Obama Obama, We Love Osama! The True nature of the Muslim Riots

Today, Sydney Australia was rocked by violent protests as Muslim demonstrators surged through the streets holding signs saying “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet Muhammad”, and carrying the flag of the Jihadists. Hundreds of protesters battled with police, hurling rocks at them, and injuring at least six officers. The crowd also vandalized property, and assaulted some individuals in the street. Police ended up gassing the crowd and using dogs to disperse the rioters, who vowed to return in greater numbers.

The reason given for the violence was the perceived insult to Islam by the trailer to the film made in America The Innocence of Muslims. Although not even confirmed as legitimate, the film has sparked uprisings around the world, with the most tragic moment being the assault on the American embassy in Libya and the murder of the American ambassador to Libya.

However, let us not fall into the trap of thinking these protests are in any way a legitimate expression of anger against this film. Let us not look at Sydney and claim that the violence was in any way, shape, or form a justified response to oppression. The vast majority of these rioters have never lived under oppression, have never been persecuted for their faith, and have lived in a free and democratic country which has been well known for their policy of openness to immigration and multiculturalism.

This violence is another outbreak of what Samuel Harrington termed the “Clash of Civilizations”. The Muslim world believes, rightly or wrongly, that the West has declared war against them, and against Islam in particular. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been painted as a crusade against Islam. This picture has not been helped by ill advised comments by the previous American administration.

In response to this, the Muslim culture has risen up against the West. They will fight back with everything they can against America and it’s allies, including Australia. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are only a symbol of the festering conflict between East and West; between Christian and Muslim. Groups such as Al Qaeda have been very open in appealing to the religious nature of this war, and they are absolutely correct. This is a fight, not against a government or a geopolitical ideology. It is a fight against a way of life. It is a fight against a culture.

America has been taught time and time again that to the Muslim people, a term I will use in a general sense, it is always seen as a target, no matter if they are allied to them or not. Americans feel hurt and angry that they are attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan after removing despotic regimes from power. They are confused why Libyans slaughter their ambassador after they freed their country. They do not understand why Muslims world wide are attacking their embassies due to an obscure film that the American administration had nothing to do with, and have not supported in any way.

The fact is, the film is meaningless. It is not the cause of this hatred. It is merely an excuse to carry on a campaign of hatred and terror against the West. No matter now much the West has done for these people. No matter now free the country in which they live, to the Muslim community, they will seize control of the nation and impose their own law on the people. And then they will have their revenge for perceived years of oppression in their homelands. Thus, radicals such as Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon in Australia call for Sharia law openly, and state that only a Muslim government of Australia would be legitimate. Siddiq-Conlon is right when he states

“One day Australia will live under sharia; it’s inevitable,” he said. “If they (Australians) don’t accept it, that’s not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There’s always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia.”

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/pm-go-and-let-the-muslims-take-over/story-e6frg6nf-1225991362018

Later, this charming individual goes on to state that he hates democracy, and calls for the hatred of the worship of any other religion than Islam.

To radicals like Siddiq Conlon, the battle on the streets of Sydney is far more than an isolated outburst against a video. It is a culture war. They are not in Australia to assimilate, they are in Australia to attack the country, the culture, the people, and to take over.

Australians, good natured, trusting, and blissfully ignorant until recently of the affairs of the world, are shocked and stunned by these attacks. While Australians have the reputation of being racist, and indeed can be, they have no idea of how to respond to an attack on their very way of life by people they feel they have given refuge and shelter to.

The protesters in Sydney are not only attacking a culture, they are expressing open support for terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda. In a chant on the street, Muslim men in Sydney shouted “Obama! Obama! We Love Osama!”. In another photo, protesters are holding a flag similar to those used by Al Qaeda.

Until Australia, America, and the UK realize that they cannot negotiate, cannot give in, and cannot placate such hatred, the clash between Muslim and Australian, American, or Briton will become more and more frequent. Immigration from largely Muslim homelands to Australia and Europe especially has created concern among the local population, who feel intimidated by actions such as what happened in Sydney today. In response, increased racism and violence in return occurs, resulting in greater ill will between the two cultures, and thus strengthening a cycle of violence.

However, in a message to Muslims in Australia, I would say: I do not hate you. I sympathize with some of your grievances, however this is not the way to go about addressing them. I do not wish you out of my country. I welcome you to Australia, as long as you abide by Australian law and live as a law abiding citizen.

However, if you attempt to destroy the freedoms I enjoy here, and which are freely offered to you. If you attempt to cause harm or violence to me, my country, or my people, this attempt will be resisted, and I will work to restrict your ability to carry out such attacks. Attacks against this country will result in a blowback to your interests by Australians. If you wish to find freedom in this country, respect the laws of the country, and the country will respect you.

Your actions today in Sydney, and elsewhere around the world, are reprehensible. They show many of you for what you truely are. If you hate this country, if you hate our way of life, if you hate the West so much, I understand that your views will be more warmly received in Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, or Iraq. Please take your views back to these places or others where they will be received.

If a Clash of Civilizations occurs, the West must understand what is at stake, and what must be done to win in this war. Tolerance must exist. Hatred towards Muslims, the Muslim religion, or towards the community in general makes us as bad as the protesters. Our response must be both respectful, but firm. Such behaviour as this should not be allowed, and must be met with swift justice. Not injustice, not vigilantism, but justice through the policing, intelligence, and legal systems of this country.

To Muslims in Australia, remember: What image you give to Australians now, will determine how you are treated by this country.

Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice…

There is the old saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As a former manager once told me, “I am quite happy for you to make mistakes; that means you’re being active and learning. But if you make the same mistake again, you have learnt nothing from the first”.

On a geopolitical level, the Western nations seem to have made mistakes again and again, and yet are constantly surprised and amazed at the predictable result. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US and the UK found themselves again on the front lines of the Cold War. The Place, Afghanistan. The Enemy, Russia, and the Communist backed government of Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Americans flooded Afghanistan with sophisticated weapons, including MANPAD systems, explosives, and small arms. Along with the arms came money. Millions of dollars were poured into the country through the ISI in Pakistan, all for the purpose of “liberating” the country. Americans such as Charlie Wilson and the Right Wing Christian movement pushed vigorously for increased support to the Afghan Mujahedeen.

Along with weapons and money can support in the form of a public image campaign. American and British movies, from Rambo to James Bond, all portrayed a heroic struggle by a simple yet courageous people against a brutal government.

Support came also, from all over the world. Arab and Muslim fighters flocked to Afghanistan, where they enlisted in the call to Jihad against the infidel Soviets. Along with the droves of fighters came a wealthy Saudi Arabian man who dreamed of using his talents, his money, his connections, and his whole life to advancing the cause of Islam. His name of Usama Bin Laden. Usama, and many others like him, found their true calling in life in the fires of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets. CIA and SAS units were eager to arm and train anybody who would fight against the Soviets. Along with these arms came valuable training in explosives, assassination, sophisticated weapons systems, and other black arts. These lessons were learnt all to well by the young Muslim recruits, who then used them to great effect against the Soviets.

 

Bin Laden in Afghanistan 1980s

The Americans were successful. Through their proxy armies, they had defeated the Soviet Union, turning Afghanistan into a Russian Vietnam. Indeed, the defeat, and the expense incurred, was instrumental in bringing down an increasingly weak USSR some years later.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Deputy Direction of the CIA Richard Kerr

But as the victory celebrations died down, warlords such as Hekmatyar, Massoud, and other individuals realized that they now had to govern a power vacuum. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, but politics and power do so even more. The weapons and training which had driven out the Soviets now were turned on each other, as the warlords fell to fighting each other for power.

In this vacuum arose a new power. Hailing from the religious schools on the Afghan border with Pakistan, and fired with religious zeal from the Whabbist schools of thought in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban swept into Afghanistan from the east, capturing Kabul, and controlling most of the country except for the northern areas held by Massoud and the Northern Alliance.
Having no love for the West, the Taliban imposed a strict view of Sharia upon the whole country, plunging the country back into the Dark Ages.

Others, though, had a more globalist view of the Jihad they had just won. Men like Bin Laden, Khalim, Basayev, Khattab, and al-Zawahiri were veterans of this war, which imbued them with the confidence to take on the West. After all, they had defeated one Superpower. Why not another one? When Bin Laden formed Al Qaeda in the 1990s in response to what he saw as American aggression towards Muslims and a desecration of Islam, he had a large source of recruits to choose from. Men who had fought with him in Afghanistan found themselves with a set of skills which could be very easily turned against their former benefactors, the United States. The Jihadists built up their experience and skills in Africa, in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban, in Pakistan, in Chechnya, in Palestine, in the Balkans, and in the Philippines. The view of Bin Laden was to leverage the contacts he had made in Afghanistan into a worldwide network to bring the fight to the West. Bin Laden came full circle when he returned to Afghanistan with Al Qaeda. Safe in the country, he established training facilities, to which a new generation of aspiring young men who sought the glories of Jihad flocked.

The reason we have discussed this history is that it bears very serious lessons for American foreign policy today, which are being very quickly forgotten by the current Administration. The Neo Conservative idea under President Bush was that if America only removed dictatorial regimes from power in the Middle East, other regimes would fall like dominos, creating a wave of freedom across the region. America put this theory to the test in Iraq, with a far less than satisfactory result. Rather than embracing freedom and democracy and the American way, Iraqis first turned against the American invaders and then against each other. More than any place on earth, the Middle East cannot have a political vacuum present without some group attempting to fill it. In Iraq, the Americans soon found that they lacked both the support and the political know-how to even consider filling the political vacuum they had created with the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

As a result, Al Qaeda moved in force into Iraq, carrying on both attacks against American forces, and then against Shiite Muslims in the country. Iran responded by filling the power vacuum with Shiite supporters such as the Madhi Army. These two groups brought Iraq into the verge of Civil War, before the Sunni backed Al Qaeda was pushed out of the country.

America should have learned valuable lessons from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Regime change in the Middle East is often the prelude to anarchy, violence, and greater bloodshed. And dictatorial regimes can be seen as being far superior to the violence which follows their demise. American styled Democracy does not take root easily in the Middle East, as has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and Libya.

Instead, the current American strategy is still to support and fight for regime change. In the case of Libya, this was successful, and a military campaign ousted Gadhafi from power, leading to his death and the formation of a new government. Around the same time, Mubarak fell from power in Egypt, bringing in new “democratic” elections.

The Arab Spring was touted by pundits, activists, and neoconservatives as being an amazing example of “People Power” rising up against oppressive regimes and overcoming them through willpower and the might of the population. It was seen as being a new wave of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Very few voices, in the days of Libya’s revolution, sought to criticize the movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen. After all, were not the governments in question corrupt, violent, and despotic? Isn’t the rule by the people the best kind of government?

