- WASHINGTON - The United
is concerned about a possible fall of the House of Sauds in Saudi Arabia.
"Is Saudi Arabia heading for an Iranian-style Islamic
is the question that continues to be debated on major TV networks and
The New York Times says the issue of Saudi stability has been factored
into Washington's strategic thinking for several years.
- One reason for subjecting Saudi Arabia to the CIA's
strategy" was concern that the United States could lose its closest
ally in the Persian Gulf, just as it lost Iran in the 1979 Revolution.
Task forces established after the Alkhober bombing warned that Washington's
information void about the threats facing a closed society was so vast
that such a conclusion was far from certain.
- After claims by federal investigators that 15 of the
19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia and that
some recruiting, financing and planning for the attacks occurred on Saudi
soil, there is anxiety once again that the kingdom may be vulnerable to
'enemies' in its midst.
- That anxiety is compounded by charges from critics in
the kingdom that the Saudi royal family is too close to Washington, and
by critics in the United States that the family is not close enough, says
the Times. It is believed that the Saudis are in a tight fix. The Islamists
think the Saudis have sold out to the Americans and the Americans think
they have sold out to the terrorists. Eventually this translates into an
erosion of legitimacy.
- But does that translate into popular revolution in the
name of Islam? Asks the NY Times. Many believe there are parallels between
the House of Saud and the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran. Like pre-revolutionary
Iran, Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian, oil-rich monarchy with a Muslim
population. It is notorious for corruption and profligate spending,
to democratization, viewed increasingly as subservient to the will of
dependent on American weaponry and criticized by radicals in exile and
some conservative clerics for not being Islamic enough.
- But others believe the Shah of Iran was a singular,
ruler, while the Saudis have dispersed power throughout the royal family.
Many of its 7,000 members hold key political positions (the governors and
military commanders in nearly every province are members) and run important
- All eyes are on Crown Prince Abdullah. He is regarded
as a pious, incorruptible leader more responsive to the people and more
willing than his predecessor, King Fahd, to take on Washington,
when it comes to policy toward the Palestinians. (King Fadís illness
has left him unable to govern.) The strongest nationalist voice in Saudi
Arabia today is Abdullah, so he may be able to respond in a way that the
Shah could not.The problem today is that the House of Saud is suffering
from a steady degradation of support rather than widespread opposition
to its rule, says the report.
- Saudi Arabia has 30 percent unemployment and one of the
highest birth rates in the world. Average income has dropped by at least
half since the heyday of the oil boom of the early 1980's. Most of the
people are under 15, a population bulge that will put even more pressure
on an already crumbling infrastructure.
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