Arrest of the Liberal Prince Alwaleed

(CNN) Saudi corruption case spells trouble for Trump highlights the reputation of Prince Alwaleed as a liberal. Quoting,

While the Saudi kingdom maintains that the arrests are part of a larger investigation into corruption, it’s hard not to wonder if Alwaleed’s mouth — rather than his financial transactions — is to blame for his current predicament. The prince, who is more moderate than the ruling leaders, has challenged them on a variety of issues, including the ban on women driving (years before it was lifted).

Writer David A. Andelman is seduced by the visible. It’s not a mouth, halitosis, stained teeth, or anything like it. We carry with our culture the idea that people act out of conviction. While the extremes of Islam may give the impression that every thought and movement in the Middle East stems from conviction, this is not actually true. Every mind contains a secular component. In the ME, it is tribal culture. Preceding by millennia the nation-state, tribal culture was the second extension of the Darwinian principle, beyond the individual and then beyond the village.

it is part of this culture that tribes combine forces to gain advantage over other tribes. These combinations form, dissolve, and reform in short years according to conflict limited only by potential short term reward and available energy.

To the north of Saudi Arabia, in Syria, the principle is demonstrably active, in the eastern Sunni tribes who are willing to deal with Assad. To the south, in Yemen, the principle is active in the alliance of Ali Abdullah Saleh with the Houthis. Only ten years ago, Saleh was the Houthis’ greatest persecutor. The alliance is fraying. Switching sides is easily done, with shed blood vanquished by transparent oaths of convenience.

In Saudi Arabia, paved with petro-dollars,  this primitive social system is challenged but still active. Sometimes a waning social system displays unexpected vitality in the face of existential challenge.  A coup is not impossible.

Some possibilities, between which open-source cannot distinguish:

  • Alwaleed, a liberal, was secretly dealing with conservative hardliners out of sheer self preservation.
  • If the purge omitted Alwaleed, it would be logically impossible to reassure him about his own position, leaving him a loose cannon. Reforms would continually have to work around him.
  • Alwaleed resents Prince Salman as a usurper.
  • Alwaleed’s wealth could finance a coup.
  • In combination with the above, Alwaleed’s wealth would be a handsome addition to the national treasury.

The fluidity of tribal allegiances, so unfamiliar to us, makes any combination of the above possible. Compare this with U.S. Congressional politics, where principle usually prohibits working constructively with the minority party.

 

 

 

 

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