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August 01, 2002

A SAUDI MELTDOWN? Reader Trent Telenko writes:

I think that the Saudis have been in a 'Pre-revolutionary state' longer than the Iranians. Maybe as far back as the late 1980s.

A friend of mine thinks that I am right about the Saudi condition, but dates the 'pre-revolutionary' condition since the Khobar Towers bombing.

In short, he doesn't think either the Iranians or Al-Qaeda had anything to do with the Khobar bombing.

That is because the Saudis have created their own version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the 'Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,' which did the deed. The Iranians and Al-Qaeda are misdirections by the Saudi intelligence circles to cover up for their roque government faction.

The way things are going according to David Warren, my friend seems to have a point.

The David Warren column he cites does support this theory. Excerpt:

It is not, however, the uniformed police, but the Mutawaun who are the real face of the Saudi regime at street level -- the agents of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. They don't wear uniforms, but like the Taliban in Afghanistan (which modelled itself on the Saudi regime) may be spotted by their austere robes and headgear, and personal theatricality. Their job is to threaten women who are not covered head to toe in the plain black "abaya", prevent men and women from talking to each other, see that shops are closed at prayer times, herd the men into the mosques, and beat up kids who look excessively happy. They patrol the streets in airconditioned SUVs, or walk through the American-style shopping malls with their bullhorns and sticks.

They finally triggered nation-wide demonstrations, starting March 11, when they prevented at least 14 girls from escaping a fire in their school at Mecca, lest they appear in the street without their abayas. While the story was suppressed in the state-controlled media, it quickly travelled throughout the kingdom. (Only people who have lived in totalitarian states can understand the efficiency with which news can be distributed by word of mouth.)

The same Arabian grapevine is now carrying numerous accounts of large public demonstrations. The Western media assume that these demonstrators are screaming for Al Qaeda and Palestine, and indeed there is plenty of evidence that (the late?) Osama bin Laden enjoys a cult following. But my own sources insist that many of the demonstrators are women, and that the protests are aimed almost entirely at the House of Saud and its Mutawaun.

This hardly means the "good guys" will win. There are no good guys. For in a country as backward as Saudi Arabia, where no form of civil opposition has ever been tolerated or been able to survive, all this present, disorganized protest plays into the hands of the worst elements within the regime, and the worst elements outside it.

I do believe that the Saudi government (or, if you prefer "elements within the Saudi government") is behind Al Qaeda and similar organizations. Indeed, as I speculated way back at the beginning of October, "Bin Laden's involvement is most likely as a facilitator and as a front and distraction for others."

This is probably the big question that has vexed the White House. We have two enemies, really: Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein (Iran, too, but it's more likely to fall if we do nothing and so can be left out of the calculations for now). But which do we go after first? Beating Iraq weakens the Saudis strategically by further reducing their oil revenues and their market power (which is why they hate it) -- but that will inflame their legions of idle-yet-entitled citizens, making them more dangerous (though mostly to themselves) in the short run. Which is also why the not-very-secure Saudi ruling class is against an invasion of Iraq.

Invading Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, though easier and in the long run essential, still leaves an armed and dangerous Iraq on the border, and might encourage Saddam to try to play Savior of Islam by using weapons of mass destruction to "defend the holy places" or somesuch.

But the Sauds have to go, sooner or later. I think even the White House has figured that out.