The Al Khobar assault-and-hostage drama finished
Sunday leaving 25 dead, including a Swede. The Saudi commandos
freed 50 foreign hostages including seven American hostages
in a raid to end an attack on the Saudi oil industry launched
by suspected Al Qaida militants. This was the fourth incident
in a months time in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia where Al-Qaida
militants attacked or were attacked by Saudi police. The death
toll including Al Khobar is 37 in May.
In a year time, there have been 12 different
incidents including suicide bombings, where Al-Qaida attacked
either foreigners or had gun battles with Saudi police. Al Khobar
itself has been victim of Al Qaida attack in less than seven
years. Last time it was attacked in 1997. Recent assault-and-hostage
drama is just a link in the chain of incidents that first unfolded
on November 20, 2020 when a group of Wahabi extremists took
over Grand Mosque in Mecca on the occasion of Hajj.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Muslim from across the Islamic world travels to Mecca to perform
Hajj (pilgrimage). A group of 500 (figures vary from 200 to
1200) militants led by Juhaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Saif al Utaiba
took 600 Pilgrimage hostage. The hostage drama went on for two
weeks when it finally was ended with the help of French commandos.
Interestingly, no non-Muslim is supposed to enter the Holy city
of Mecca. Legend has it that al Utaiba, grandson of a tribal
ally-turned-rival of Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, had planned to kidnap
Shah Khalid, the then Saudi king, and force him to abdicate.
Juhaiman's justification was that the Sauds had lost legitimacy
through corruption, ostentation, and mindless imitation of the
West--virtually an echo of his grandfather's charge in 1921
against Abd al Aziz ibn Saud, founder of Saudi kingdom.
Juhaiman's accusations against the Saudi monarchy
also resembled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's diatribes against
the Shah of Iran. The king, Shah Khaild, that day had stomach
ache and did not turn up at the Grand Mosque. It was 600 pilgrimages
who were taken hostage instead. The incident shook the Muslim
world. 'It is Jewish conspiracy', was the common reaction in
Pakistan; perhaps across the Muslim world. The uprising was
crushed leaving 200 dead (figures however vary from 75 to 500).
Leaders on the leaders of 'uprising' were publicly
beheaded, as is the 'ritual' in the kingdom. Taliban later on
were just imitating Sauds. In 1980, a Shia uprising in south
of the kingdom also met the same fate. Saudi Shias, oppressed
and deprived as they are even today, enthused by Khomeni's return
started an uprising. Shah Khalid moved 200,000 National Guards
and it was brutally crushed. The kingdom was again 'peaceful',
ruled with an iron fist by corrupt House of Sauds until 1996.
Much of the opposition in the kingdom in 1980s was externalised.
It was diverted towards Soviet Union through Afghan war. The
oppositionists were encouraged to reach Pakistan to join 'Jihad
'against Soviet 'infidels'. The kingdom stayed peaceful until
1996 when a bombing in Riyadh reminded Sauds of al-Utaiba.
This time it was Osama bin Laden playing al-Utaiba.
Osama however survived the fate al-Utaiba met. It was because
Osama, deprived of his Saudi nationality in the wake of first
Gulf War, had been exiled. Interestingly, Osama, like al Utaiba,
was a friend of Saud family too. Osama's charges were not different
from al-Utaiba. However, there was a demand that al-Utaiba had
not presented: withdrawal of US troops from kingdom.
The US presence was not new. It was during the
Second World War, the allied built a big air force base at Dhahran.
It was to defend oil
.the blood of war. The black gold
had already been discovered in the deserts. Following the First
Gulf War, the then US defence Secretary Dick Cheney moved 200,000
troops to Saudi Arabia. The purpose was to 'liberate' Kuwait
from Iraq's 'Hitler'. Osama, a veteran of Afghan war, did not
like the policy. He wanted Kuwait be liberated through an army
of Afghan war veterans.
The House of Saud did not want, in the longer
run, an army comprising of local Arabs. Also, an army with radical
Islamic agenda was not acceptable. Saudia has been traditionally
a kingdom that never had an army comprising local. It was to
avoid a coup. It also cleverly avoided building a working class
comprising of Saudis. It was to avoid a revolution.
In a country of 21 million, there are seven million 'guest workers'.
Largest is Pakistani expatriate community: 750, 000. Others
mainly come from India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The workers work in horrendous conditions deprived of any trade
union rights; any job security and so on.
In exile, Osama not only managed to rebuild
his old Al-Qaida army but for House of Sauds he also became
what once Khomeni was for Shah. If one goes by the analysis
of ex-CIA Middle East "field officer" and author of
"Sleeping With the Devil", Robert Baer, Osama today
in Saudia is as popular as Khomeni once was in Iran. He will
sweep elections in Saudi Arabia in case there are elections,
Baer thinks. And this is what new cons call 'dilemma of democracy'.
They do not want democracy in any 'kingdom' fearing the victory
of some Osama. In the name of 'Islamic culture', they also try
to prove that democracy do not comply with Muslim culture. They
are not very different from Ayub Khan, the first military dictator
of Pakistan. Ayub had justified his take over saying democracy
was not a system for countries with warm weather like Pakistan,
it is only good for countries like Great Britain with cold weather.
Khomeni while sitting in Paris was smuggling
his recorded speeches and writings in Tehran. Osama on the contrary
was sending suicide bombers, kidnappers and gun totters. This
is making everybody nervous. House of Sauds is nervous: opposition
is growing despite repression. White House cannot be trusted
as it might deal with anyone in charge of oil fields. Honestly,
the American right and Osama, among other things, are also having
in common the agenda to demolish the House of Sauds. Imperialism
is nervous: oil prices are reaching new heights. Never have
been prices so high in last 20 years. Resistance in Iraq is
proving a catalyst to spread resistance in Saudi kingdom. Putting
House of Sauds in order is not possible. Osama has many friends
in that house. Moreover, opposition will keep growing in case
present regime continues. Reforms may usher in a break up of
the order imperialism has so painstakingly built since 1932
when Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established by Ibn Saud.
The sins of mother: British imperialism are
visiting upon child: US imperialism. The puritan Wahabi state
was built, with British weapons, only to guard oil reserves
for the exploitation of British and US oil companies. The foundations
of new kingdom were laid in the name of Puritanism. The Puritanism
demanded the revival of seventh century Islam to justify the
rule of Ibn Saud as against the rule of Sherifs of Hijaz who
had gone corrupt. The only solution to end Sherif's corruption
was puritan Islam. No other alternative was tolerated, allowed
or practised. Liberalism, democracy, human rights, freedom of
expression, all were contrary to Puritanism hence crushed. The
sins of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud are visiting his son Fahd bin Abdul
Aziz now lying on death bed. It remains to be seen what ends
first: Fahd's life or rule?