Saudi Arabia Versus Iran; the Saudi Decision Process; Part 1

The maneuvers of Saudi foreign policy come without the dissectable attributions we are accustomed to in the U.S. But recent events triangulate to probable authorship:

This is also an interesting exercise in the use of information from Al Jazeera, which though frequently richer than Western source, has the problem of a subtle agenda that may or may not be present, and may or may not interfere with profitable use.

In the most subtle way possible, more subtle than even the twists of RT, Al Jazeera is the mouthpiece of Qatar’s ongoing struggle with the other Gulf states. Information from Al Jazeera is useful to us to the extent that it is not compromised by the agenda of Qatar. So we sift for  the bare facts and examine with curiosity the more complex statements of cause and effect.  An interesting read is to be found in (Al Jazeera)  Is Lebanon caught in a Saudi-Iran regional power play? Quoting,

The government in Riyadh wanted to “kill two birds with one stone”, Halawi told Al Jazeera – consolidating power locally, “which required moving Hariri to Riyadh and allegedly – according to some Lebanese local reports – taking over his assets … [while] simultaneously attempting to shake Hezbollah’s comfortable seat in Hariri’s ‘unity government’.”

It could be true, or not. Al Jazeera  gives no credence to a beneficent intent of the Salmans’ purge. If it did, then the rephrased statement could instead read [my edits],

The government in Riyadh wanted to “kill two birds with one stone”, XXX told Al Jazeera – removing Hariri, a proxy inextricably entwined with the elites purged for corruption,  [while] simultaneously attempting to shake Hezbollah’s comfortable seat in Hariri’s ‘unity government’.”

In this analysis,  the  above statement(s) are used only to the extent that it doesn’t matter which is which. The goal is merely to identify similarities of style in the execution of Saudi policies, foreign and domestic. The style is this:

The designated individual was removed, suddenly, completely, and probably irreversibly  from public life within the Saudi sphere of influence, even at the cost of creating an immediately unstable situation.

About the purged elite, the same statement can be made, with high, if not certain probability. The removal of the elite is probably irreversible. As with Lebanon, instability may be induced in Saudi Arabia by the sudden replacement of a (corrupt) consensus based autocracy by a centralized autocracy based, in cute metaphor, on shifting sands.

If a high cost seems doubtful, consider:

  • The purge had  the suddenness of a no-knock drug bust. This style is motivated by necessity, because it lacks the replacement of consensus by another form of legitimacy. Of the choices available to fix a government, it has the least to say for it. So what was the necessity? The princes might have fought back and won.
  • Prince Miteb, head of the elite national guard, was purged. To an unknown extent, this admits the possibility that the security apparatus is not loyal to the monarchy.
  • The monarchy, which formerly governed through a pyramid bound together by money, consensus, and tribal ties, now governs through a bureaucracy. But the assumed loyalty may not be there, or may be for sale. This is a structural problem, a little like a skyscraper that is suddenly missing some girders in the middle.
  • The power base of the Salmans  included a complex bargain with the Ulama. Prince Salman promises a more moderate Islam. Well and good, but this conflicts openly with the bargain with and charter of the Wahhabi ulama.  Wahabism, which is indistinguishable in practice, if not history from Salafism, is not a moderate religion.
  • The power base of the royals, which was formerly based on this complex consensus pyramid of princes and clerics, now includes with certainty only common people of modern mindset. In the pyramid that remains, everybody else is a question mark. Who owes, and who is owed? Whose obligations will be cancelled, and whose wealth will be swept away?

To be continued shortly

 

 

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