Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Showing posts for "Saudi Arabia"

Shia Unrest in Saudi Arabia

by Elliott Abrams

Though there is not much Western reporting yet on this phenomenon, Shia unrest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province appears to be growing.

Two recent reports, including interesting amateur films of demonstrations and some violence, can be found in this Arab web site and buried in the New York Times here. The key question is whether the unrest is over or will spread among Saudi Shia. Read more »

Succession in Saudi Arabia

by Elliott Abrams

The death of Saudi crown prince Nayef came as no surprise, for he had been seriously ill for several years. He spent much of the past year outside the Kingdom, for medical treatment in the United States and then recuperation. Since the death in 2011 of the then third in line for the throne, long-time Minister of Defense Prince Sultan, and his replacement at Defense by Riyadh’s long-serving governor Prince Salman, it has been thought that Prince Salman would become crown prince next. That change should come in the next few days, after Nayef’s burial. Read more »

“Destroy all the Churches”

by Elliott Abrams
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Courtesy REUTERS/Ali Jarekji). Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Courtesy REUTERS/Ali Jarekji).

The Middle East Forum reports that

According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait: a Kuwaiti parliament member recently called for the “removal” of churches (he later “clarified” by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait), and the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia’s position on churches. Accordingly, the Grand Mufti “stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it. Read more »

Turning Point in Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams

February 14 will be the anniversary of the date when demonstrations began in Bahrain last year. More demonstrations will mark the date, and violence is feared.

No events connected to the so-called “Arab Spring” have been as depressing as those in Bahrain. The tiny country (only slightly larger than the city of New York) was long viewed as a peaceful and enlightened place, but by the actual Spring of 2011 Bahrain was mired in sectarian divisions, security force violence, and errors and excesses by the government and the opposition, all worsened by the presence of foreign troops from other Gulf Cooperation Council nations. In the end, dozens were killed and communications between the Sunni government and royal family and the Shia majority had broken down. On February 11, this past Saturday, there were more demonstrations and police used tear gas to break some of them up. Read more »

The Successor to Prince Saud?

by Elliott Abrams

An interesting royal decree from Saudi Arabia this past week suggests who may finally succeed Saud bin Faisal as foreign minister.

Saud, son of the late King Faisal (who ruled 1964-1975) has been foreign minister for thirty-five years. Appointed at the age of thirty-four, he is the world’s longest-serving foreign minister and a sharp player. But now Saud is ill (Parkinson’s among other ailments), and has several times asked to retire. There has for years been a guessing game as to who might succeed him: his brother, Turki, former Saudi Intelligence chief and once their ambassador to Washington? But Turki did not get good reviews back home for his performance here, and does not have the reputation his older brother enjoys. The current ambassador here, Adel al-Jubeir? But he is not a member of the royal family, which has been a prerequisite. Might the job be given out as part of succession deal among the rival clans in the royal family after the death of King Abdallah (who is eighty-seven years old according to official accounts but may be older, and is also not in perfect health)? Read more »

On Palestinians, Pledges, and Budgets

by Elliott Abrams

A fair measure of the dedication to the Palestinian cause on the part of Arab governments is whether they put their money where their mouth is. In that context, a news story today conveys an answer: “The Palestinian Authority will pay its employees only half their monthly salaries in July, the prime minister told reporters here on Sunday, because of what he said was ‘the failure of donors, including our Arab brothers, to fulfill their pledges.’” Read more »

Do the Saudis Have a Brezhnev Doctrine?

by Elliott Abrams

Saudi Arabia has reacted to the Arab Spring by pledging $4 billion in aid to Egypt, and it is expected to help Tunisia as well. Has it become enamored of youthful protests for democracy? The fact that Saudi troops remain in Bahrain, helping crush the movement for greater democracy there, suggests something else is going on. And the invitation from the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC to Morocco and Jordan to join the group points in the same direction.

My theory is this: for the Saudis, it’s fine if citizens of a fake republic like Tunisia or Egypt demand a real republic with real elections and democracy. But they draw the line at monarchies: kings have to stay in charge. So they lecture the kings of Morocco and Jordan to be careful about too many reforms (if the rumors are correct), and invite them to join the Club of Kings that is the GCC. Presumably financial benefits will follow, so long as the kings don’t play around with any experiments that might give Saudi subjects ideas of their own. And in Bahrain, they put down a revolt that might have brought constitutional monarchy—though admittedly that situation appears far more complex in the eyes of  Saudi royals, as the Bahrainis who would be empowered are Shia whose success might give Saudi Shia unacceptable ideas about their own fate.

Brezhnev explained himself in 1968 as follows in answering claims that after the “Prague Spring,” Czechoslovakia should be allowed to determine its own fate: “the implementation of such ‘self-­determination,’ in other words Czechoslovakia’s detachment from the socialist community, would have come into conflict with its own vital interests and would have been detrimental to the other socialist states.”

Read more »