process of the disintegration of Al Saud's not-so-great kingdom. In fact, the points of similarity are restricted to the belief that the problem lies in the identity of the figures who are appointed to the country’s most senior posts.
The last of the Soviet Union's leaders deluded himself into believing that the problem of freedom in the country could be treated via the word 'Glasnost' or transparency. That was a word whose importance Langley [the CIA] later discovered when it decided to fill the world with thousands of non-governmental organizations and societies demanding transparency. Then the Communist Party's secretary general carried the torch of change further by calling for the younger generation to rule the country. But that was a dull game that lasted no more than a few months before the main foundations were destroyed and the building began to crumble.
Today, Salman – or, more accurately, whoever controls Salman's mind – has concluded that dealing with the crisis of the Kingdom of Repression consists of destroying the pillars on which the choice of its prominent officials has been based ever since Al Saud captured the Arabian Peninsula. From the first moment when the family doctor declared his predecessor 'Abdullah dead, he has been deposing one man and appointing another in various posts. But although his 'royal edicts' seem pre-prepared and organized, they do not point to any real planning or any genuine awareness of the nature of the problem. On the contrary, they reflect the putschist mentality that controls this Bedouin mind.
This usually leads to an attempt to try to take hold of everything and addresses only those matters that cannot be ignored. In this case, Salman and his team’s modesty towards Nayif’s family is not a manifestation of respect for its status or family tradition. It is a measure forced upon Salman because the U.S. has agreed to provide a cover for everything he wishes to do, provided he does not touch Mohammad bin Nayif. From the very first day, the Americans told Salman: ‘You can rule, but Mohammad bin Nayif is a true partner in government’. And this, in fact, is what is happening.
The aggression on Yemen came to lift the veil and show that the first changes had failed to achieve any aim. And yesterday's decisions came to reveal the second part of the coup to the public; but they did not bring anything new either. Everybody knew that Muqrin was crown-prince in name only. Everybody knew that 'Adel al-Jubeir was the foreign minister from day one. Everybody knew that broad changes were being introduced in the Royal Diwan and some state institutions, and that the time had come to make them public.
The sole problem that remains is Mutaib bin 'Abdullah who heads the National Guard, but who knows that he is besieged from every side. And now Mohammad bin Nayif has resorted to the new-fangled idea of creating armed units from the tribes that are under his direct control and that will be charged with main missions along the southern and then the eastern borders. These will constitute an additional hard core for the Interior Ministry’s strike force, which runs parallel to all other Saudi military frameworks.
Gorbachev's perestroika flung the door open to the destruction of the largest and greatest of the world's states within no more than two years. It destroyed a huge edifice of economic, military, social, and political structures. It drove some nations hundreds of years backwards. It brought a powerful mafia to the centers of power where they enriched themselves and took control of the country's resources. And these mafias could only have been formed from the opportunistic corpus that was present and that wielded influence in the days of iron rule. For who else would shift the rifle from one shoulder to the other than them? Who else would sell their country's dignity to the outside world? Who else would commit crimes in the name of releasing freedom, justice, and … transparency?
As for Al Saud's changes, they represent the blows of someone who acts with closed eyes driven by a dream or a vision. Of course, neither the king nor those around him will admit that nothing they are doing can preserve this decaying edifice. Even the corpses of the people who are dying to prop up its pillars cannot help. The curse of Yemen will speed up the collapse of the last kingdom of repression in our nation, leaving only the Kingdom of Israel.
The coming phase will expose how flimsy this regime is, and how far its main pillars do not trust each other. We will hear of the discovery of more ISIS cells every day. In fact, they may conjure up claims about the discovery of Houthi or other sorts of cells tomorrow. For they can feel the noose tightening around their necks. And every time they will lash out and strike whatever is before or around them, they will only hit themselves. And this is a process that will continue until the body crumples and collapses without further screams.
What is now happening in the Kingdom of Repression is a dance of madness. One tries to reach the opportunists who have never been accustomed to this level of dancing to find out what they think, but one finds that no secret passwords have been distributed to them from the regimes of conspiracy. They have no option but to remain silent and be wary, preparing to pledge allegiance once the orders have been issued. But these opportunists can be very patient before saying all that needs to be said at the appropriate moment. Anyway, the only sort of state loyalty these opportunists know is that of loyalty to the ruler.
We can take as an example our future PM Sa'd al-Hariri who barely finished his statement mourning the death of the former king [Abdullah] before he issued a statement congratulating the new one. And he had barely ended his visits to congratulate the new leaders, before he had to issue a new statement praising the 'leadership's wisdom' in deposing the very same.
