The Saudi Regime Dodged a Bullet: Nasser’s Missed Great Chance…………


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                                             Neck of the woods

“In 1958 he wrote a proposed constitution for Saudi Arabia which would have created a constitutional monarchy and expanded civil rights. He began to assemble an elected advisory committee, but his ideas were rejected by the king, and religious leaders in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa declaring his constitution to be contrary to Islamic law. In 1961 the kingdom revoked his passport and attempted to silence him, but he expatriated to Egypt and declared himself a socialist. There, influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Talal continued to push for reform and criticise the leadership of the Kingdom. In 1964 Talal agreed to temper his criticisms in exchange for permission to reenter Saudi Arabia. He is now a successful businessman and prominent philanthropist. Though a senior member of Al Saud, his past political forays may have diluted any hopes of a future claim for the throne, though he denies it. Prince Talal resumed his push for reform in Saudi Arabia in September 2007, when he announced his desire to form a political party (illegal in Saudi Arabia) to advance his goal of liberalizing the country……………..”

The Egyptian media in the Nasserist era called them the “free princes”, a name similar to the Free Officers who overthrew the Egyptian monarchy in July of 1952. Talal and his supporters escaped to Egyptian exile for a few years, under the protection of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Of all the Arab regimes of the 1950s, the Saudi regime was the least endangered by the Nasserist tide. The secret was in the ‘people’: the Saudi people at that time were easily among the least educated and least open Arabs (possibly less than Oman or Yemen but it was a toss-up). They were also shackled then, as they are now, by the ideology of the Wahhabi sect which warns that disobedience to the ruler, no matter how corrupt he is, is a sacrilege and would send you to the “other” hell beyond the current Wahhabi hell. Maybe Nasser got too busy and did not try hard enough to overthrow the al-Saud dynasty. His involvement in Syria and Yemen probably distracted him. That was a pity: overthrowing the Saudi clan would certainly have been Nasser’s greatest gift to Arabs and Muslims.

As it happened, the plots and counter-plots continued in the House of Saud. In 1964 crown Prince Faisal plotted and succeeded in overthrowing his brother King Saud, who also went on to spend some time in Egyptian exile. The story does not end there: in 1975 King Faisal himself was shot and killed by one of his nephews. That nephew wanted to avenge the death of his father who had been killed during a previous uprising against the al-Saud regime. You can bet the farm that there are many plots and counter-plots these days among the princes of the ruling regime. There are fights over turf, eventual power, and money that rightfully belongs to the people.
Talal bin Abdelaziz is still a little bit of a rebel among the tight al-Saud princes. That is partly because he knows he has been passed for top jobs like Minister of Defense or Interior and that he has no chance of ever becoming crown prince or king. Yet being a prince, he is not doing too shabbily, nor is his son al-Waleed. With these people, liberalism goes only so far, they can mouth rhetoric about openness and moderation but they are as corrupt as the rest of them, and as despotic.