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niedziela, 1 maja 2011

How Saudi Arabia views the Mid East

During the past 70 years, Saudi Arabia has been our most vital and faithful friend in the Mid East. With the recent "Arab Spring" in the region, it is important for us to understand how they assessed the events of the past and present.
This is second of a three-part series where we will attempt to present the Saudi perspective during 70 years of uncertainty and turmoil. In so doing, it will be necessary to review some historical context of the region.

Saudi Arabia and the Big Three

After World War II, Saddam Hussein slowly worked his way up the power ladder to become Iraq's president.
Born in 1937, his brutal stepfather made a bully of him at age 10. As a high school student, his uncle talked him into assassinating the head of the Iraqi communist party. He was taken under the wing of his uncle, who introduced him to leading Baath party officials. He became a member at age 20.
He became the party's strong man, assassinating political enemies, often going into exile to avoid prosecution. With the 1968 Baath revolution, he became vice president and in 1979, with the president's retirement, Saddam became Iraq's president. He then promptly assassinated the 20 most powerful members of his Baath party, eliminating any possible challengers to power.
At the time, what mattered most to Saudi King Farouk and Egypt's President Mubarek was stability in the region. Saddam provided that. What was the second order of priority was that Saddam also was a Sunni (even though Iraq was a Shiite-majority country).
In effect, these countries became the Mideast's Big Three. Saudi Arabia with all the oil, Egypt with solid connections and big money grants from the U.S. and Iraq as the area's strong man peacekeeper.
Everyone was happy -- but troubles were fomenting.

The emergence of Iran's theocracy

With the official title of the Shah of Persia, he was commonly called the Shah of Iran, as was his father, dating back to 1936. After WWII, Iran experienced extreme income divisiveness -- the elite and the very poor.
A Shiia cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, had taken up the cause of the poor, instigating demonstrations which were well-received by the masses and resulted in violence and brutal killings from the government. The Shah started to lose his grip on power at the same time Khomeini was gaining traction.
A 1954 attempt at social reform was bitterly opposed by Khomeini, resulting in large anti-government demonstrations and mass killings. The Shah declared martial law, which only escalated the violence.
The Shah arrested Khomeini and banished him to exile in southern Iraq, arousing demonstrations in which the government killed nearly 10,000.
The Shah's health was failing, and during a medical trip to the U.S., Khomeini returned from exile to a jubilant population on Feb. 1, 1979. Khomeini quickly transformed Iran into an Islamic Republic.
The Iranian governmental structure was a theocracy, with the top position being held by a cleric, roughly equivalent to the business title of chief executive officer. A president was elected through a highly structured political process and his position was the equivalent to chief operating officer.
Because of the support the U.S. had given to the Shah -- particularly by President Carter -- Khomeini called the U.S. the "Great Satan." Relationships were severed.
Many thousands of middle-class Iranians fled the country as Islamic sharia law was initiated.
Iran had been totally transformed, much to the consternation of the Big Three. The Shiite country would be at odds with Saudi Arabia and the other two of the Sunni Big Three. Clouds on the horizon had turned dark.

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