Loathing in the House of Saud
Desperation does not even begin to describe the
current plight of the House of Saud.
By Pepe Escobar
fully aware the beheading of respected Saudi Shi'ite
cleric Nimr al-Nimr was a deliberate provocation
bound to elicit a rash Iranian response.
calculated they could get away with it; after all
they employ the best American PR machine
petrodollars can buy, and are viscerally
defended by the usual gaggle of nasty US
post-Orwellian world "order" where war is peace and
"moderate" jihadis get a free pass, a House of Saud
oil hacienda cum beheading paradise — devoid of all
civilized norms of political mediation and civil
society participation — heads the UN Commission
on Human Rights and fattens the US
industrial-military complex to the tune of billions
of dollars while merrily exporting demented Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadism
from MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) to Europe
and from the Caucasus to East Asia.
And yet major
trouble looms. Erratic King Salman's move
of appointing his son, the supremely arrogant and
supremely ignorant Prince Mohammad bin Salman
to number two in the line of succession has been
contested even among Wahhabi hardliners.
count on petrodollar-controlled Arab media to tell
English-language TV network Al-Arabiyya,
for instance, based in the Emirates, long financed
by House of Saud members, and owned by the MBC
conglomerate, was bought by none other than Prince
Mohammad himself, who will also buy MBC.
at less than $40 a barrel, largely thanks to
Saudi Arabia's oil war against both Iran and
Russia, Riyadh's conventional wars are taking a
terrible toll. The budget has collapsed and the
House of Saud has been forced to raise taxes.
war on Yemen, conducted with full US acquiescence,
led by — who else — Prince Mohammad, and largely
carried out by the proverbial band of mercenaries,
has instead handsomely profited al-Qaeda in the
Arabic Peninsula (AQAP), just as the war on Syria
has profited mostly Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda
months ago, Saudi ulemas called for a jihad not only
against Damascus but also Tehran and Moscow
without the "civilized" West batting an eyelid;
after all the ulemas were savvy enough to milk the
"Russian aggression" bandwagon, comparing the
Russian intervention in Syria, agreed with Damascus,
with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Tankland revels in spinning that the beheading
provocation was a "signal" to Tehran that Riyadh
will not tolerate Iranian influence among Shi'ites
living in predominantly Sunni states. And yet
Beltway cackle that Riyadh hoped to contain
"domestic Shi'ite tensions" by beheading al-Nimr
does not even qualify as a lousy propaganda script.
To see why this is nonsense, let's take a quick tour
of Saudi Arabia's Eastern province.
Eyes on Al Sharqiyya
Arabia is essentially a huge desert island. Even
though the oil hacienda is bordered by the Red Sea
and the Persian Gulf, the Saudis don't control what
matters: the key channels of communication/energy
exporting bottlenecks — the Bab el-Mandeb and the
Straits of Hormuz, not to mention the Suez canal.
"protection" as structured in a Mafia-style "offer
you can't refuse" arrangement; we guarantee safe
passage for the oil export flow through our naval
patrols and you buy from us, non-stop, a festival
of weapons and host our naval bases alongside other
GCC minions. The "protection" used to be provided
by the former British empire. So Saudi Arabia —
as well as the GCC — remains essentially an
Al Sharqiyya —
the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia — holds only 4
million people, the overwhelming majority Shi'ites.
And yet it produces no less than 80% of Saudi oil.
The heart of the action is the provincial capital Al
Qatif, where Nimr al-Nimr was born. We're talking
about the largest oil hub on the planet, consisting
of 12 crisscrossed pipelines that connect to massive
Gulf oil terminals such as Dhahran and Ras Tanura.
strategic importance of neighboring Bahrain.
Historically, all the lands from Basra in southern
Iraq to the peninsula of Musandam, in Oman —
traditional trade posts between Europe and India —
were known as Bahrain ("between two seas").
could easily use neighboring Bahrain to infiltrate
Al Sharqiyya, detach it from Riyadh's control, and
configure a "Greater Bahrain" allied with Iran.
That's the crux of the narrative peddled
by petrodollar-controlled media, the proverbial
Western "experts", and incessantly parroted in the
question Iranian hardliners cherish the possibility
of a perpetual Bahraini thorn on Riyadh's side. That
would imply weaponizing a popular revolution in Al
Sharqiyya. But the fact is not even Nimr al-Nimr
was in favor of a secession of Al Sharqiyya.
also the view of the Rouhani administration
in Tehran. Whether disgruntled youth across Al
Sharqiyya will finally have had enough with the
beheading of al-Nimr it's another story; it may open
a Pandora's box that will not exactly displease the
IRGC in Tehran.
heart of the matter is that Team Rouhani perfectly
understands the developing Southwest Asia chapter
of the New Great Game, featuring the re-emergence
of Iran as a regional superpower; all of the House
of Saud's moves, from hopelessly inept to major
strategic blunder, betray utter desperation with the
end of the old order.
everything from an unwinnable war (Yemen) to a
blatant provocation (the beheading of al-Nimr) and a
non sequitur such as the new Islamic 34-nation
anti-terror coalition which most alleged members
didn't even know they were a part of.
House of Saud obsession rules, drenched in fear and
loathing: the Iranian "threat".
which is clueless on how to play geopolitical
chess — or backgammon — will keep insisting on the
oil war, as it cannot even contemplate a military
confrontation with Tehran. And everything will be
on hold, waiting for the next tenant of 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue; will he/she be tempted to pivot
back to Southwest Asia, and cling to the old order
(not likely, as Washington relies on becoming
independent from Saudi oil)? Or will the House
of Saud be left to its own — puny — devices
among the shark-infested waters of hardcore
Escobar is an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a
frequent contributor to websites and radio shows
ranging from the US to East Asia. Born in Brazil,
he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and
has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles,
Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong.