The Lost Glory Of Saudi Arabia – OpEd


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia inhabits an extraordinary place and reputation within the Muslim world because the KSA is home to Islam’s two most holy sites. The Kingdom is considered a leader in the pursuit of Islamic solidarity across the globe.

The Kingdom has played significant role in the Muslim world and in regional politics. It enjoyed great influence over many countries, mostly Muslim. Apparently, the Kingdom is considered to be the most powerful and dominant nation in the Muslim world due to its historical sacredness for Muslims and is undoubtedly the most powerful, most rich and economically stable Muslim State in the world.

The Kingdom’s dedicated interest and involvement in both regional and international politics is not veiled due to its involvement in resolving different conflicts. Despite having great influence over regional and world politics it utterly failed to win the hearts and minds of the majority people under the reign of the late King Abdullah. The Kingdom also failed to preserve and maintain its glory it once enjoyed worldwide in particular among Muslims.

Unfortunately the Saudi regime under the late King Abdullah utterly botched reaching regional consensus over bringing regional stability and security. It did not play the role it should have in the Middle East crises as well as in crises in other Muslim States, particularly Afghanistan.

In the crisis of Egypt, Saudi played a dubious role hurting the entire pro­democracy movement by tacitly supporting a dictator to purge an elected government from the country. Former President Mohammad Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood Party won the election overwhelmingly and put an end to Hosni Mubarak’s rule, after almost 30 years, until he was removed in the mass demonstrations in 2011. Saudi support for the Army Chief Al­sisi, to initiate a coup, took the lives of thousands of pro­democracy Egyptians and in the process derailed democracy once again when a threat to their Monarchy was perceived due to the popularity of Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab region.

In the Syrian crises Saudi jumped into play to support its own version of hardline Salafi factions against President Assad who was democratically elected. The Saudi’s could not tolerate Qatar and Turkey playing a leading role in the eyes of the Sunni Muslim world and thus roiled political waters in a bid of a cold war with both Turkey and Qatar which resulted in more chaos and division among the rebels groups who are fighting against President Assad, giving succor to ISIS, a supremely violent group born of black op sites of the USA in Iraq.

The Kingdom’s role in the conflict of Palestine was not up to the expectations of the Palestinians and the people from around the world. It could play a significant role in bridging gaps between the PLO and Hamas but rather supported one fraction and denounced another which resulted in more suffering of the Palestinian people. The recent bloodshed by Israel in Gaza could have easily been stopped if the Kingdom used its leverage of influence on regional politics but it utterly failed to do so.

The Kingdom also failed to succeed in a political settlement among factions and secure its neighboring country, Yemen. Today Yemen emerges as a weak and fragmented State afflicted with civil war right at the border of an expansive Kingdom located in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. The Kingdom’s policy towards Yemen has contributed, for decades, to weakening the tribal country with an ubiquitous arms culture. The Kingdom’s cold war with Iran resulted in a civil war and finally the American backed government of Yemen unexpectedly collapsed and Houthies, who are openly financed and backed by Iran, control the capital. It is crystal clear that the presence of instability in Yemen exacerbates the Kingdom’s fears it may export the crisis into the country as Saudi security is directly linked to its closed neighbor. If the Saudis could play their cards wisely and in the interest of Yeminis, today we would not witness a fragmented and divided Yemen due to the civil war.

Instability in Iraq was another failure of the Kingdom, it could not convince the US and its allies to form a consensus government which would not undermine the rights of anyone. Rather it got involved with Iran in a cold war to fuelling tensions due to their arch rivalry and opened a new window for the insurgents which we see today has jeopardized the security of not only Iraq but almost entire region ie: ISIS.

The Saudi regime has also been instrumental in quelling pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, by supplying the Kingdom with arms to suppress the population. This has been a viscous attack on the freedoms of Bahraini protestors. The Bahraini revolution began in February 2011, the people were inspired by the successful Arab Spring revolutions. In March, Saudi Arabia and the UAE invaded Bahrain. The protesters initially wanted political reform and a constitutional monarchy. However, because of the regime’s brutal crackdown on protest, the Bahraini people started to demand the Royal Al Khalifa family step down. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others arrested in the crackdown.

Afghanistan has been at war for the last 37 years. The Saudi Government both backed financially and by providing arms to the Afghan guerrilla fighters or Mujahideen along with the Western countries including the USA. The Saudi regime had great ties with the Afghan Taliban during their time of government and it is a widely accepted notion that the Kingdom had good leverage over the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani government. The Afghan leadership in the past decade paid numerous visits to the Kingdom to seek out their support in bringing durable peace to this country, in an effort to make better use of their leverage. The Saudi government, being too conservative, did not support, nor bring pressure to bear over some factions of the Taliban and neither on the Pakistani government to encourage Taliban peace talks with the Afghan Government. If the Saudi Government, under the leadership of the late King Abdullah could possibly convince the Taliban and succeed in supporting the Afghan Government peace initiative it would definitely increased its graph of success but again failed to do so.

We also do need to acknowledge the West’s help in all of the above conflicts in order to understand the role Saudi Arabia plays in the destabilization of Muslim lands for Western Imperialism.

Way forward

These are alike and are indicative of the failure of the Kingdom’s foreign policy. The new ruler of the Saudi Arabia; Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz needs to pursue a more vibrant and result oriented foreign policy. The significance of Saudi Arabia being a major power is its ability to make strong allies out of smaller countries, if it wishes to have peaceful surroundings. The Saudi Government, under the leadership of the new ruler, needs to realize the fact that a radical transformation is required in their policies. Saudi being the spiritual leader and a dominant Muslim country should do its best to gain its lost glory by developing consensus among the Muslim world and playing a facilitating role to bring peace in troubled Muslim countries and region, not igniting them. If Saudi can make better use of its leverage over different fractions it supports in different countries, it can result in an ultimate peace. With this, the Saudis will win the hearts and minds of the people and can play a more positive, proactive role in global politics.

Aziz Amin Ahmadzai

Aziz Amin Ahmadzai’s professional reputation largely lies in Politics, International Relations and Policy. He works as a Policy Analyst and Expert with Afghan Government. Mr. Ahmadzai has written extensively for a broader public audience. His articles published in Foreign Policy, The National Interest, The Diplomat and Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan Times, CSA Business, PWVP and SAARC Journal. He writes on the socio-economic, Political and Security issues of West, Central and South Asia. Mr. Ahmadzai is also the founder of Afghan Youth Empowerment Council (AYEC) and a Social Media page ‘Humans of Afghanistan’. Mr. Ahmadzai tweets on @Azizamin786 and is based in Kabul. He can be reached at [email protected]

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