Friday, September 14, 2007

Another version of Sleeping with the Devil?

In various postings on this site I have noted how conflicted Pakistani society is. And for that reason, given the access of the regime to nuclear power, it has been rightly called “the most dangerous country on earth.” As’ad AbuKhalil [Battle for Saudi Arabia: The Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power] regards Saudi Arabia as also conflicted and unstable despite its huge largess of riches. He describes Saudi society as “under attack”, but it turns out that the attacks it is under are coming from two directions, outside and inside. For one thing, an "attack" comes from folks in the West who question the loyalty of the Saudis, or at least some of them, because of their connections with those who fund Al Qaeda. The country is also “under attack” from within, because of the growing disparities among the Saudi populations, some of whom are being exploited and in some cases abused, and others of whom, the Wahhabis, are intensely opposed to the continuing drift of the Saudi families toward Western interests and Western practices (many of them, such as the use of alcohol, secretly). So the Saudi family has little legitimacy with the key local social element, the Wahhabis, with whom they must share power.

Despite the abuses of human rights by the Saudi regime and the evident support of some of them for Al Qaeda, the American government continues to support the regime, deliberately overlooking what is actually taking place. The Wahhabis of course are not overlooking the Saudi family's growing connections with Western interests.

AbuKhalil wonders how long this situation can continue. His message is similar, then, to Robert Baer’s Sleeping with the Devil. The close intermesh of interests among the wealthy of Saudi Arabia and the wealthy elites of the West have expanded the contradictions implicit in Saudi Arabia so as as to implicate the elites of the West, whose interests cannot be extracted from the interests of the Gulf. At the same time the Wahhabis within Saudi Arabia who continue to support Al Qaeda are linked into the same Saudi families who are being drawn toward cultural practices like those of the Western elites. The Saudi families thus constitute a nexus of relations connecting in both directions, creating an embarrassing relation between the elites of the West and the eminent authorities, motivators and funders of Al Qaeda.

The Saudis embody the contradictions of the Middle East and Central Asia. And because they have strong connections in Western society their particular contradictory relations bear upon all of us, bringing us all into the various "attacks" on Saudi Arabia, from multiple directions.

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