Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia - an unlike critic of the monarchy - speaks against the mutawa and other controversial elements of the kingdom that have led to the disintegration of the society.
Kudos to her for calling for reform.
Check out her appearance on Al Jazerra’s The Stream.
Rather interesting too in relation to another effect: The Kingdom in the Closet
UN recognition of Palestine looms large for Obama. Writing in the NYTimes, Prince Turki al-Faisal issued an unparalleled warning on 9/11 to the U.S. over the consequences of vetoing Palestinian statehood:
Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.
Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well. >continue<
The only bright side is a subtle gift in letting the U.S. off the hook regards Bahrain. But on the larger point Saudi Arabia joins Turkey, another significant U.S. ally, in unprecedented moves, dramatically signaling Washington that the game has changed vis a vis Israel and Palestine. See related:
…more than a dozen Wahhabis (hardline Sunni Muslims) from Pakistan were recently sent to Iran to meet with Shi’ite clerics, the majority faith in Iran. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Sunni. Efforts to keep the religious dialogue secret were exerted at the government level…
High-placed sources say the main objective of the religious delegation sent to Iran was to illustrate to Sunni and Shi’ite sects that “non-Muslim actors” are responsible for sectarian tensions between the two schools of thought in recent years. >continue<
Saudi Arabia isn’t taking this whole democracy thing lying down. It’s putting down uprisings, beefing up alliances with fellow autocrats, and distancing itself from the US. Dan Murphy outlines Saudi Arabia’s response to the Arab Spring in the Backchannels blog.
Unlike the US, whose selective encouragement of pro-democracy movements make it seem – in the language of pseudo-psychology – “conflicted,” the Kingdom has a laser-like focus on its interests, which begin and end with regime survival. Since the US isn’t a wholehearted supporter of the status quo anymore, the Saudis are creating alternative networks to prevent regime change. - Dan Murphy, staff reporter.
China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other rich countries that cannot grow their own crops have bought or leased prime lands in Africa at rock bottom prices. Africa is already struggling with food shortages, and their prime lands are being used for foreign export. These countries use African land to grow food for export while paying low wages in a near feudalistic system, extract hugely valuable water resources, and are using millions of tons of unregulated pesticides. Brilliant.
The IIED has a page dedicated to land use deals in Africa, here.
Egypt is a nation of bread eaters. Its citizens consume 18 million tons of wheat annually, more than half of which comes from abroad. Egypt is now the world’s leading wheat importer, and subsidized bread — for which the government doles out approximately $2 billion per year — is seen as an entitlement by the 60 percent or so of Egyptian families who depend on it.
As Egypt tries to fashion a functioning democracy after President Hosni Mubarak’s departure, land grabs to the south are threatening its ability to put bread on the table because all of Egypt’s grain is either imported or produced with water from the Nile River, which flows north through Ethiopia and Sudan before reaching Egypt. (Since rainfall in Egypt is negligible to nonexistent, its agriculture is totally dependent on the Nile.)
Unfortunately for Egypt, two of the favorite targets for land acquisitions are Ethiopia and Sudan, which together occupy three-fourths of the Nile River Basin. Today’s demands for water are such that there is little left of the river when it eventually empties into the Mediterranean. >continue<
The coming water wars will divide the world like never before.
Saudi activists alleged Wednesday that state security shot dead a leading online activist, who was calling for a ‘Day of Rage’ on March 11 in the oil-rich kingdom.
Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahadwas, 27, who called for a “Day of Rage” on March 11 through Facebook rumored as “shot dead by state security”
It’s getting more and more difficult to deny that an oil supply crunch is just a few years down the road, especially now that WikiLeaks has released cables revealing that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves have been exaggerated by as much as 40%, or 300 billion barrels. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter.
Peak oil, or the point when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction has been reached and is about to enter terminal decline, is no longer the fringe theory it was just 10 years ago. Even Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, has admitted that oil supply may no longer keep up with demand by 2015. But the just released cables, which detail a back-and-forth between the U.S. consul general and geologist Sadad al-Husseini, the former head of exploration at Saudi Aramco, confirms that the situation is serious.
Here’s an excerpt from one cable:“In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.“Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco’s reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached…a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output.”
Other cables from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh go on to express fears that “Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place—to replace the decline in existing production,” and that “Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period.”
Only time will tell whether Al-Husseini’s predictions are correct, but the possibility of imminent peak oil is enough to make Obama’s goal of putting one million electric cars on the road by 2020 a little less overly ambitious.
…AS FED UP POPULATIONS DEMAND CHANGE. THIS WEEK:
SAUDI ARABIA: A Saudi man died after setting himself on fire in the southwestern town of Samta, local media said Saturday, in what could be the latest example of a rash of self-immolations sweeping the region following events in Tunisia.
With the fascinating up-tick in Middle East developments, Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog is an excellent resource.
The gay men I interviewed in Jeddah and Riyadh laughed when I asked them if they worried about being executed. Although they do fear the mutawwa’in to some degree, they believe the House of Saud isn’t interested in a widespread hunt of homosexuals. For one thing, such an effort might expose members of the royal family to awkward scrutiny. “If they wanted to arrest all the gay people in Saudi Arabia,” Misfir, my chat-room guide, told me—repeating what he says was a police officer’s comment—“they’d have to put a fence around the whole country.”