June 5, 2012

What is behind Saudi Arabia’s uncharacteristic aggressiveness?

    Tuesday, June 05, 2012   No comments


Until before Cablegate, when in February 2010 WikiLeaks began releasing classified U.S. cables, Saudi Arabia was known for its quiet diplomacy. Then its secret dealings were revealed and exposed its actual dealings. Regionally, released documents exposed Saudi Arabia as an enthusiastic proponent of military intervention in Iran. Privately, the Saudi rulers told U.S. officials that Iran is the biggest threat. Publicly, they emphasized Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a diplomatic, peaceful solution to the Iranian problem. In other words, the Saudi rulers conducted a two-tract, contradictory policy. The leaks deprived them of the cover of diplomatic secrecy. 

Together, WikiLeaks and the Arab Awakening highlighted Saudi Arabia’s reliance on authoritarian rulers and extremist Salafis to exert influence around the world. The Arab Spring threatened authoritarian rulers and extremist Salafis. Access to information and public participation in selecting leaders became a threat to Saudi religious and political paradigms and for those reasons they are now fully prepared to pursue an aggressive foreign policy publicly. In other words, Saudi aggressive meddling in the affairs of its neighbors is not new, it is simply overt nowadays.

In the short run, the Saudis will be able to exert limited influence in the region, mainly through their ability to create instability using violent, fanatic elements. In the long run, the Saudi money that is supporting Salafi political parties in Tunisia and Egypt and their open military support of Salafi armed groups in Syria will not succeed in preserving their governing paradigm. First, because it is ideologically flawed and socially unjust. Second, if the Salafis become willing and successful participating members in the democratic processes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and other Awakened Arab countries, they would want to have the same rights in Saudi Arabia itself. Thirdly, the Saudis’ enthusiastic support of the uprising in Syria cannot and will not absolve them of the long record of supporting authoritarians such as Mubarak and Ben Ali, who is still living under their protection. In the end, only genuine political and religious reform can save the kingdom from radical, and perhaps violent changes.

 ABB-1206058989

Ed Isr

About Ed Isr

Islamic Societies Review Editors

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