Echoes of the "Arab Spring"
The Shiite preacher Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr of the kingdom authorities were detained as early as 2012 year. That was the time of the Arab Spring. A wave of protests has come to Saudi Arabia. Here, against the background of the golden showcase of oil well-being, many social problems have accumulated. Millions of Saudis were "on the outskirts" of the luxurious life of thousands of princes and princesses. The Western press reported at the time reported that the income of about 4 to millions of indigenous people per month was just 530 US dollars (about 17 dollars per day), which was considered a poverty line for this rich country.
An online film about poverty in Saudi Arabia was made by three local video bloggers, and they immediately found themselves behind bars. Although this topic was not a secret to anyone. Poverty has provoked high unemployment. Even according to official statistics, more than two thirds of the Saudis younger than 30 were walking out of work and an acceptable income in the country, and almost three quarters of all twenty years old. By the way, note in Saudi Arabia a two-tier economy. Her main subject is 16 of millions of subjects of the kingdom. They have indisputable advantages in employment, pay and social subsidies. About the same in the country are foreign workers and non-citizens - they include descendants of nomadic tribes living in different countries of Arabia and the East, and not only in the Saudi kingdom.
A special position in KSA is a religious minority - the Shiites. They live predominantly in the Eastern Province (where the sheikh was born and executed) and make up 15 percent of the country's population. By the way, the territory of this province contains the main oil fields of Saudi Arabia. From them comes the wealth that 15 has so wastefully used by thousands of members of the royal family.
Opportunities Shiites are largely limited. They are less integrated into the management of the economy and the state. The dictatorship of representatives of the “titular” in the state branch of Islam - the Sunnis - forces Shiites to seek support in the countries of the co-religionists, primarily in Iran. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr received a religious education there. For almost ten years he studied in the city of Qom, which is sacred to Shiites.
In a word, the “Arab Spring” came to the Saudi kingdom on very favorable soil. But the authorities pulled out the wallet (raised pensions, subsidies, salaries), rolled out armored vehicles and dispersed the protesters with tear gas. The most active found a place in jail. So the matter is over.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was criticized by the authorities twice for his sermons (in 2004 and 2006), but then released. Perhaps the arrest in July of 2012 would also not have such tragic consequences if it were not for the widespread video on social networks. There, al-Nimr responded to the death of the Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the long-term curator of the religious police. It seems that the deceased prince, as they say, brought a Shiite preacher to the liver. Al-Nimr responded to the death of Prince Naif with the words: "Worms will eat him, while he himself will undergo a hellish agony in his grave."
Sheikh was accused of disobeying the authorities, inciting hatred and threatening national unity, calling for weapons against the forces of law and order, to foreign intervention in the affairs of the kingdom. This bunch of accusations was followed by a death sentence. In October last year, he was finally approved by the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia, which refused the sheikh to seek pardon. 2 January 2016, the authorities executed Nimr al-Nimr.
In the struggle for leadership in the Islamic world
Last year, 158 people were executed in Saudi Arabia. Their deaths were not noticed by human rights activists, human rights activists, and official representatives of highly democratic states. This time, the execution of a Shiite preacher was sluggishly condemned by US State Department spokesman Joshua Ernest, European Union Foreign Minister Federico Maherini. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is usually active on Twitter, kept silent.
Last year, he sharply suffered on the occasion of the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and even ordered to lower the country's flag as a sign of mourning, as if misfortune had come to the British royal court. After thinking over half a week, Cameron did endure his visit to Riyadh for two months, and confined himself to that. I can’t hear today the calls for sanctions or drawing up lists of Western Saudis harmful to the West. The democratic world remained indifferent to the execution of a prominent Shiite preacher.
On this, apparently, was built the calculation of Riyadh, that Western politicians would treat the New Year event as a religious party in Islam, which does not affect the interests of their countries. On January 3, taking advantage of the attack on the diplomatic missions of the kingdom in Tehran and Mashhad, the head of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Adel Al-Jubeir, boldly announced the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran. Moreover, in response to a call by a representative of the US State Department for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, Reuters news agency, citing a source in the KSA foreign policy department, said that Saudi Arabia is not interested in the White House’s opinion about the rupture of the kingdom’s diplomatic relations with Iran.
But the closest allies (rather, the satellites) of Riyadh on the Islamic coalition, allegedly created to fight terrorism, were revived. Following Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. The United Arab Emirates lowered their mutual diplomatic representation to the level of temporary charge d'affaires. January 5 recalled its ambassador from Iran and Kuwait. January 6 - Qatar and Somalia. The conflict is gaining momentum.
