Most Americans look upon the Saudi Monarchy as an American ally, believing they work with us to help curb extremism in the region. Nothing could be further from the truth. They may be an ally but they are NOT our friend. In fact, the Saudi government provided much of the financing, manpower and ideology for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the region. And, according to Ali Al-Ahmed, an expert on politics in the region, they are no friend of democracy, having spent billions to undermine the emergence of a successful Arab Spring outcome in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.
David Goldman, in an article on the Middle East forum, couldn’t help but wonder if the Saudi Monarchy was on its last leg. After all, today they find themselves isolated, abandoned by Obama, at odds with China and pressured by Russian presence in the region. Their Army of Conquest in Syria seems to be crumbling under Russian assault; the intervention in Yemen against Iranian backed Houthi rebels isn’t going well and their Turkish ally-of-convenience is consumed by a low-level war. And even worse, the collapse of Saudi oil revenues threatens their very existence. According to the International Monetary Fund, their $700 billion in financial reserves will be exhausted within the next five years which is terrifying to them since they maintain their rule by buying loyalty from their subjects.
With this in mind, it was really a shock to discover that they had ordered the execution of 47 prisoners on January 2nd; prisoners who had been in Saudi jails for almost a decade. But their decision to kill the prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, may be their undoing. His execution has provoked a regional crisis, sparking condemnation from Iran, Iraq and the United Nations and deepened an already dangerous divide in the region. And the Monarchy can’t look to Obama to help them since he is siding with Iran.
Many on the left attempt to paint Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as a nonviolent cleric yet it is hard to equate his call for an Iranian invasion of Saudi Arabia, war on America, the destruction of Israel and the deaths of every member of the ruling dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as nonviolent.
It is true that the Saudi government suppresses its Shiite minority but is also true that Iran has blood on their hands, suppressing their Sunni minority. Both nations arm and train the minority populations in other countries as proxy armies to undermine each other. So don’t think for one minute that if Nimr al-Nimr were a Sunni cleric in Iran, that the Iranian government would have given him a walk for calling for their destruction.
Since 1979 Iran has executed tens of thousands of political dissenters, most infamously its state-sponsored execution of at least 5,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Today they still make a public spectacle of hanging political prisoners in city squares using cameras to magnify the image of men writhing as they die a slow death by strangulation.
Iran is the only Mideast country that carries out more executions than Saudi Arabia annually and globally, they are only second to China, a fact lost on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who in a fit of contrived self-righteousness threatened “divine vengeance” on Saudi politicians for carrying out the executions.
Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, one of the most powerful men in the country spoke to the Economist magazine two days after protestors set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Iran. He said that the “execution had nothing to do with Iran and the Iranians response to his [Nimr’s] death “proves that Iran is keen on extending its influence over the countries of the region.” He also said that war with Iran would not be allowed to happen despite the mounting tensions between the two nations. He’s hedging his bet on the fact that just like Saudi Arabia, Iran is also suffering from the collapse of oil revenues and the attrition of war.