Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Wankerite Revolution & Clash of the Morons

Saudi Aramo
The Wankerite Revolution The Saudi blueprint “The desert kingdom is striving to dominate its region and modernise its economy at the same time.” The new rulers of Saudi Arabia can throw in terms like “a Thatcherite Revolution,” can wave promises of selling shares in Aramco and creating the biggest IPO in history, and can launch a war in Yemen and support Islamist rebels in Syria, but at the end of the day nothing can save their ailing Kingdom and dynasty except for serious political and social reforms – that is the exact thing they are trying to avoid. But then, that was the exact same thing that Bashar Al-Assad has been trying to avoid for a decade before the Syrian revolution, and look where it landed him, and what he did to Syria in the process.

We need political and social freedoms just to survive in this modern world of ours. And we need effective governance and empowered technocratic elite if we want to move beyond mere survival. Saudi has more challenges than confronting Iran’s regional ambitions; their primary challenge is to prepare their economy and society for the transition to the era beyond fossil fuel dependency. Thanks to the Paris Agreement we now have a deadline for meeting this challenge: 2050. Without social and political reforms, Saudi is set to lose this challenge. Worse. Saudi is set for Saudocalypse.

And we are not talking about full-fledged liberal electoral democracy here. Thanks to the Wahhabi establishment, Saudi society is definitely not ready for that. Reforms at this stage could be restricted to a constitution, bill of rights, and a parliament (preferably bi-cameral in order to balance various societal and regional forces and check the power of Islamists). The king could retain the power to appoint people to certain key posts, such as the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior and defense and heads of various security agencies. A measure of decentralization might help meet some of the demands of the country’s Shia minority, among other segments. And educational reform is a must, and the reform needed here is not simply about improving the content of religious instruction. It’s about helping students to acquire the right mentality and skills that will needed down the road to enter into the job markets and take part in creating the new economic alternatives to income generated from oil exports.

Until Saudi’s new rulers show the courage and wisdom necessary to undertake such reforms, theirs is a revolution of wankers, and their future choices will be reduced to one of three alternatives: death, exile, or learning Persian in order to better serve their new masters.

Saudaran –Clash of the Morons! The Saudi-Iran paradox that haunts the west “Riyadh is viewed as a close ally and vital collaborator in the fight against jihadism.” When talking about Iran, the author does not fail to raise the issue of its civilizational superiority, or, in his parlance, “civilizational depth,” the favorite theme of those who back the Iran deal and Iran over Saudi in general. But, in terms of civilizational “depth,” while there is no denying Iran’s much richer history, none of us can fail to note the distinct absence of any 1,000 year old walking down the streets of Tehran and Riyadh (that is, with the possible exception of the Hidden Imam), as such, one should not really read too much into those depths, especially at the expense of the last century, and the last four decades in particular.

Yes, the Mullahs in Iran have been in control for more than three and half decades for now, one of them, the 1980s, was particularly violent, leading to a mass purges, mass exodus, mass casualties (during to Iraq-Iran war), much by way of population shifts and dislocations, and mass social engineering. Indeed, a lot has happened to Iran, state and society, during this period and the following decades. Cultures change, and if some segments of the Iranian urban society showed some resilience to the Mullah’s anti-modern ways, most other segments have found it much easier and natural to surrender to their teachings, accepting it whole, stock and barrel. Let’s not forget here, how much support the former president Ahmadinejad had, for all his archaic religious views, and millenarian outlook, or, in fact, because of them.

Moreover, the secularism of some of the urban elites does not necessarily translated in the political field into a pro-Western, not to mention pro-American attitudes. Most Iran’s secularists are still leftists. To them, America is as satanic as it is to the Khomeinist mullahs. The only significant political group in Iran that might be cultivated by the West, and America, is the Bazari faction within the mullah establishment. It is, generally speaking, this faction and its few Khomeinist allies that supported the Green Movement back in 2009. But this group is neither enlightened nor interested in enlightenment. But its members are greedy, corrupt, and pragmatic, if, at one point, Rouhani was one of them, he only became president on account of his return to the Khomeinist fold, led by Ali Khamenei. But, pragmatism is not civilizational depth, and if it were, then, Saudis have been far better at it, and have had a longer history of it with the United States and other Western allies.

But since neither side at this stage currently represents a civilization worthy of the name, let’s dispense with this rubbish. This is not about a choice between civilizations. There are simply those in the U.S. and Europe, including President Obama himself, who are convinced of the inevitability of Saudi collapse, and perhaps even Turkey’s collapse, and are busy trying to create alternatives to her in the region. But, paradoxically enough, they are these efforts of theirs to hedge their regional bet that seem to be playing a major part in precipitating the crisis.

Moreover, Iran is simply not the right instrument for regional stabilization. Stabilizing a mostly Arab Sunni region requires an Arab Sunni force. Modernizing it requires an Arab Sunni power that is committed to modernity. Facilitating the emergence of such power and increasing its influence on its neighbors, and their peoples, so as to be able to play a stabilizing role calls for a certain commitment to democratic values. This is a daunting challenge, but running away from it and embracing illusions will not make things any easier.  

The Next Front in the Saudi-Iran War “The two regional powers are at each other's throats. But Riyadh's next move won't be in Syria or Yemen -- it'll aim to hit Tehran where it really hurts.” And oil prices are apparently where it hurts. Saudi is betting on its ability to absorb the losses and/or make up for them through its other ventures.

Don’t Take Sides in Other People’s Quarrels. This might sound reasonable to the uninformed and stupid. But, after actually taking sides in other people’s conflicts for about a century making the unilateral choice to stop becomes a slightly more complicated affair. America has cultivated allies, made commitments and promises and still has interests all over the world; indeed, its relationship with the world is both dynamic and interactive. So, if there is a conflict out there, and one of the sides involved happens to be an ally of the U.S. with whom she still has certain common interests, the idea of not taking sides seems more like betrayal and will have major negative repercussions for years to come. Now we have doomed ourselves to a long period of violence and conflicts around the world, most of which are bound to have some impact on our living conditions at home, the idea of not taking sides seems disingenuous or downright stupid.