American writers, bloggers, political scientists, and activists were not the only ones watching and rejoicing at the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda was watching events very carefully also. With the death of Usama Bin Laden, and on the run worldwide, Al Qaeda was in dire need of another safe haven, where they could regroup and plan their comeback. The Arab Spring gave them exactly this. It was a movement which posed serious threats to the secular, despotic governments who had so often waged war against them. In every country which has seen regime change, or attempted regime change, the Governments have waged an often brutal war against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Libya, Egypt, and Syria had all sought to destroy their influence and power. And with these governments now crumbling, Al Qaeda saw the creation of more political vacuums. And as we have seen before, whenever there is a vacuum, the Jihadists are quick to try and take advantage of the opportunity.

In a four part series, we will discuss the impact of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on the Arab Spring, their current successes in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, and the bleak future it poses for the region as they have seized power. Al Qaeda is back with a safe haven. It now has another battle to fight, it now has another source of recruits for their war, and another battle ground to test their skills in. And ironically, they are now fighting on the same side as an often well meaning but hopelessly ignorant America.

 

The Fall of the House of Saud

In our previous posts, we have discussed the rise to power of the House of Saud, along with the corruption and internal instability which has arisen along with them.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as caught between the East and West. In the words of Samuel Harrington, the “Clash of Civilizations” has Saudi Arabia caught in between. On one hand, the Saudis desire good relations with America, as their primary support base and protector against other regional competitors. The US has traditionally supplied the Saudi defence forces, supported the Saudi’s politically, and has been a major customer for Saudi oil.
Thus, while hating America when attempting to pander to Islamists, the Saudis need America to survive.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wishes to establish itself as a legitimate Muslim power in the region. As the keeper of the two holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia holds substantial influence in the Muslim world. However, this influence has been severely damaged by accusations, with merit, that the al Saud family are merely American puppets. The failure of Saudi Arabia to confront Israel, and the eagerness of the government to forge ties with America has led many fundamentalist Saudis to see their government as illegitimate.

To the fundamentalists, Saudi Arabia is not only a prize, but it is their divine duty to overthrow what they see as a pro Western and corrupt government. The Prophet was very clear about who should rule in the Arabian peninsula, and it was not a Khafir regime.
Thus, prominant Saudis such as Bin Laden have arisen in opposition to the Royal Family, and have called for attacks upon them. The Saudi counter terrorism strategy has been to historically support such movements outside of the Kingdom. Thus, Saudi money has turned up in the Phillipines, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, in New York, in Iraq, and latest in Syria. The goal of Saudi Arabia is to attempt to keep radical elements occupied elsewhere, and dependant upon a flow of funds and weapons from the country. In Syria, for example, Saudi Arabia is seeking to both deny Iran a regional ally, to exert influence in the region, and the position themselves as supporters of a popular revolution.

But what is the future of Saudi Arabia? The US support, which has underpinned the majority of the Saudi defence force expenditure, is being slowly withdrawn, as the US found itself stretched thin in two unpopular ground wars in the Middle East and Asia. With the slowdown in the US economy, the country also is beinning to shift its focus from the Middle East to South East Asia to counter Chinese economic expansion.

The US has been working politically for years to develop an alternative to Saudi oil supplies. This alternative seems to have come from increased use of shale gas and oil deposits within the US itself. As Saudi Arabia sees a long term ally start to turn away from them, they have reached out to any aid they can find, including China.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of terrorist acts within its own borders along with violence caused by Iran in the Shiite minority within the country. During the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia moved quickly to shut down protests both in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain, which could have spread further amoung a discontented population.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of regional rivals, including Israel and Iran, which while being mortal enemies, neither have any love for Saudi Arabia. To counter this, Prince Bandar has been tasked by the Family to purchase a number of sophisticated long range missile systems, capable of delivering any warhead up to Nuclear to both Tehran and Tel Aviv. By creating a new version of the MAD system, the Saudis hope that this will deter any threats to the Kingdom.

A greater risk, the author believes, is that of a popular uprising supported by Islamic fundamentalists. Such a movement, if provided with traction, could possibly topple the Royal Family.

In Part IV, we will look at the necessary steps which Saudi Arabia must take in order to survive in the ever changing geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

Lessons from the Omani Conflict – Winning Hearts and Minds

Modern theorists and practitioners of counterinsurgency theory have developed a list of characteristics of insurgencies which will impact on either the success or failure of an insurgency movement. While all of these drivers and attributes of an insurgency will be present in almost all cases in varying degrees, this essay seeks to analyse the Omani Insurgency in the 1970s by the characteristics of popular support, sanctuary and external support, and weapons.

The conflict in Oman existed from the 1950s until the 1970s, even as the contestants and insurgents changed and reformed their form and goals constantly. Even though early insurgencies ended in failure, the oppressive and corrupt rule of Sultan Sa’id Bin Taymur resulted in discontent across the country, especially in the region of Dhofar in South Oman

Dhofar had long been considered the personal property of the Sultan, and was his place of residence year round, even though the government capital was in Muscat, 500 miles to the northeast

The Sultan sought to keep Oman closed off from the rest of the world, banning all forms of modern or Western technology or thought. Any who left the country for education were forbidden to return. The Sultan refused to invest in Oman’s infrastructure, creating a nation without functioning hospitals, schools, communications, or civic services

In this environment, an underground resistance movement began in Dhofar in the early 1960s. Influenced by Arab Nationalism, and seeking reforms in government, they began a small scale resistance campaign based in Salalah, the provincial capital. In 1965, Iranian forces intercepted and arrested armed Dhofari rebels in a ship attempting to enter the country. The intelligence gained from this group aided the Sultan’s forces in cracking down on the resistance in Salalah, forcing remaining resistance fighters to flee into the mountainous Jebel of Dhofar. From their new sanctuary, they formed the Dhofar Liberation Front (DLF) with the express purpose of establishing a separate Dhofari state.

