Saudi Arabia is at the focus of experts’ attention after police broke up a Shiite rally in the east of the country and the authorities banned any demonstrations. Western analysts quickly listed Saudi Arabia as a country to witness the next revolution amid local publications defaming the Royal Family. All analysts are unanimous, however, that the West would not welcome destabilization in a country which is widely seen as the US’ major partner in the volatile region.
While Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were swept by riots and the authorities in Bahrain and Yemen struggled to pacify the opposition, Saudi Arabia remained an island of stability. The government precluded social unrest by announcing a 35-billion-dollar increase in social spending. And a member of the ruling family, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, issued a statement saying that King Abdullah should expand political rights and freedoms. But the measures proved useless against the critics who continued to slam the regime in the Internet on shakwa.net, encouraging critical publications in the western press. Guided by WikiLeaks files, the Reuter news agency accused members of the royal family in corruption. Vladimir Isayev, an expert from the Oriental Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes, however, that ruining relations with Saudi Arabia does not meet the western agenda.
Saudi Arabia is a top buyer of US weapons and a major oil supplier to the US. American armed forces are monitoring the situation in the country from a number of bases on the territory of Saudi Arabia and Saudi leaders have been cooperating with the US on a whole range of issues. Washington is unlikely to challenge its number one partner in the Arab world.
After a Shiite rally in the east the Saudi government banned any demonstrations. The Shiites say, however, that will take to the streets again. Vladimir Isayev says that revolutionary moods are instigated by Iran.
Iran has been trying hard to increase its clout over Shiite communities across the globe. Shiites make up a minority in Saudi Arabia. An attempt of ten to twelve years ago to capture a mosque in Mecca was sponsored by Iran.
The clergy pledged support for the royal family saying that mass protests are at odds with Islamic tradition. In this respect, experts hope that Saudi authorities will manage to keep the situation under control.
The flop of Friday’s rally proves that. “Day of wrath” rallies which were to have taken place across Riyadh after Friday prayers were attended by only one person.