Taking Saudi Out of Arabia



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Taking Saudi Out of Arabia


Laurent Murawiec
RAND
Defense Policy Board
July 10, 2002

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Taking Saudi out of Arabia:
Contents


  • The Arab Crisis

  • "Saudi" Arabia

  • Strategies

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The Arab Crisis


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The systemic crisis of the Arab
World


  • The Arab world has been in a systemic crisis for the last 200 years

  • It missed out on the industrial revolution, it is missing out on the digital revolution

  • Lack of inner resources to cope with modern world

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Shattered Arab self-esteem

  • Shattered self-esteem

  • Could God be wrong?

  • Turn the rage against those who contradict God: the West, object of hatred

  • A whole generation of violently anti-Western, anti-American, anti-modern shock-troops

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What has the Arab world
produced?


  • Since independence, wars have been the principal output of the Arab world

  • Demographic and economic problems made intractable by failure to establish stable polities aiming at prosperity

  • All Arab states are either failing states or threatened to fail

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The Crisis of the Arab world
reaches a climax


  • The tension between the Arab world and the modern world has reached a climax

  • The Arab world's home-made problems overwhelm its ability to cope

  • The crisis is consequently being exported to the rest of the world

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How does change occur in the
 Arab world?


  • There is no agora, no public space for debating ideas, interests, policies

  • The tribal group in power blocks all avenues of change, represses all advocates of change

  • Plot, riot, murder, coup are the only available means to bring about political change

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The continuation of politics by other
means?


  • In the Arab world, violence is not a continuation of politics by other means -- violence is politics, politics is violence

  • This culture of violence is the prime enabler of terrorism

  • Terror as an accepted, legitimate means of carrying out politics, has been incubated for 30 years ...

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The crisis cannot be contained to the
Arab world alone


  • The crisis has irreversibly spilled out of the region

  • 9/11 was a symptom of the "overflow"

  • The paroxysm is liable to last for several decades

  • U.S. response will decisively influence the duration and outcome

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"Saudi" Arabia


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The old partnership


  • Once upon a time, there was a partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia

  • Partnerships, like alliances, are embodied in practices, ideas, policies, institutions, people -- which persist after the alliance has died

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"Saudi" Arabia

  • An instable group: Since 1745, 58% of all rulers of the House of Saud have met a violent demise

  • Wahhabism loathes modernity, capitalism, human rights, religious freedom, democracy, republics, an open society -- and practices the very opposite

  • As long as enmity had no or little consequences outside the kingdom, the bargain between the House of Saud and the U.S. held

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Means, motive, opportunity

  • 1973: Saudi Arabia unleashes the Oil Shock, absorbs immense flows of resources -- means

  • 1978: Khomeiny challenges the Saudis' Islamic credentials, provoking a radicalization and world-wide spread of Wahhabism in response -- motive

  • 1979-1989: the anti-Soviet Jihad gives life and strength to the Wahhabi putsch within Sunni Islam -- opportunity. The Taliban are the result

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The impact on Saudi policy

  • Wahhabism moves from Islam's lunatic fringe to center-stage -- its mission now extends world-wide

  • Saudis launch a putsch within Sunni Islam

  • Shift from pragmatic oil policy to promotion of radical Islam

  • Establish Saudi as "the indispensable State" -- treasurers of radical, fundamentalist, terrorist groups

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Saudis see themselves

  • God placed the oil in the kingdom as a sign of divine approval

  • Spread Wahhabism everywhere, but keep the power of the al-Saud undiminished

  • Survive by creating a Wahhabi-friendly environment -- fundamentalist regimes -- throughout the Moslem world and beyond

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The House of Saud today

  • Saudi Arabia is central to the self-destruction of the Arab world and the chief vector of the Arab crisis and its outwardly-directed aggression

  • The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader

  • Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies

  • A daily outpouring of virulent hatred against the U.S. from Saudi media, "educational" institutions, clerics, officials -- Saudis tell us one thing in private, do the contrary in reality

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Strategies


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What is to be done?


  • During and after World War I, Britain's India Office backed the House of Saud; the Foreign Office backed the Hashemites. The India Office won 

  • But the entire post-1917 Middle East settlement designed by the British to replace the Ottoman Empire is fraying

  • The role assigned to the House of Saud in that arrangement has become obsolete -- and nefarious

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"Saudi Arabia" is not a God-
given entity


  • The House of Saud was given dominion over Arabia in 1922 by the British

  • It wrested the Guardianship of the Holy Places -- Mecca and Medina -- from the Hashemite dynasty

  • There is an "Arabia," but it needs not be "Saudi"

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An ultimatum to the House of
Saud


  • Stop any funding and support for any fundamentalist madrasa, mosque, ulama, predicator anywhere in the world

  • Stop all anti-U.S., anti-Israeli, anti-Western predication, writings, etc., within Arabia

  • Dismantle, ban all the kingdom's "Islamic charities," confiscate their assets

  • Prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services

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Or else ...

  • What the House of Saud holds dear can be targeted:
    —Oil: the old fields are defended by U.S. forces, and located in a mostly Shiite area
    —Money: the Kingdom is in dire financial straits, its valuable assets invested in dollars, largely in the U.S.
    —The Holy Places: let it be known that alternatives are being canvassed

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Other Arabs?

  • The Saudis are hated throughout the Arab world: lazy, overbearing, dishonest, corrupt

  • If truly moderate regimes arise, the Wahhabi-Saudi nexus is pushed back into its extremist corner

  • The Hashemites have greater legitimacy as Guardians of Mecca and Medina

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Grand strategy for the Middle
East

• Iraq is the tactical pivot            



• Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

• Egypt the prize


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