Popular Support:

Originally, popular support in Dhofar was on the side of the insurgency. Initially, the DLF were committed to establishing an independent state which would end the hated rule of the Sultan, and thus achieved fairly wide popular support. The Suntan’s counterinsurgency also alienated the general population with crude tactics such as cordon and search programs, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling, and collective punishments for communities expected as being rebel supporters. In a Government report in 1970, the military described the counterinsurgency campaign as being a purely military campaign, with no attempts to win hearts and minds, no amnesty agreements, no civil projects, and no police or intelligence support to the military.

After the DLF merged into the left wing PFLOAG, the insurgents received external funding and weapons provided from a number of Communist countries, and sanctuary across the border in Yemen. Due to this, the insurgents were on the verge of possibly overthrowing Salalah, the last remaining bastion of the Sultan’s support in Dhofar.

In 1970, Sultan Saíd Bin Taymur was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his son, Sayyid Qabus bin Said. Qabus, Sandhurst educated, had been placed under arrest by his father upon his return to Oman, but with British support and backing easily wrested control of the country from his increasingly besieged father.

Once in control, Qabus embarked on a rapid policy of openness and modernization in a five pronged strategy which illustrated his understanding of the whole of government approach to the counterinsurgency campaign. His plan included a rapid development of the country through the increase of civic services, especially in the Dhofari regions. Also, he offered a general amnesty to all insurgents who surrendered and embarked on a diplomatic campaign to isolate the rebels and their supporters in Yemen from other Arab nations.

These popular reforms went far in gaining support from the local population for the government position. Civic development teams would enter communities and provide medical and schooling care, as well as veterinary attention for the farm animals owned by the primarily farming based population

The British especially embarked on a propaganda campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim based population. By playing upon religious sentiment, the general population was led to reject the Communist insurgents as atheists and infidels.

In return, the rebels responded against the population supporting the government with harsh attacks, further losing public support.

Translation: “The Hand of God Smashes Communism”

At the end of the campaign, both internal and external support for the insurgency had dried up. This is primarily due to the success of the new Omani government in winning the hearts and minds of the disaffected population.

Some authors, such as Thompson, believe that the attempt by the Rebels to force the general population to renounce Allah was the greatest alienation between them and the population. Once the Communists resorted to torture in order to attack the Muslim faith held by most of the population, their attempts at gaining popular support would always meet a measure of resistance.

External Support:

Externally, the DLF received little support initially. Egypt and Saudi Arabia provided advice, however the real external support started in 1968 from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). Using the PDRY as a base, other communist countries, or leftist leaning regimes, such as China, Libya, Iraq, Cuba, and the USSR funnelled through weapons and equipment over the Yemeni border. In addition, a small contingent of Yemeni troops supported the rebels in their operation.

This influx of equipment and weaponry evened the odds initially, and put the PFLOAG on the offensive against the Sultan’s forces. Before the arrival of support and equipment, the DLF’s tactics consisted primarily of ambushes and small raids. The better armed PFLOAG was able to level the playing field, and given similar numbers would often defeat the Sultan’s forces in engagements.

From the Government’s side however, Sultan Qabus relied heavily on British forces, particularly the SAS counter insurgency forces who were able to organize an effective counter insurgency campaign against the rebels. By building on the failure of the PFLOAG to gain popular support, they formed effective tribal units to hunt down the insurgents holed up in the Jebel. The British also provided heavy weapons and equipment such as helicopters and armoured personal carriers to the Sultan.

Sultan Qabus also worked strongly to bring Oman into the Arab league and isolate the PFLOAG and the PDFY from Arab support. On a military front, the British forces cut off the outside support to the rebels through use of the Hornbeam Line, which intercepted shipments of arms from Yemen, thus denying outside support to the rebels.

Weapons:

As discussed previously, the PFLOAG became a decisive force through external support by leftist movements who provided the rebels with modern Soviet arms. These included AK-47 Kalashnikovs, 60mm and 81mm mortars, Rocket Propelled Grenades, 122mm Katyusha rockets, and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. The primarily smuggling route for these weapons was over the Yemeni border by camel trains into the Jebel.

Armed to this extent, the insurgents became more than a match both in firepower and numbers against the government troops. In contrast, the government soldiers were armed with inadequate uniforms and gear, no heavy weapons, and with WWI and WWII rifles and Bren guns.

After the change of government to Sultan Qabus, the tide of the insurgency turned in favour of the government forces. Rebel supply lines were targeted, cutting them off from outside support. Additionally, the amnesty program put in place by Said was remarkably effective in encouraging the surrender of insurgents. As public support turned more and more against the insurgency, the last remaining members fled across the border into Yemen in 1976, effectively ending the insurgency.

In conclusion, the deciding factor in the Omani Insurgency was the hearts and minds of the Dhofari people. Initially, the public support for the insurgency guaranteed them early victories. However, as the insurgents failed to follow up on their opportunity, and indeed drove the general public away from them through acts of terror, support was gained by the government forces, ultimately resulting in a failed insurgency.


