ROVING EYE The secret life of
Arabia By Pepe Escobar
To follow Pepe's articles on the Great
Arab Revolt, please click here.
As the Arab Spring turns into summer, the
counter-revolution is winning. Tyrants - but not
systems - are down in Tunisia and Egypt. The
Libyan "revolution" is a sham: North Atlantic
Treaty Organization air war plus Western
spooks/special forces helping dodgy
defectors/exiles on the ground. Bahrain, Yemen and
Syria have been popular defeats.
As far as
Washington and selected European capitals are
concerned, "stability" prevails; as in Israel and
Saudi Arabia, as pillars, now that Egypt has
wobbled; and the oil-drenched Gulf
Counter-Revolutionary Club, also known as Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), is solid as
Himalayan rock. No revisionism allowed.
"Democracy", yes - as long as it is not a threat
to "Western interests".
And yet what lurks
in the shadows tells us more about what's to come.
Call it the secret life of Arabia.
Unfit for the guillotine, so far
Take Qatar - in the spotlight, again,
because non-Federation Internationale de Football
Association (football's governing body) sources
swear the emirate bought the 2022 World Cup. Yet
Doha has some more pressing balls to kick - as in
the emir of Qatar visiting Algerian President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika to gently ask him to refrain
from resupplying Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya
with scores of tanks and armored vehicles.
It all depends on who's really running the
show in Algeria - Bouteflika or "rogue" weapons
merchants, tempted by Gaddafi's oil funds and a
1,100 kilometer-long desert border perfect for
The GCC is unanimous; it wants
Gaddafi gone. Qatar is the face of GCC in Libya.
Qatari fighter jets are part of the strike force
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Qatari advisers are deep inside Misrata alongside
the "rebels". Qatar is also maneuvering its soft
power towards Assad's Syria; an infuriated
Damascus has just cancelled more than US$6.4
billion in Qatari projects in Syria.
this while the number of Syrians killed by
President Bashar al-Assad's repression machine has
now surpassed the number of Egyptians killed by
Hosni Mubarak's repression machine. By the body
count law that draws the difference between
"rogue" regimes and "our" bastards, Assad should
be ready for the guillotine. The problem is the
Anglo-French-American consortium has not found an
"acceptable" alternative to Assad (there isn't
any); thus the bland sanctions, and the benefit of
Meanwhile, Qatar is convincing
the GCC to open a Middle East Development Bank -
inspired by the European Bank of Reconstruction
and Development (EBRD) - to, essentially, support
Arab Spring-practitioner states to the tune of
tens of billions of dollars annually. No GCC
bigwig will remark on the irony that the bank
won't deal with the zero-democratic GCC itself.
The House of Saud is now cool, calm and
collected - confident it will soon fully enjoy its
$60 billion weapons deal with Washington while the
United Kingdom already trains its National Guard,
deployed to maxim repression effect in neighboring
According to the British Ministry
of Defense, it's all about "weapons, field craft
and general military skills training, as well as
incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public
order and sniper training". All of the above very
handy in Bahrain.
Saudi King Abdullah may
hate Gaddafi's guts, but as far as Syria's Assad
is concerned - no matter the body count - he's
moving one sand dune at a time, savoring the
prospect of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syria.
In Libya, the House of Saud cannot but relish the
heavy Islamist contingent featuring in the "rebel"
transitional council, which by the way has refused
to reveal the identities of most of its members.
The House of Saud went directly to
Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Central
Asian "stans" for diplomatic support - and perhaps
the odd weaponry - to crush the pro-democracy
protests in Bahrain. How not to relish the dark
prospect of hardcore Wahhabis discussing with
their good friends of the Pakistani Inter-Services
Intelligence how to go from crowd control to
kidnapping and the odd target assassination.
Or maybe the juicier part is the American
reaction - that this perpetual, ultra-reactionary
Pak-Saudi alliance is interfering with
Washington's push to "guide popular uprisings"
towards a "democratic conclusion". Who's fooling
Trojan Horse in da house The Syrian uprising is by a measure of at
least 80% a youth movement, mostly secular, with a
motto that could be summed up as "all united
without displaying party, confessional or ethnic
symbols". The top rumor in Damascus is that
everything one hears is rumor.
certain is that these youngsters are being shot at
in droves by the Assad repression machine; the
Alawites are scared to death; pro-government
militias are inciting chaos even by attacking the
army and the police; and the bourgeoisie in
Damascus and Aleppo has not made their move yet -
they know this is a slow burning process.
In Bahrain, professional women, many in
their early 20s, are being arrested at their work
places. Many have disappeared into military-style
prisons. Those few who have been released denounce
hardcore sexual harassment and even torture.
Talk about a GCC member using torture
against its women to crush a pro-democracy
movement. That's a certified upgrade on Saudi
Arabia being routinely described as the world's
largest women's prison.
The House of Saud
has its hands full with Egypt as well - now that
the Egyptian Military Council has been handed a
cool $4 billion by Riyadh. It's enlightening to
know that Field Marshall Tantawi - the current,
"transitional" strongman in Cairo - was the
Egyptian Defense Attache in Pakistan during the
Afghan jihad of the 1980s. So Tantawi is an
ISI darling, as well as a Saudi Prince Bandar
darling. With Tantawi as a House of Saud Trojan
Horse, his bet for Egypt is much more Muslim
Brotherhood than secular Tahrir Square.
That happens to square off beautifully
with Washington's own (not so secret) burning
desire: a Pakistani model for Egypt, with the army
in the background and a facade civilian government
run by Islamic parties who won in the ballot box.
But this mildly Islamic regime would only be
acceptable if it were to kowtow to neo-liberalism
and the Camp David accords with Israel.
The House of Saud subscribes to this
project for a very simple reason. The House of
Saud knows its supposed hegemony in the Arab world
only holds as long as Egypt is kept politically
insignificant. And the way to accomplish this is
via an islamicization - the Wahhabi way - of the
state and politics as a whole. Tahrir Square,
hopefully, will fight it to death. At least there
may be a few reasons to expect not such a bleak,
upcoming Arab Summer.