Can the Saudi army crush her spirit?
“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world….” The Beatles
“Mr. Maskati is a 24-year-old human rights activist who not long ago felt so close to achieving Egypt’s kind of peaceful revolution, through a dogged commitment to nonviolence. Then the Saudi tanks rolled into Bahrain, and protesters came under attack, the full might of the state hammering at unarmed civilians. “We thought it would work,” Mr. Maskati said, his voice soft with depression, yet edged with anger. “But now, the aggression is too much. Now it’s not about the protest anymore, it’s about self-defense.” The Arab Spring is not necessarily over, but it has run up against dictators willing to use lethal force to preserve their power……At first, they seemed an unstoppable force, driven by the power of demographics — about 60 percent of the population across the Arab world is under the age of 30………”
It is now clear that the forces of Arab despotism and reaction have recovered from the initial shock of the revolution and have regrouped. The revolution seemed to cut through the decrepit old Arab system like a knife through rancid butter, moving from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Bahrain to Libya and beyond (perhaps to Saudi Arabia). Now the revolution has stalled in the desert of Libya and in the burned and bloody streets of occupied Bahrain. In Libya, Qaddafi has redeployed his oil money and his Western weapons and may have bought himself a reprieve. In Bahrain the people were on the verge of defeating their despotic rulers, when U.S officials started visiting with more frequency just before Saudi arms intervened by invading the country and occupying it.
The Saudi strategy for defeating the Arab spring is simple: to co-opt it in North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya) with money and through Western allies, and to crush it by force and genocide in Bahrain and the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is getting bloodier as the dictator clings to his capital city.
The Saudi invasion of Bahrain, aided by the United Arab Emirates as a baggage carrier, came only a few hours after the US Defense Secretary left Bahrain, possibly with Jeffrey Feltman still in Manama. Or maybe not: Feltman has visited the island several times in only a few weeks and is becoming gradually known in our region as a Shi’a-baiter to a Wahhabi degree (you’d think he is running the al-Khalifa campaign the way he runs the right-wing March 14 campaign in Lebanon, or that he is running for office over there).
In any case, Saudi money has bought the king (formerly emir) of Bahrain to such a degree that he has invited them in to occupy the country and subjugate its people. A king inviting a Wahhabi force to subjugate his largely Shi’a people: it is like inviting Nazis into a Jewish neighborhood. But Saudi money will not subjugate a country like Egypt the way it did under the stagnant Mubarak. It may rob the revolution of some of its gains if the Egyptian people are not careful. Saudi money and force will not subjugate the people of Bahrain for long either; they barely escaped their last intervention in Yemen. Besides, they will probably have more fires to put out at home in the coming months.
As for the West: well, how many ways can one spell ‘hypocrisy’? The West was eager to keep the old order in North Africa until it was too late. Now they are eager to take on Qaddafi. In Bahrain, where people are being killed and displaced by a corrupt kleptocratic regime, the West is largely turning a blind eye with a soft unconvincing “Oh, you shouldn’t!” No doubt dreaming of huge weapons deal from the al-Saud and al-Nahayan clans.