Wednesday, November 22, 2017
 
Not Interested: Barely 100 US Reader Comments on Purge in Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 6 (DPI) – A crown prince in Saudi Arabia this weekend decided to arrest cabinet members as well as extended family in a purge of rivals that will likely have far-reaching consequences in the region, but American readers don’t seem particularly interested.   Just over 100 reader comments accompanied a NYTimes.com report on the purge; a WashingtonPost.com report had a measly 18.

True, other news – another random US shooting, this time in a church in rural Texas – dominated headlines over the weekend. But the Saudi purge and arrests – ostensibly on corruption charges, but no formal charges were announced – will be much more consequential to the world, given the Saudi kingdom’s role in the Middle East in an age of global energy upheaval.

News agencies in Saudi Arabia were telling the Western press that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was consolidating power against conservative elements in the kingdom, and he planned to “modernize” its famously rigid society.  That claim didn’t make a lot of sense to many westerners, as the purge was not all of hard-liners.  Among those arrested was one of the kingdom’s largest and highest profile global investors, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – hardly a threat to Saudi modernization.

A Brookings Institution expert on Saudi Arabia told The Washington Post that the purge comes at a delicate time:

 “The kingdom is at a crossroads: Its economy has flatlined with low oil prices; the war in Yemen is a quagmire; the blockade of Qatar is a failure; Iranian influence is rampant in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; and the succession is a question mark,” he wrote. “It is the most volatile period in Saudi history in over a half-century.”

The few reader comments hardly celebrated the news of the purges:

The birth pains of a new dictatorship.

Hard to see this as anything other than a consolidation of power and wealth into the hands of a few. Noble intentions carried out through despotic means seldom ends well.

This ongoing kerfuffle in Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with modernization, fighting corruption, moderating Islam, liberating the women, empowering the youth, controlling the clerics, or any other such reason. However, all the proper noises related to many of these will get made to engage and please the Western audiences, and make them feel better. It is a simply a naked power play worthy of a Mario Puzo novel. Period. A power play to push aside all other branches of the ruling family to firmly ensconce the current king’s progeny, now and in the future. It will take some time for the dust to settle down in the Arabian desert. We have definitely not heard the last from the Saudis.

 

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