[1] Peterson JE, “The Experience of British Counter-Insurgency Campaigns and Implications for Iraq”, Arabian Peninsula Background Note No APBN-009

[2] McKeown J, 1981, “Britain and Oman: The Dhofar War and It’s Significance”, University of Cambridge

Ladwig W, 2008, “Supporting Allies in Insurgency: Britain and the Dhofar Rebellion”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol 19, No 1, March 2008

White Jim, 2008, “Oman 1965 – 1976”, Small Wars Journal Online Publication, 2008

Fine W, 2010, “Winning the Hearts and Minds in Counterinsurgency: The British Approach in Malaya and Oman and the US in Iraq and Afghanistan”, University of Kansas 2010

Thompson, L, 1996, “Ragged War: The Story of Unconventional and Counter-Revolutionary Warfare”, Arms and Armour Press, London, UK

The Saudi Royal Family

To understand the Saudi Royal family, who has ruled the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since its inception, is to attempt to understand a family torn by internal power struggles, beset on all sides by enemies and rivals, and who have also been cursed with all the disadvantages of extreme wealth. The House of Saud can be traced back to Muhammad ibn Saud, with the ruling party fathered by King Abdul Aziz.

Unlike most Western style monarchies, the line of succession is not passed down from Father to Son, but rather to brothers of the sons of King Abdul Aziz. While all close members of the family, including grandchildren, have received important government posts, the surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz are seen as being in the line of succession. With the incapatation of King Fahd due to a stroke in 1995, Crown Prince Abdullah took over the governing of the affairs of the kingdom until the death in 2005 of King Fahd, when Abdullah was crowned king.

Next in line to the throne was Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz. However, on June 16, 2012, the Crown Prince passed away at the age of 80, leaving the title to Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. Salman is now the last significant member of Abdul Aziz’s direct sons, and the last major member of the so called “Sudeiri Seven”.

Prince Naif had been no friend of the West, and especially not of America. After the September 11 attacks, Naif did everything possible to prevent American investigations into Saudi Arabian suspects, and openly attacked the American government as being an enemy of Muslims everywhere.

Crown Prince Na’if

However, while Na’if may have paid lip service to the radicals, and personally hated America, even he was concerned about the activities of radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2003 Na’if stated that he believed that Saudi Arabia had given too much support to radical elements, and that these elements themselves could become an enemy to Saudi Arabia.

With the election of Salman to the position of Crown Prince now, the Saudis face a dilemma. All the full blooded sons of Abdul Aziz are now over 60 years old, with King Abdullah 90 years old and in poor health. Salman was born in 1936, and is also in poor health. Indeed, the youngest son, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, was born in 1945.

Even the grandsons of Abdulaziz, who would be potentially eligible for consideration with appropriate support, are all over 50 years old.

Thus, a third generation of princes will begin to slowly fill important civil ranks in the government, and will move upwards to replace the First and Second generations as they pass away. The Third generation, however, are far less experienced than their grandfathers and even their fathers.

Saudi Arabia is entering one of the most important milestones in its history at the moment, with the rise of Iran to the east, the Arab Spring surrounding the country, insurgencies in Yemen, a hostile Israel to the north, and internal discord and division both against the Saudi Royal family and between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

However, the younger generations especially have shown themselves poor leadership material. It can be said that the House of Saud was blessed with power, but cursed with wealth. The extreme wealth into which the second and third generation princes were born into has corrupted the family to the point at which the old Roman aristocracy comes to mind.

The family of al Saud now numbers almost 15,000 members. While only a few possess political power, a majority of the family members receive allowances, which become more and more substantial the closer to the direct bloodline one gets. In a cable to Washington in 1996, the US Ambassador stated that monthly stipends ranged from $800 a month for the most distant princes up to a sum of $270,000 a month USD for the sons of Abdul Aziz.

In addition, payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars are handed out upon completion of tasks such as getting married or building a new palace.

The princes, particularly those with power, have found new and innovative ways to raise money above that which they received from a stipend. These include defrauding businesses, theft of state property, arms sales, oil deals, bribes, and outright theft. Saudi Royals will borrow money from banks without paying it back, seize land and businesses from their owners, and demand substantial bribes from foreign companies doing business in Saudi Arabia.

The billions of dollars controlled by these princes helps to fund an extremely lavish lifestyle, the decadence and debauchery of which is legendary. King Fahd’s youngest son, Abd al Aziz, built himself a massive theme park in Mecca, costing $4.6 billion, after seizing the land to build the park on. Abd al has also built lavish personal estates for himself and his mother.

The entire house of Saud spends along these lines however. When the family goes shopping in Marbella, they spend on average $5 million a day. In the 1970s, Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East, and almost exclusively catered to Rich Saudi royals, with brothels, nightclubs, and high class restaurants. The Lebanese underworld also saw an opportunity inside Saudi Arabia and began a brisk slave trade into the Kingdom, bringing in women to work as prostitutes for the Royal family. When Saudis wish to leave the Kingdom, the more lowly princes head for London, France, or Monte Carlo, and enjoy the pleasures and sins of the West including women, gambling, alcohol, and lots and lots of money. For the higher born Saudis, each prince has a private estate along the Mediterranean coast, which are exclusively for entertaining women and for holding lavish events. The new playground for the Saudis is Morocco, where the Saudi princes can retreat to secluded palaces in the Tangier mountains and hold even more wild and debauched parties than in Europe or Saudi Arabia. In return, Saudi Arabia has funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars into Morocco in exchange for their silence on their activities.

