Pharaoh Salman bin Abdel Aziz: Hustling “crown prince”
Condemned by French Court
Al-Saud Mafia-House: History is Ashamed and Revolted
Pharaoh Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Hustling “crown prince”,
Imagine that Britain was known as Windsor Britannia, or Spain as Bourbon Iberia; that their royal families still ruled directly, with no messy elected bodies in the way; and that their members included not just the royal couple, some wayward kids and a few cousins, but thousands of princelings, all demanding grace and favor. Imagine, further, that every newspaper felt obliged to print such choice items as this: “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Pharaoh King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, has sent a reply cable of thanks to Pharaoh Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, thanking the Pharaoh Crown Prince and all personnel of the armed forces for their congratulations to the Pharaoh King on the occasion of Eid al Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in the cable sent earlier to the Pharaoh King by the Pharaoh Crown Prince!!!” Surely a text message would have done!!
Apologists describe Saudi “Majlises”, those public receptions where princes listen to their subjects' pleas and panegyrics, as a form of “desert democracy”. In fact, they are stilted, staged affairs. For example, Pharaoh Prince Walid bin Talal, the Pharaoh king's nephew, is renowned for the charity dispensed at his weekly majlis. Yet the billionaire investor pays scant attention to the hundreds of supplicants who shuffle forward for a perfunctory hearing, after which an aide often hands them an envelope of cash!!!
Until now, many Saudis seemed to be “comfortable” with their ruling Pharaoh dynasty. However, testy regionalism persists, for instance, among the Shia of the Gulf coast and the Ismailis along the border with Yemen, as well as among the proud old families of the Hejaz, the relatively cosmopolitan region around Mecca; its advocates would like more rights and less Wahhabism.
King Abdul Aziz, the current Pharaoh king's father, built his kingdom through a mix of outright conquest, appeals to the faithful, strategic marriage and clever diplomacy. He and his Pharaoh heirs sustained it by carefully cultivating tribal, business and religious leaders and through the wildly “generous patronage” made possible by oil wealth.
The sheer size of the Al-Saud Mafia clan has also helped cement the “nation”. There have been eight generations of Saudi rulers, dating back to 18th-century sheikhs who held sway in a few oasis towns near present-day Riyadh. Many have been prolific. Pharaoh King Abdul Aziz himself sired some 36 sons and even more daughters. The first son to succeed him, King Saud, fathered 107 children. Pharaoh King Abdullah is believed to have 20 daughters and 14 sons. The extended Al-Saud Mafia family is now thought to number some 30,000, though only 7,000 or so are princes. Of these, only around 500 are in government, and only perhaps 60 carry real weight in decision-making.
Aside from controlling positions directly, the Al Saud Mafia Family exert continued influence through marriages with such respectable Najd families as the Al al-Sheikh, who are descendants of the founder of Wahhabism. Many princes still surround themselves with traditional retainers knows as “khuyas”, or “little brothers”, who typically represent Bedouin tribes. Tribal links are also maintained through selective manning of such institutions as the Saudi National Guard.
Such layers of influence have proved gratifyingly coup-proof, but the real clincher has been the perpetual fountain of oil wealth. Forty years ago Pharaoh King Faisal, having ousted his profligate brother Pharaoh Saud, decreed that the royal family's take from oil exports should be capped at 18%. That rule probably still applies today, though it is hard to tell because the state budget remains opaque. The current Pharaoh king, Abdullah, is known to frown on extravagance; he likes desert rambles in his specially fitted bus, whereas Pharaoh King Fahd liked flying his entire court to his holiday palace in Spain's Marbella!! No doubt, however, the Al Saud Mafia House are still comfortably off. The combined wealth of the Al Saud Family is impossible to guess, but it must be hundreds of billions of dollars.
Commoners do complain about undue spoils, but money on such a scale also buys consent. Al-Saud Mafia House and their “loyalists” control all of the dozen Saudi daily newspapers. They own the two most respected pan-Arab dailies, as well as four out of five of the most popular Arab satellite TV channels. The exception is Al-Jazeera. Aside from keeping top western lobbying firms on their payroll, the Al-Saud Mafia House can also flatter influential Muslims by offering them privileged access to the crowded holy sites. “Their money turns lies into truth,” says one human-rights activist.