"And he will sit at home and review with those who work with him how to build contacts with the new rulers. But his problem will remain one and the same: How can he appease Mohammad bin Nayif [whom he described as a 'thug' in a tape aired on the Lebanese New TV a few years ago]?" concludes Amin.
2-Prelude to Iraq’s break up
A Congressional bill will allow Washington to arm Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish militias with dangerous consequences for the country’s unity, but the problem began when Baghdad allowed Iran to arm the Shiites, says today's pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi
The debate over a draft law in Congress that would allow the U.S. government to provide direct military aid to Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish militias by bypassing the central authorities in Baghdad, flings open the door to Iraq's partition or even its destruction along sectarian lines, warns the editorial in a pan-Arab daily. But the Iraqi government itself is to blame for allowing Tehran to provide such aid to Shiite militias.
DRAFT LAW COMPLICATIONS: "In an initiative that will exacerbate Iraq’s existing complications and that violates the most basic principles of international law, the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Forces’ Committee is supposed to debate a draft law this week that allows direct American financing for Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni security forces, with the understanding that these forces will be defined as 'states' so as to satisfy the preconditions for receiving direct American financing as required by the Constitution," writes the editorial in Thursday's Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.
This may set a precedent whereby one state decides to intervene in a country that is supposedly sovereign by providing aid to some specific group in it, totally bypassing its government. Such intervention remains peculiar even if it comes from the U.S. which occupied Iraq without legal justification – unless the aim this time round is to partition the country or tear it apart given the provocation this poses to the other sectarian [Shiite] constituents of the country. And, in fact, the leader of the [Shiite] Sadrist Current Muqtada as-Sadr has threatened to strike at American interests inside and outside Iraq if this law is adopted, stressing that this would be 'the beginning of Iraq's partition.'
Although the U.S. Embassy in Iraq has tried to dismiss Congress' project as unimportant, insisting that Washington backs a united Iraq, the fact is that this law would offer the U.S. a wide margin of freedom in providing direct military aid to Sunnis and Kurds and to train their forces without requiring the prior consent of the Iraqi state, exploiting the fact that wide areas of the country are now outside Baghdad's control.
Iraqi PM Haidar al-'Abadi has reticently criticized Congress's moves. He said: 'there is no room for foreign parties to have double standards in dealing with the government. We stress that no armament will occur unless via the Iraqi government and in accordance with its military plans.' But the fact is that 'Abadi's position concerns the Sunni Arabs alone. What is now referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan is already securing direct military aid from numerous Western capitals, bypassing the Baghdad government. But the obvious question is this: Why did 'Abadi allow the (Shiite) Popular Mobilization Units [PMU] to receive direct and public support from Tehran whereas he is now refusing similar aid from Washington to other constituents of the Iraqi people?
We do not mean to justify any intervention in Iraq regardless of where it may come from. But clarifying the double standards that 'Abadi is speaking of should perhaps come from Baghdad itself before anywhere else. In other words, the government that dragged its feet in arming the [Sunni] tribal forces in al-Anbar may have forced them to demand Arab or even American intervention to rid them of ISIS.
The fact of the matter is that this American law, assuming it passes, is merely the embodiment of an old tendency within Congress. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, members of Congress have publicly called for Iraq's partition into three states – Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni – as a means of overcoming the problems of distributing government posts and shares.
As for President Barack Obama's administration, which speaks of a 'united Iraq' when it knows perfectly well that such an Iraq no longer exists and may have become part of history, it may imagine that the law permits it to solve its current predicament in Iraq. For Washington realizes that inviting 'Abadi to visit it was not sufficient to weaken his alliance with Tehran. Moreover, it is now clear that its air raids [on ISIS] have failed to change the balance of power on the ground, especially now that Iraqi army officials have themselves acknowledged their inability to confront ISIS without backing from the PMU. But the U.S. rejects the PMU because of the Iranian influence they represent, and so do the majority of the people of al-Anbar who fear a repetition of the violations these forces perpetrated in Tikrit.
In conclusion, slamming the door in the face of foreign intervention calls for a reconsideration of the Iraqi government's policies first, and urgent action in coming to the rescue of the Anbar's people by providing them with the support they need to ensure that they do not find themselves having to ask for or receive aid from outside the country.
"But maintaining the current situation can only lead to Iraq’s explosion along confessional lines, not only its partition. And the effects of this may not remain confined to within Iraq's borders," concludes the daily.
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