 

Saudi Royal Yacht

The Saudi Royal attitude towards these decadent pursuits is strictly hypocritical. While the royal family may engage in any activity they see fit to, the common people live in one of the most repressive countries in the world. Especially to women, Saudi Arabia is a closed society, with women only recently receiving the right to drive, vote, and even shop by themselves (only in exclusively women staffed shops).

The Saudi society is a three tiered layer, with the Royals on top, a business class underneath who owe their patronage to the Royals, and the common class on the bottom.

However, while the Saudi Royal family has spent billions whoring, drinking, spending, and stealing for decades, they have become extremely out of touch with their own people. Radical elements in Saudi Arabia have found eager recruits from the oppressed population, who hate their ruling family and their ways. Iran is seeking to create Sectarian strife in the country, and the winds of the Arab Spring have even ruffled the feathers of the Royals.

Now, more than ever, Saudi Arabia must make a decision to either acknowledge the challenges it faces, or to accept the fact that it will fall. It is unknown yet what Crown Prince Salman will do, or even how long he will hold this position.

In our next instalment, we will analyse the future direction of the monarchy and detail the coming fall of the Royal family, if they refuse to act now.

 

 

Respect and Political Fear

The father of modern political thought, Thomas Hobbs, who wrote in the early 1600s, believed strongly in the power of the state, as the overreaching “Leviathan”, which kept watch over the citizens below. To Hobbs, power rested with the state through the introduction of what he termed the “Social Contract”. In simple terms, the social contract states that the people of a nation will give up certain rights and freedoms in exchange for the rule of law and security by the state. One of the greatest “rights” given up was that of violence, which only the state then had the right to use. Only the state could resort to violence, and violence, according to Hobbs, was an instrument of the state to maintain law and order. Agents of the state, such as the police, military, and intelligence services could be given the right to use violence if necessary in order to maintain order.

Hobbs believed that there were two alternatives to the Human race. Either a population would give up part of their power to a central government, which Hobbs believed to be unaccountable for their actions, or anarchy and chaos would result. This anarchy and chaos was what Hobbs termed the “natural state” of man, and was driven by what he saw as the relentless pursuit of man for power.

Hobbs saw civilization, and the power of a central government, as integral to preventing this violent anarchical struggle which mankind would fall into by default.

This view is not new with Hobbs, however. Machiavelli before him wrote on power, and the use of such by a state. Thousands of years before, the Bible itself wrote of the early formation of the Jewish state as being in such a state of anarchy. The story is told in the book of Judges, for example, of the tribe of Dan who came across a household with precious goods and idols which they promptly took by force and threats. The story goes that they tribe then proceeded to seize territory by massacring the inhabitants of a peaceful city as they were stronger and of greater numbers. Further in the book, the story is told of a full breakdown of law and order in a city with travellers being accosted and killed, leading to a civil war in Israel. All through the book of Judges, there is story after story of acts of violence taking place just because one party was stronger than the other.

The book of Judges ends with the quote that “In those days, there was no King in Israel, so every man did what was right in his own eyes”.

Indeed, this is the very definition of anarchy, and would seem to support Hobbs belief that a central order was necessary to keep this natural state from developing.

Going on in history, we find that any society or civilization goes through this stage of the strong overpowering the weak, and then creating a ruling order to centralize their power over the nation. Warfare then became the instrument of the state, and was used against other weaker nations. If we fast-forward in history, we can see the results of a collapsed state which is experiencing anarchy in such failed states as Somalia, where the natural order can be seen. Indeed, whenever there is a breakdown in the power of the state, chaos and anarchy seem to follow.

During the last 60-70 years, politics and political thought has experienced another revolution. With the formation of the United Nations was established a principle of Human Rights. For much of history, up until the Treaty of Westphalia, warfare was a legitimate tool of statecraft. Leading up to the end of the First World War, there was a desire among many European nations to never again see such a war take place. Thus, treaties such as the Treaty of Paris were signed, which forbade wars of aggression. Interestingly enough, both Japan and Germany were signatories to this treaty, which was flagrantly broken during the Second World War.

With the Second World War, the concept of genocide came into popular focus. While genocide was not a new concept by any means, the extermination campaigns of the Nazi party against Jews shocked the world like never before.

With the establishment of the United Nations, Human Rights were introduced. Political thought recognized that states do not always fulfil their side of the Social Contract which was introduced by Hobbes, and misuse their power against their own citizens. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations laid out 30 rights that citizens have, including freedom from persecution, protection of women and children, right of religion, and right of free expression in Government.

However, the UN upheld by social contract theory of Hobbs by stating that

“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.  (UN Charter Article 29)

Thus, these freedoms are limited by the expression of the rights and freedoms of others, social morality, and public order and general welfare.

However, where does the line exist between the establishment of order and the will of the population? If the natural order exists in the absence of a centralized government, as Hobbes predicted, where do current protest movements ranging from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement sit?

Last year, at the start of the Libyan civil war, I wrote on this blog that Libya faced an uncertain future if Gadhafi was removed. The danger of a power vacuum being created existed then, and exists even more so now. Egypt has experienced a similar crisis, with the Mubarak regime being removed, but with an uncertain political future now existing.