It is often claimed that these full Pharaoh brothers, called Sudairis after the family name of their joint mother, have stood in opposition to other Pharaoh princes. As crown prince, for example, Pharaoh Abdullah, who had no full brothers, was forced into some humiliating retreats from initiatives he had sponsored, even after the 1995 stroke that incapacitated Pharaoh King Fahd (another Sudairi) and left Pharaoh Abdullah supposedly in charge. But some analysts identify at least five competing spheres of power within the ruling family. This, it is said, explains the sometimes erratic course of Saudi policy, with reforms being promised and then retracted. Elections to municipal councils, for instance, were first mooted in the 1970s, but held only in 2005, and then only for half the seats!!
Such gestures reflect Pharaoh Abdullah's own attachment to Bedouin egalitarianism, but also an awareness that times are changing. Since the reign of Pharaoh King Faisal, who was murdered in 1975 by a disgruntled nephew, the Al-Saud Mafia Family have suffered a steady loss of public goodwill. One symptom of this has been the presentation of citizens' petitions demanding reform, a trend that began in 1990 and reached its height in 2003 before a crackdown in the last year of Pharaoh King Fahd's reign. Saudi Arabia has no constitution, Al-Saud Mafia House claiming that the Koran serves this function!!
Pharaoh Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Hustling “crown prince”,
There is little doubt about the economic health of Saudi Arabia. It has a fifth of the world's oil reserves and earns another tidy sum from the millions of Muslim visitors to its holy places. But the health of its leadership is another matter. Not only is Pharaoh King Abdullah now ailing. So are many of the other senior princes who run the show. Though the hold of the Al-Saud Mafia Family over their 18m subjects is not undisputed, it is not fully clear which of its members (Hustling “Crown Prince” Pharaoh Salman bin Abdel Aziz) will be leading the country next — or what direction they will take.
Other ailing Saudi royals include the longstanding foreign minister, Pharaoh Prince Saud al-Faisal, who has Parkinson's disease, and the Crown Prince's son, Pharaoh Bandar, who served for two decades as ambassador in Washington and later as a national-security chief. Last year he returned to the kingdom after two years' absence for an unexplained convalescence. Two of the most powerful princes, Pharaoh Nayef, who has run the interior ministry since 1975, is dead and Pharaoh Salman, who has governed the capital, Riyadh, since 1962, have also recently been very ill.
The opacity of Saudi Arabia's political system inevitably elicits much parsing of official reception lists and reading of coffee cups for clues. The line of succession still passes between the multiple sons of the founding monarch, Pharaoh King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, before moving down a generation. Powerful princes control rival administrative fiefs. The Pharaoh King has also relinquished his own post as commander of the National Guard, a 100,000-man paramilitary force that links the Saud family with the Bedouin tribes whose loyalty underpins its rule and which has been seen as counterbalancing the army and police. In his place the Pharaoh king appointed his son, Pharaoh Prince Mitab, elevating him to the cabinet. Rarely, however, do commentators have solid information. The latest wobbly round of musical thrones is stirring unusually heated speculation.
These moves may suggest an effort by the Pharaoh king to ensure a future role for what is seen as his reform-minded faction against the ruling family's more conservative elements represented by the late Pharaoh Princes Sultan and Pharaoh Nayef and the actual Hustler “Crown Prince” Pharaoh Salman. But the elevation of Pharaoh Mitab also indicates a new and more dramatic trend: the replacement of an older generation of princes, all sons of the kingdom's founder, who died in 1953, with his grandsons. There are whispers that similar changes are in the offing in the ministries of defense and interior, where sons of Pharaoh Princes Sultan and Nayef are deputy ministers. Speculation is spreading that the foreign ministry will stay in the hands of a close relative of the incumbent, Pharaoh Prince Saud, so perpetuating a division of spoils between leading branches of the Al-Saud Mafia House Family.
The fact that Pharaoh King Abdullah's illness was publicly announced may be cited as a sign of new-found candor that bodes well for the future. Still, the inner workings of the al-Saud Mafia House remain as murky as the oil that gushes from Saudi soil.
It always makes me laugh when I hear the current Pharaoh king referred to as something of a liberal or progressive reformer!! By contrast to the rest of his family he is; but against any other criteria his 'liberal' credentials are sadly lacking. That he is seen as progressive is an indictment on the entire misogynist Al-Saud Mafia Family.
Dr. Walid Amin Ruwayha
Your Saudi “Dissident” Paris Neighbor