Middle East: Saudi regime rocked by bomb blasts

THE RULING House of Saud is a rotten feudal monarchy, sitting on fabulous oil wealth and which supports American and British capitalist interests ahead of their own people. But its days could be numbered.

ONLY DAYS after declaring that "al-Qa’ida is on the run" and that "they are not a problem any more", George Bush’s ’war on terror’ suffered a setback when suicide bombers linked to Osama bin Laden killed many civilians (including US citizens) in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. As Mark Desgranges and Dave Carr explain, these attacks not only deter capitalist investors from the region, they also expose the fragility of the Saudi regime.

Saudi regime rocked by bomb blasts

Saudi Arabia is no longer the affluent country of the 1980s when unemployment was unheard of. Income per head has dropped from $28,000 to $6,800 in the last 20 years. The unemployment rate is 18% and rising.

However, the 15,000 princes of the House of Saud continue to enjoy an opulent Western lifestyle, using the country’s oil revenues, while promoting an extreme conservative version of Wahhabi Islam to its disenfranchised population.

In the absence of any independent working class or socialist movements, this has made Saudi Arabia a fertile ground for right-wing Islamist groups and their anti-Western propaganda.

In a televised address, Sheik Abdal-Rahman al-Sudays, imam of the mosque of Mecca, condemned: "The poisonous culture and rotten ideas of the West."

The supporters of bin Laden see the House of Saud as Western stooges, ’weakened on prostitution, corruption and US bribes’. It’s not surprising therefore that the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the suicide bombings in Riyadh were carried out by Saudis linked to Osama bin Laden.

According to al Majalla, a Saudi magazine based in London, al Qa’ida’s supporters are threatening a guerrilla war against the kingdom’s leaders and their Western allies. They want to drive out all US and Western influences and establish a Taliban-type regime in Saudi Arabia.

It’s ironic that during the 1980s bin Laden and his anti-Soviet guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan enjoyed the patronage of the Saudi monarchy and the backing of the US state. The bin Laden family construction firm was awarded $3 billion to restore holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Response

FORMER SAUDI professor, Abdallah al-Hamed, says the suicide attacks in Riyadah: "Should be taken as a warning to the Saudi regime to open up the political system and allow moderates to debate with radicals."

This is highly unlikely as the Saudi regime is not prepared to share wealth and power. Instead, it will further clamp down on the impoverished population. The Saudi leader, Prince Abdullah, has said: "Terrorism will be suppressed." This will mean conflict between bin Laden and the Wahhabists and the House of Saud and the US government.

Several weeks ago the US announced the withdrawal of troops from Saudia Arabia, ostensibly because the ’threat’ from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime is ended. However, it reflects the lack of security inside Saudi Arabia felt by the US military (who sustained some casualties from Islamist guerrillas in the country prior to the invasion of Iraq) and also an attempt to ease the domestic political pressure from hardline Islamists on the Saudi regime.

Some Republican hawks in Washington, such as Richard Perle, see the Saudi regime as a financial and ideological source of ’Islamic terrorism’.

But the Saudi royal family knows that it has the support of the Americans because it owns a quarter of the world’s oil resources. The US company Halliburton – run by Dick Cheney until he became the US Vice-President – won a $140 million contract to develop an oil field in 2001. And a Texas based oil firm, Chevron Texaco, has recently signed a deal with Saudi Aramco.

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