Saudi Arabia`s decision to send troops to Bahrain to put down an uprising in the neighboring country is not going to prevent the Arab spring of 2011 from blooming in the dessert kingdom.
The Saudi invasion, made on the “invitation” of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and after the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will most probably backfire.
In a full-scale assault on Wednesday launched at dawn in Pearl Square, the center of the uprising against the Khalifa regime, Saudi soldiers, with other foreign and local mercenary security forces, with no previous warning, attacked sleeping, peaceful protesters, killing many and injuring hundreds.
But Saudi Arabia’s dream of becoming a regional power is almost certainly going to turn into a nightmare very soon.
Saudi Arabia is nothing but a client state, like many other Persian Gulf monarchies, whose regimes consider their natural, primarily energy, resources as family property and make little distinction between national and personal wealth. They have used these resources to buy support from their own subjects and influenced politics in some other countries in the region.
For about a century, the family of Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of the absolute monarchy, built palaces on sandy hills without knowing that one day there would be desert storms raging in the region. Now they are about to be blown away.
According to a recent Reuters report based on U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks, the royal stipends in the mid-1990s ran from about $800 a month for the lowliest member of the most remote branch of the family to $270,000 a month for one of the surviving sons of Ibn Saud.
“Bonus payments are available for marriage and palace building,” according to the cable, which estimates that the system cost the country, which had an annual budget of $40 billion at the time, some $2 billion a year.
The king is lavishing the national wealth on members of the royal family while ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, resulting in widespread resentment.
Saudi Arabia should focus on improving the lot of its own people instead of invading other countries.
The Arab spring of 2011 has arrived, and the rulers of Saudi Arabia must realize that even vast wealth cannot stop the changing of the seasons.