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Saudia Arabia and the Arab Spring

Ahmed El Bassiouny

May 20, 2012

Recent human rights violations in Saudi Arabia highlight its role in countering protesters. During the whole of the Arab Spring, the Western-backed Kingdom has played a counter-revolutionary role across the region.

First, Saudi Arabia provided shelter for Western-backed Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, after being over-thrown. Riyadh refused to give up Ben Ali for trial in Tunisia, proving the Kingdom’s strong opposition to the uprising in Tunisia and acting as a solid wall standing between the Tunisian protesters and their demands for justice. A very similar incident happened in Yemen: after the injury of Ali Abdullah Saleh during the bombing of his presidential palace, everyone could safely bid that Saudi Arabia would kick in to save him. Saleh fled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, and then to the US.

It’s unforgettable that Saudi Arabia (armed with US and Canadian weapons) sent troops to Bahrain to “deal” with the Shia-dominated demonstrations. The main goal was to amputate any uprising action in the gulf area, and protect the US Fifth Fleet.

When it came to Egypt—another Western-backed dictatorship—Saudi Arabia rushed into trying to strengthen their ties with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), by offering financial support. At the exact same time, Saudi Arabia offered financial, political and media support to the major parties in Egypt—the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. That was in an attempt to win an ally, one that would allow shaping of the region’s politics to their liking. Saudi Arabia has also been arming sections of the Free Syrian Army tied to the Western-backed Syrian National Council, in order to undermine the revolutionary movement in Syria and pave the way for confronting Iran.

Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s counter-revolution measures did not stop at backing corrupted regimes; it extended to manipulation of the media. The resignation of Wadah Khanfar, the director general of Al-Jazeera, happened after a week of extensive visits between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Al-Jazeera provided outstanding coverage of the political changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. Khanfar was replaced by a member of the Qatari Royal family, as punishment to the satellite network’s independent coverage.

Any discussion of “humanitarian intervention” in the region needs to remember the Saudi-American alliance, at its strongest in years, which is trying to undermine the Arab Spring across the region.

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