Saudi Succession Threat

Saudi Succession Threat

By Ryan Mauro On December 21, 2010 @ 12:10 am In FrontPage | 16

Saudi Arabia has been a part-time
ally of the U.S., crushing Al-Qaeda
terrorists trying to overthrow the Royal Family in its own territory but
promoting radical Islam outside of it. The U.S. has made the largest
arms sale in history to the Saudis but these weapons could end up in dangerous
hands, especially if Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
becomes king.

King Abdullah
is 86 years old and in poor health. His designated successor, Crown Prince
Sultan, is 82 and widely thought to have cancer. Aware that he and his
successor could die in a short period of time, King Abdullah made Prince Nayef
the Second Deputy Prime Minister in March of 2009, a position which is viewed as being the slot
just below the successor. A cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh released by WikiLeaks
is dated May 2009 and reports
[1] that “Crown Prince Sultan has been incapacitated by illness for
at least (the) past year.” This means that Prince Nayef effectively becomes the
king when Abdullah passes.

Prince Nayef
is already extremely powerful. As Interior Minister, he oversees the security
forces including the religious police that enforce the Sharia law on the
country. He is also the chairman of the Supreme Committee on the Hajj, making
him the manager of the most important trip for Muslims all around the world. He
also exercises power over foreign policy, such as by leading [2] the delegation to the Gulf Cooperation
Council summit this month.

Nayef is
understood to be an ally of the Wahhabist clerics and an opponent of the more
reform-minded elements of the Royal Family like King Abdullah. His role in
promoting extremism is so deep that in 2003, Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter [3] to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. requesting that Nayef
be sacked because of his “well-documented history of suborning terrorist
financing and ignoring the evidence when it comes to investigating terrorist
attacks on Americans.”

According to
former CIA case officer Robert Baer’s book, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi
Nayef bluntly said shortly after the 9/11
attacks that “the great power that controls the earth, now is an enemy of Arabs
and Muslims.” He was also the head of the Saudi Committee for Support of the
Al-Quds Intifada and told [5] a Saudi newspaper on November 29, 2002 that “It is impossible that 19 youths carried
out the operation of September 11, or that Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda did that
alone…I think [the Zionists] are behind these events.” In May 2004, he reiterated
[6] this belief, saying “Al-Qaeda is backed by Israel and Zionism.”

In his
capacity as Interior Minister, Nayef has ruled with an iron fist. He is known
to jail activists for reform and has power over the clergy that regularly spews
radical Islamic doctrine. He is thought to be the one behind raids by the
religious police on shopping malls, resorts and other institutions that are
viewed as promoting moral corruption. On the other hand, there are some
encouraging things about Nayef. If for no other reason than self-preservation,
he has been effective in combating Al-Qaeda elements in the country. In
November 2002, he said
[7] “All our problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood.” And in
October 2008, he slammed [8] the clergy for not combating extremism,
saying “the imams have failed miserably.”

This limited
and self-serving support should not be mistaken for a genuine commitment
against terrorism and radical Islam as a whole. As a cable from Secretary of
State Clinton from December 30, 2009 states, [9] “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most
significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” She complains,
“It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat
terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic
priority.” This supply line could certainly be severed if Nayef wished.

Nayef’s past raises the question of what a Saudi
Arabia under King Nayef will act like. Dr.
Ali H. Alyami, the Executive Director of the Center for
Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
[10], doesn’t
expect any changes to the relationship with the U.S

“No matter
what king rules Saudi Arabia, he will be obliged to
maintain close ties to the West, especially the U.S. Regardless of the Saudi
royals’ overt complaints and criticism of the U.S. and its policies, they
don’t trust any other country to protect them and defend their country,” Dr.
Alyami told FrontPage. He said that there is an increasing desire for freedom
and the U.S. preservation of ties
with the Royal Family at the people’s expense is causing anti-Americanism.

Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism [11], agreed that
there is a “conflict between the younger generation seeking reform and the
Wahhabi clerics.” He told FrontPage that Nayef’s ascent to the position of king
could spark “serious social upheaval” because of his opposition to reform and
hardline views. He also said that it is “probable” that Nayef would roll back
or eliminate current Saudi anti-terrorism programs.

“Nayef is an
extreme Wahhabi and it is hard to imagine his fanatical support for that
doctrine decreasing,” Schwartz said. “Saudi Arabia has ‘exported’
Al-Qaeda to Yemen. Nayef would likely
bring them home.”

Former CIA
case officer also foresees an increase in support for Wahhabism.

“One thing we
can count on is a resuming of funding to Wahhabists—the takfiris and the
attendant Sunni terrorism. It is taken as a fact among Arab governments that
Nayef is currently funding the takfiris in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as places
like Iranian Baluchistan,” Baer told FrontPage.

The sale of
$60 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia must not be done just
with King Abdullah or Iran in mind. It seems
likely that Prince Nayef will become king and as he promotes Wahhabism and
staffs his regime, groups like Al-Qaeda and other extremists will have a
growing number of sympathizers in the Saudi government and military. The U.S. must be aware that by
arming today’s part-time friend it may be arming tomorrow’s enemy.

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