In the opinion of Australia’s foremost expert on Libya and perhaps on the Arab Spring, Dr Sally Totman, the Arab Spring has accomplished very little actual good to the general population. In both Libya and Egypt, the ruling elites now are the same as before the rebellion. In Egypt it is the military who supported Mubarak, but who threw him to the wolves when international tide turned against him. In Libya, it is the old supporters of Gadhafi who once again turned against him with the general tide.  Syria has been in a state of anarchy and civil war for almost a year, with extremist influences such as Al Qaeda becoming more and more active in the country.

The mood of the Arab Spring has turned from one of optimism and change to one of cynicism and discontent. In Libya, the united tribes are beginning to turn on each other, with violent encounters occurring, and little attempt to create a stable state. In Egypt, there have been protests after protests against the current ruling body, to no avail. A general malevolent atmosphere has settled over the Middle East, setting in motion attempts by regional power brokers to seize greater support for themselves.

In short, the Arab Spring has turned into an Arab Winter, with few of the goals of the revolution being achieved, and only the figureheads of a regime being taken away.

But why are such movements gaining traction? Why are people, especially in the West, dissatisfied with their life, and are willing to take up action against the Government that they elected into power?

Hobbes, in his theory, considered greatly the idea of fear in politics. To Hobbes, mankind was driven by fear, and the greatest fear according to Hobbes was the fear of death. As the state was the only entity with the legitimate use of violence through the justice system against its own people, Hobbes held that fear was a necessary part of a stable society – fear of the sovereign and the consequences of acting against him. Machiavelli stated this also by posing the theoretical question “Should a Prince strive to be feared or loved?” His answer was very diplomatic:

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.   

To both Hobbes and Machiavelli, a certain fear of the sovereign powers should always be present in the citizenship. Not hatred, but a certain fear of acting against them. The responsibility of the state, under the social contract, was not to move against their people unjustly or to attempt to use unjust force against them.

It may be argued that such revolutions as in Syria are a response to attempts by the Government to use unjust force against those protesting. It may also be argued that such force by the population is not unjust, even under a Hobbesian model, as Hobbes always held that citizens should have the right of self-preservation, even through use of violence.

My argument, however, is far more pragmatic. In countries experiencing the Arab Spring, the Government did incite a culture of fear surrounding them. The general citizens were afraid of their governments, and with good reason. However, attempts to attack the government were not in response to actions by the Government. In Libya, Syria, and Egypt, there were no attempts by the state to engage in hostile action against the general population. Dissenters may have been treated harshly, however in the political climate these states existed in, such actions often were seen as necessary to keep order. In Libya, for example, harsh measures defeated the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, pushing them to the table to negotiate peace. In Egypt, they kept an undercurrent of fanaticism and terrorism controlled for decades.

It is said that desperate situations call for desperate measures, and this is what we have seen in Syria, Egypt, and Libya. Were they democracies? No. Were they necessarily a kind and welcoming regime? No. Did human rights abuses occur? Most probably yes. However, these were no worse than others in the region, and may be argued were a strategy by the government to ensure a stable society. The validity of such a revolution can be argued either way.

But what about Australia, Europe, and the US? Is there any reason for protest and revolt in these countries? I would say, absolutely not. I can speak from an Australian perspective, as that is what I am most familiar with. In Australia, there is a country which is one of the richest in the world. The economy has continued to be strong, and the recession did not nearly hit Australia as hard as other parts of the world. Australia as a social system which is large and generous, with public health cover, myriads of  government grants, and a unemployment system which enables one to effectively live without working productively. In short, life in Australia is mostly prosperous. Even counting in people’s bad decisions, it is not hard to survive in this country. And yet, we see violent protests in capital cities across Australia. We see a mob like attack on Australia’s elected Prime Minister. We see groups representing a large number of interests all attacking the government.

Here is where the concept of fear must be introduced. People must respect and fear their elected government, while at the moment, this lack of fear emboldens the protesters. With the attack on the Prime Minister in Canberra, no arrests were made, no person was charged, and very little attempt was made to disperse the rioters. With the Occupy protests, clashes in Melbourne resulted in attacks on serving Police Officers by protesters who flatly refused to obey direct orders by the state.

With the previous Melbourne G20 riots in 2006, Australian protesters assaulted police, destroyed property, attacked police vans, and generally engaged in public rioting.

Why do riots occur? They occur because there is no respect or fear left of the government. And this is partly the government’s fault. As with a child, the child must have a certain respect and sometimes even fear of the consequence of their actions in order to be brought up properly. If this respect for authority, and fear of consequences of bad behaviour is not present, the natural order of things will take place.

This natural order of things, this anarchy which is dreamed about by the left is a lie. It is a utopian concept which will result in public disorder and chaos. One can say that the most free society on earth is Somalia, or similar states with a breakdown of law and order. But my question is: “Is that what we want to live in?”

The Picture of Anarcy.

A Nuclear House of Saud?

The power structure in the Middle East has changed radically during the last two years. During this time, political leaders in numerous countries; Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen fell from power or fled to avoid the fate of their comrades in Egypt or Libya. President Assad in Syria, rather than face trial by his people for human rights abuses has determined to fight for his position, leading to what can be only described as a de facto state of civil war in the country. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, even Israel have seen their own protests and uprisings, however leaders in all countries have managed to hold onto power.

While Neo Conservatives in America may have first painted a rosy picture of democracy springing into the Middle East, the actual fact is that the current political systems, and even the future ones, will be very unlike the commonly accepted Western view of democracy. Only a small percentage of Libyan opposition groups have openly accepted democracy as a future political view, with the majority of Libyans rejecting democracy as a political system.