Riyadh is not the first time tears up its relations with Iran. In 1987, during the traditional Hajj, around 400, Iranian pilgrims who arrived in the kingdom died in clashes with local police. In response, demonstrators in Tehran attacked the Saudi embassy, killing one diplomat. Then the attack on the embassy led to the rupture of diplomatic relations, but did not escalate into a large-scale interstate conflict.
However, relations between these countries were badly damaged in 1979, when the Islamic revolution in Iran demolished the local monarchy (friendly to the Saudis) and approved a theocratic state. The call of the Iranian ayatollahs to Islamic revolutions in other countries finally exhausted the thousands of royal families of Riyadh.
I must say, the Saudi kingdom has never been authoritative in the Arab world. Here are others historical, spiritual and cultural centers - Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus. It seems like in Central Asia close to us, where against the backdrop of colossi such as Kokand, Bukhara, Samarkand ..., the Turkmen nomads rose in the gas bubble. However, big money did not bring them authority among neighbors. Unlike Turkmenistan, the Saudi kingdom has been pumping oil and gas for more than half a century. It was time to acquire satellites and economically trim competitors.
Neither was done with Iran. Over time, economic contradictions developed into religious ones, and then into a struggle for leadership in the region and the Islamic world. Experts recognize: the current conflict between countries - the most serious in the past thirty years.
Under the flag of the Sunni coalition
When last year Saudi Arabia threw up an Islamic coalition, the world immediately turned its attention to its Sunni character. (Nobody was misled by the presence of Shiite Bahrain there, forced to friendship with the Saudi kingdom at the time of the “Arab spring.” Then the KSA army repressed local protests and made the neighboring island state dependent on Riyadh’s will.) It was clear that the struggle against terrorism is a formal reason for creating a coalition. Its goal is to suppress the gaining strength of Iran and the Middle Eastern countries to which Tehran has extended its influence. In this, the royal family of Saudis felt a threat not only to their own interests, but also to the statehood of the KSA, and therefore provoked an interstate conflict with the execution of the Iranian preacher.
“The situation that has arisen as a result of the confrontation between the two most influential countries of the region is unpredictable,” said Fawaz Gerdes, an expert on the Middle East at the London School of Economics, in an interview with CNN. “In the coming weeks or months, she may be out of control.”
This view is held by many experts. Bloomberg quotes the president of the Eurasia Group consulting company, Ian Bremmer: “The rupture of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it impossible to solve any other problems in the region — neither in Yemen, nor in Syria, nor in Iraq. All local conflicts in the region will continue to escalate. This will affect not only stability in the Middle East, but also the problem of refugees. ”
The German newspaper Tages Anzeiger publishes a commentary by Andreas Zumah, in which he predicts: “In the medium term, the conflict between Riyadh and Tehran threatens to even result in the fourth Gulf War, which could surpass all the previous three, starting with 1980, in terms of the number of victims, destruction and negative consequences for the entire region. "
Russian political scientist, president of the Middle East Institute's science center Yevgeny Satanovsky told Sputnik Uzbekistan that the undeclared war between the two countries has been fought for a long time, and the execution of a preacher is another stupidity of the Saudis, which will have serious consequences for them. “They have a long undeclared war. The fact that it has become somewhat more obvious and clear to the surrounding public, and the Saudis have severed diplomatic relations with Iran, is unlikely to lead them to victory over the Islamic Republic of Iran. Persians are generally warlike people, well-organized, unlike Saudi Arabia are able to fight, ”the political scientist concluded.
Other experts agree. They cite as an example the conflict in Yemen, where the kingdom’s military has big problems. Here, regular, well-armed parts of the Saudi coalition, are opposed by Shiite rebels with Soviet-era weapons. Meanwhile, Riyadh has already lost up to a dozen warships in the Red Sea, on land - artillery installations, armored vehicles, aircraft, and finally stuck in this regional war.
Tehran, admittedly, is better equipped than the rebels. Despite the fact that "the Americans supply Riyadh with expensive military equipment, Saudi Arabia and Iran are two states incompatible from a military point of view, since Tehran is superior to Saudis in all respects," Yevgeny Satanovsky assesses the opposing forces.
At the same time, some political analysts believe that the Saudis staged this demarche more to mobilize the Islamic coalition than to start real hostilities. “Since 1979, both states have indirectly entered into a number of local military conflicts throughout the Middle East and often exchanged threats and insults. But in the end, they always stopped on the verge of a direct conflict and came to a cold truce, ”Karim Sajapur, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Foundation, told Reuters. The expert hopes that the case in the Gulf War will not come.
Let us stay with this hope. But for some reason, a non-print assessment of our Minister Sergei Lavrov, issued last August at a press conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir, comes to mind. These words were attributed then to the account of annoying Arab journalists. Or maybe the Russian minister did mean the diplomats of the kingdom? The recent actions of the Saudi Foreign Ministry are prompting ...