Will Saudi Political Executions Lead to Civil War?

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December 3, 2015
By Ali AlAhmed
Washington DC –The handsome Ali AlNimer, who just turned 20, may be dead in a few days if the reports that the Saudi monarchy plans to execute him along with 50 other men, including his uncle Sheikh Nimer AlNimer, are true.

The Saudi government seems determined to carry out a mass execution following a kangaroo court that could put to shame the apartheid trial of Nelson Mandela.

The current regime’s hard-line policies are fueled by the two leading figures who have been on a power-high following the death of King Abdullah in January. Led by the American favorite, the reclusive Crown Prince Mohamed bin Naif and his reckless cousin Mohamed bin Salman, the Saudi government managed to waste billions of dollars in the inexplicable oil policy, freeze many government projects while creating a budget deficit at 20% of GDP, wage a losing war on Yemen and cause the largest stampede in human history that left 4000 pilgrims dead. It now plans to execute 50 people across the country, including peaceful protesters.
Saudi courts rank one of the worst in the world in every sense of the word. Mirroring the South African apartheid that reserved judgeships for whites, the Saudi courts reserve judgeships only for the adherents of Wahhabi Islam. All others are excluded, including Sunni Muslims, Sufis, Shia Muslims, and yes, blacks, who are considered “slaves” unfit for such a position based on that fact alone.

Equating the Saudi courts to the terrorist ISIS courts is not farfetched. They both rely on the same exact ideological Wahhabi foundations and carry similar punishments for same alleged offenses, including public beheading and crucifixions of apostates, magicians, and peaceful opponents.

The planned executions, if carried out, will certainly be a turning point for a country that is facing greater challenges from within and without its border. In fact, they will likely trigger a bloody civil war that won’t end until the Saudi monarchy ceases to exist.

The Obama administration seems unconcerned by the repercussions of the executions. This stems from several factors, including its unwavering support and trust of the Saudi monarchy, its one-track policy that equates the ruling Saudi monarchy with the whole country, and its inability to understand the domestic political dynamics. That won’t change anytime soon.

So the Obama administration, unfortunately, is due for reality check with regard to Saudi Arabia. If the executions are carried out, civil war will be a likely response. The civil war in a country that provides the world with lots of oil means conflict without borders. As the Arab proverb goes “blood begets blood,” and this cycle of violence will not spare anyone and anything, including the coveted oil installations located in the Shia heartland in Qatif and AlAhsa.

This time, the Shia of Qatif won’t be alone when they mount a revolt against the Saudi monarchy that has alienated them for 80 years, barring them from all positions of power, even on a municipal level. Qatif has been at the forefront of political activism since the 1950s and has produced the largest and the most diversified political organizations in the country’s history. Its activists have managed the most organized political opposition in the country’s history and funded it locally and without external or state support. The opposition, known as the Organization for Islamic Revolution in the Arabian Peninsula, later the Reform Movement, limited its activities to peaceful actions and had activities inside the country and offices in London and the United States, among other countries. In 1993, the opposition leadership that lived in the Middle East, London, and United States, reached an accord with King Fahd and returned home in 1993.

In this new potential revolt, the Shia will be joined by other regions and tribes in the country. The Sunni tribes who may lose their sons to executions will also mount their own revolt, and will link with their Shia countrymen as both view the Saudi Monarchy the largest threat. This alliance has a historical precedent in 1764, when the Ismaili Shia tribe of Yam from Najran, led by Alhasan bin Hebatullah AlMakrami in alliance with Sunni tribes, marched on Duryaah and defeated the Wahhabi forces led by Mohamed bin AbdulWahab himself. Wahhabism would have been dead if AlMakrami did not accept apologies of bin Abdulwahab and take his gifts of gold and thousands of Arabian horses.

The situation today is different. The country is facing tremendous economic, political and security challenges, and most importantly a bulging and corrupt ruling family. These factors have brought the country’s regions and tribes closer as their opposition to the Saudi Monarchy grows. The people’s patience has worn thin, and the majority of the people across the country are increasingly convinced that the change can only be brought about by violence. That is reinforced by the US policy of not lending any support to peaceful uprisings, as was the case in Bahrain, while providing arms to several Syrian rebel groups to fight the Assad regime.
Regional countries like Iran, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, would rush to support one or more groups fighting to bring the AlSaud down, as these countries also view the AlSaud as a threat to them.

Dirty Media Wars
In the past few weeks, Saudi monarchy-owned and controlled media, including the London-based Asharq AlAwsat owned by King Salman, ran stories suggesting the executions are imminent and will include Shia Arab cleric AlNimer. The Saudi-controlled media are billing the executions as an example of Saudi government “resolve” against terrorism.

Asharq AlAwsat’s editor Salman AlDosary comes from the same extended family as dozens of terrorists in the ranks of ISIS and AlQaeda in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and even one who attacked Shia Arab mosque in Qatif last month. The internet is awash with eulogies for the many AlDosary terrorist relatives who died fighting. The terror link stretches to the United States as well – the London-based AlDosary’s cousin Khalid AlDosary was sentenced to life for planning a major terrorist attack in Texas in 2011. In a tweet December 1, 2015, Salman AlDosary said “I measure all terrorists with one measure, what about those who support Shia terrorism.” AlDosary’s use of the word “Shia terrorism” is typical of Saudi media mindset, which paints all Shia as the internal enemy of the Saudi state. AlDosary refused to answer if the term “AlDosary terrorism” due to the large number of AlDosary terrorists is acceptable.

The Saudi monarchy’s support of terror networks is well known. What’s not much discussed is that they also use the label of terrorism to kill and silence its opponents. The currently planned executions are aimed at both silencing domestic opposition and promoting the Saudi government as epitome of counterterrorism – all while it continues to support terrorist groups like ISIS with millions of dollars and thousands of fighters like AlDosary cousins.

The stage is set, it seems, for a bloody conflict that will not end well for the Saudi Monarchy and its domestic and foreign allies. Sadly, its strongest ally, the United States, will again miss an opportunity to build a genuine relationship with the Arab societies, rather than its despotic leaders and monarchies.

Ali AlAhmed, is the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, an independent research organization in Washington DC

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