Monday, February 8, 2016

KSA moving in a new direction

Gone almost unnoticed in the West, but very much on the minds of people in the Arab world is the abrupt turnaround from the United States by trying to embrace Iran at the expense of its longtime allies in the Middle East.
First, it must be acknowledged that US President Barack Obama had found himself between a rock and a hard place on what to do with Iran. The two governments had been hostile toward each other since the 1979 revolution and the rhetoric only became much more vitriolic with the passage of time. Obama saw war as perhaps inevitable and sought to defuse the violent rhetoric with the nuclear deal, which basically delays whatever confrontation between the US and Iran for another decade or so.
The casualty in all of this is the Arab world. Ignoring the Arab world and embracing Iran, which continues to this day to show contempt for the US by detaining American sailors who had wandered into Iranian waters, is a fool’s mission.
The American and British media followed America’s lead with a steady stream of anti-Saudi Arabia reporting. Much of this rhetoric stems from Saudi Arabia’s more pragmatic foreign policy initiatives during the past year and its decision to rely less on support from the United States.
In the recent interview with The Economist, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outlined Saudi Arabia’s bold plans to wean itself of oil revenue and embark on a revenue-generating program that involves some taxation. In the interview, The Economist displayed its lack of understanding of Arab and Islamic culture by seeking answers through the prism of western values. 
Prince Mohammed pointed out that any introduction of taxes would be in the form of a VAT. There will be no income tax or taxes on basic products like dairy. 
The Saudi government, he said, represents the people. Unsaid, though, and lost on the interviewer was that a form of democracy, codified in Shariah, already exists with the Shoura Council, the Council of Ministers, workshops and the National Dialogue program.
On the execution of terrorists and the inappropriate and wild reactions, the deputy crown prince said the terrorists were sentenced in a court of law with charges related to terrorism and they went through three layers of judicial proceedings. They had the right to hire an attorney and they had attorneys present throughout each layer of the proceedings. The court doors were also open for any media people and journalists, and all the proceedings and the judicial texts were made public. And the court did not, at all, make any distinction between whether or not a person is Shiite or Sunni. They are reviewing a crime, and a procedure, and a trial, and a sentence, and carrying out the sentence.
The Economist took issues with the role that Saudi women will play in the changes in the economic structure of the country with only 18 percent of the work force female and the restrictions on travel and driving. The deputy crown prince noted there were fewer restrictions on travel that were perceived by foreigners and that the idea of a fully employed woman was new to Saudi culture. There are aspects of travel and independence that Saudis are willing to change to increase female participation in the work force, but there are also religious constraints to consider as well, he said.
By invoking during the interview Margaret Thatcher’s austerity programs as a model for changes in Saudi Arabia’s economy and his appreciation for Winston Churchill’s ability to see opportunities in times of crises, the deputy crown prince has demonstrated that Saudi Arabia is more than ready to make it alone without the United States watching its back. The US will always be Saudi Arabia’s ally, but the days of total dependence on other side of the world are over.

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