Is Saudi Arabia Heading
Towards A Coup?
By Amir Mateen
The News - Pakistan

WASHINGTON - The United States is concerned about a possible fall of the House of Sauds in Saudi Arabia. "Is Saudi Arabia heading for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution?" is the question that continues to be debated on major TV networks and newspapers. 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 "hard-target 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, resistant to democratization, viewed increasingly as subservient to the will of Washington, 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, isolated 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 businesses.
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, particularly 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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