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Editorial
The Arabian Twist
The sudden spree of arrests, cracking of princely whip and West's silence carry ominous signals for the already fragile middle east
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The Saudi purge inspires cause for concern in the Middle East and is likely to have long term ramifications with possibility of intensifying the sectarian divisions and the gulf's proxy wars. Shockingly, it has so far been met with lukewarm concern or complete silence by global powers. Saudi Arabian state last week arrested at least 11 Saudi princes and four ministers. The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salim, claimed the arrests were part of his anti-corruption drive and as a step forward to more open economy. The crown prince who wants to introduce reforms and push Saudi Arabia on the road to modernization is the man behind the decision to allow women to drive and visit sports stadiums to watch men's sports. He has also set in motion a Dubai-like development process with beach resorts and industrial zones. These moves have made him popular among the Saudi youth. However, this present step may not necessarily have been driven purely by noble intentions. The Saudi incidents appear to be more an offshoot of several factors including local ones. First, amid threats of a royal power tussle, this could be a pre-emptive measure by the prince to remove influential figures as he tries to consolidate power in Saudi Arabia. Secondly, this might be a move to control finances with much greater authority. The Saudi state has targeted the richest princes in its fresh drive and is now forcing them to cough up few billion dollars. With oil prices falling and the country having devised no other means of revenue generation, Saudi Arabia is heading fast towards an economic crisis. This money virtually extorted after the arrests could make up for some of the shortfall in oil revenue. These factors could possibly have shaped the sudden turn of events.

But in all probability the complex nature of the events, which include the prince extending his influence and power to tamper with the politics of Lebanon reveal also a political dimension. Reports have pointed out that Lebanon's prime minister Saas Hariri's (who holds the dual citizenship of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia) surprising resignation came under duress and pressures. The developments preceding the Saudi purge are important indicators of their making. At the behest of its ally, USA, Saudi Arabia has been developing back channel diplomacy with Israel to forge a unity against anti-Saudi rebel Hezbollah operating from South Lebanon as well as to keep Iran under check. Another significant development was Saudi Arabia's virtual declaration of war, a Prince Salim initiative, against Iran following a missile attack from Yemen's Houthi rebels on the Riyadh airport. Even more interestingly, the developments came a day or two after US president Donald Trump's middle-east envoy Jared Kushner's secret visit and meeting with Prince Salim. Even more interestingly, Trump has maintained a virtual silence over the tumultuous happenings in middle east pushed by the Saudi prince, whose forces are also accused of massive human rights abuse in Yemen. Needless to point out that one of the arrested princes had contemptuously ridiculed Trump for being an unsuitable American president. The obvious question is whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has decided to push the middle east into a cauldron of crisis at the behest of the West. Is he inspired by his own vision or is he running a political errand for Saudi Arabia's western ally? If latter, a nagging question is whether it stems from his ignorance about America's dangerous obsession with middle east or is it much more deliberate.

Whatever be the reason, the greater concern is that these fresh developments indicate that the region is moving towards another phase of destabilization, sectarian divisions and more violence if not full scale wars. They indicate a greater push towards a vertical split within the region and a probable boost to religious radicals and weakening of democratic forces. Such developments would not be in the interest of the region or the world. The western powers, whether or not they engineered this, should play a responsible role rather than using it as an opportunity to serve petty short term interests. All efforts must be made to sober down the differences in the middle east and prevent it from falling deeper into the rut of violence and chaos.


News Updated at : Tuesday, November 14, 2017
 
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