In Egypt, the most popular political party is the Muslim Brotherhood, who is steadfastly anti democratic. Indeed, the Brotherhood has come a long way from its past, when it was the umbrella group for the majority of extremist and terrorist groups, including many of the earlier members of Al Qaeda. While the Brotherhood may have technically forsaken violent action for political process, it does not mean for a moment that the group has become pro American and pro Democratic.

 

The Arab Spring

While the Middle East was once composed of many pro American governments, including those of Mubarak, it now has taken a strongly anti American turn. Even anti American governments such as Libya were a known entity. America knew how to handle Kaddafi. But the old known systems have now been replaced with an uncertain system which has not yet shown its true colours. The lines between friend and enemy are now broken, and American interests in the Middle East are now threatened.

With the American withdrawal from Iraq, American attention is now focused further upon Asia and Iran, while the Middle East (with the exclusion of the straits of Hormuz) have become less crucial to American interests.

American allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, have expressed concern regarding this recent shift of focus of American might. With the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, another American ally, the Saudi royals have expressed concern about the future security of their country. The belief is that American forces will not prevent a similar takeover in Saudi Arabia as what occurred in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia at the moment is extremely concerned regarding possible Iranian involvement in creating disturbance in the country through the minority Shiite population. There have already been several attacks against Saudi interests by Shiite terrorists. As the most significant source of oil in the region, and the most reliable as Iranian supply is becoming increasingly unstable, Saudi Arabia  is the major supplier of global oil at the moment. Surrounded by a hostile and an increasingly ambitious Turkey to the north, an uncertain Egypt to the West, a chaotic Yemen to the South, and an openly hostile Iran to the East, Saudi Arabia has found itself in an increasingly bad neighbourhood.

To add to the problems that Saudi Arabia faces, it is widely seen in the Arab world as an American puppet and as a corrupt and secular government, who is more interested in oil profits from the Americans than in assisting Muslims in the region. The Muslim world sees Saudi Arabia as a traitor who has taken American money in exchange for allowing American troops to desecrate the Holy Land by building military bases in the country. In addition, Saudi Arabia is seen as doing nothing to prevent the regional power of Israel from growing. Thus, the Saudi royal family is a top target for groups such as Al Qaeda.

 

With the withdrawal of American troops from the region, and the increasing belief that American protection will not cover the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has begun to seek defensive capacities from other sources.

While traditionally the House of Saud sought weapons and defensive capacities from the United States, it is recently begun to approach other countries such as China for defensive and offensive weapons.

The deal which alarmed Washington the most was that of the Saudi purchase of Chinese CSS-5 missiles to replace the CSS-2 missiles purchased from China in the 1980s. While these reports are not officially confirmed, they do align with the Saudi intent to develop nuclear capacity in response to Iranian developments. The deal maker for this, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, has been the Saudi go to man for any business of this nature for the last 20 years.

The CSS-5 missile is a 2 stage solid propellant type, launcher based rocket, with a range of over 2,000 km. The missile can carry a HE warhead, or a more lethal chemical payload or a 250 – 500 kT nuclear tipped payload.

With the map below, you can see the radius of the new missiles sought by Saudi Arabia. Once launched, the missile can hit any target with a great degree of accuracy in almost the entire Middle East. Iran is almost totally covered by this radius, as is Israel, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and a good part of Turkey.

 

Range of the CSS V

 

The damage potentially caused by a 250 kT nuclear warhead on either Tehran or Tel Aviv is shown below.

Tehran

Tel Aviv

 

As seen, a large portion of the city would be destroyed, leading to potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties. By contrast, the atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima was only 16 kT.

Saudi Arabia knows that the deciding factor in the Iran Iraq War was a massive Scud strike upon Tehran by Iraq, which effectively stopped the Iranians from progressing into Iraq. Such a similar strategy of missile war would therefore be attractive in the event that Iran threatened Saudi Arabia with a missile attack.

Iran does have the capacity to strike at Saudi Arabia with it’s Shahab 3 missile with a range of up to 1,800 km. While the Shahab 3 does not have the accuracy or range of the CSS-5, it can hold a nuclear payload of up to 800 kT, far greater than the CSS-5. There are rumours of either a Satellite Launch Weapon or the disputed Shahab 4, with a purported range of up to 3000 km being developed by Iran.

The status of Iran’s nuclear enrichment process is unknown, but wildly speculated. Even if Iran did develop the “bomb”, Saudi Arabia would feel the necessity to develop a nuclear deterrent of its own. To the House of Saud, having both its rivals in the region, Israel and Iran, with nuclear weapons, it would be unacceptable to not have the same capacity.

The most likely source of weapons grade fissionable material by the Saudis would be either a locally produced version or through direct purchase. Saudi Arabia has committed to building over 10 new nuclear reactors in the country in the coming years, which may be for civilian power, but which may easily be turned into military use.

A cheaper and easier alternative may be direct purchase of either nuclear materials or nuclear know how. The Pakistani government and Saudi Arabia have held long ties together, and with the nuclear network of former scientist Dr Khan from Pakistan, it is possible that Saudi Arabia has either already acquired nuclear material from Pakistan or is in the process of doing so. Khan is known to have had dealings with the Kingdom before his arrest. Even if the Saudi’s have not already purchased material, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Islamabad would provide such materials to their ally in the region.

The development of a nuclear armed Saudi Arabia is not a prospect which will generate further peace in the Middle East. The impact of such an action, along with a possible scenario if this occurred will be discussed in a further post.

 

World Missile Fleet