Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 8:19 AM

Saudi Arabia Promises to Repent for Extremist Ways…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

And plans to build a $500m city as restitution.

Arguably, successive kings of Saudi Arabia have had the blood of Americans on their hands. Most notable of course is the blood of those who perished on 9/11.

This is why it’s so perplexing that successive presidents of the United States have been so willing to not just shake but hold the hand of these Saudi kings. Most notable of course is former President George W. Bush.

Here in part is how I commented on this perplexing feature of US foreign policy in “The Bushes and the Saudis: Elusive (Financial) Ties That Actually Bind,” April 28, 2005.

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The Saudis are

  • doing nothing to lower gas prices;
  • remaining defiantly undemocratic, despite Bush’s democracy crusade;
  • demanding the US downsize its military bases in Saudi Arabia to appease Islamic Jihadists;
  • continuing to fund Wahhabi Madrassas, which teach hatred and destruction of America as a core subject; and
  • showing no concern over their Saudi connection to 9/11, namely that Bin Laden and the majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, one has to wonder what benefits they provide to remain exempt from American reprimand, sanction, or usurpation. Indeed, the mysterious nature of this relationship only deepens when one considers that the Saudis depend on American security guarantees for their survival. After all, this precludes using oil as leverage to resist the democratic changes Bush has demanded of and imposed upon other nations.

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Given that, you’ll understand why I am so intrigued by this:

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia would ‘return’ to a ‘moderate Islam that is open to all religions’ – comments likely to rile staunch conservatives in the Gulf kingdom.

The crown prince also announced Saudi Arabia would ‘eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts’, saying the country was not like this in the past.

‘We are returning to what we were before … we will not waste another 30 years in dealing with extremist,’ the 32-year-old heir to the throne said.

(Al Jazeera, October 24, 2017)

The timing of this Islamic conversion is shrouded in mystery. Not least because successive US presidents had vowed to inspire it to no avail.

This is why the mystery of why now is surpassed only by the mystery of why President Trump has yet to claim credit for it. Incidentally, the picture of Trump (seemingly) bowing before this crown prince, in the Oval Office no less, makes me chuckle. After all, Trump ridiculed former President Obama as weak and a national embarrassment for bowing before the Saudi king during his state visit over there.

It also speaks volumes that this conversion comes on the heels of the great leap for women’s rights, which I celebrated with a little cynicism in “Saudi Women Granted Right to Drive. Hooray…?” September 27, 2017.

All the same, I pray Salman is as committed to Saudi Arabia’s conversion as he is to this:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources.

The prince said the city project, to be called ‘NEOM,’ will operate independently from the ‘existing governmental framework’ with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh.

(Bloomberg, October 24, 2017)

How’s that as for making restitution for past misdeeds? Indeed, it’s noteworthy that this mega-city will extend into Jordan and Egypt. At 10,231 square miles, it will be 33 times the size of New York City.

If he accomplishes these twin feats, Salman could go down in history as doing for Saudi Arabia what it took Suleiman the Magnificent and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to do for Turkey (notwithstanding the regressive whims of wannabe Sultan Erdogan).

For the record, most Saudis enjoy living a Western lifestyle when they’re outside Saudi Arabia. But they revert to living it in the closet when they’re at home. I think Salman is championing this conversion to spare Saudis the hypocrisy of doing so. Not to mention that the routing of Islamists across the Middle East must have inspired abandoning the ship of Wahhabism as a categorical imperative.

But no matter how Salman fares at home, it will certainly help abroad that, unlike his predecessors, he has a face that could easily warm a billion non-Muslim hearts. I wish him well.

Related commentaries:
The Bushes
Women right to drive
Sultan Erdogan

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