By M D Nalapat
Removal of the Crown Prince from power would be a catastrophe for Saudi Arabia.
That hundreds of thousands of innocents have died in wars launched by NATO during just the present century is accepted as fact, as has been the rendition by the US of several terror suspects to countries severely injurious to the health of those sent there through such processes. However, once an individual becomes a columnist for the Washington Post, the DC Beltway assumes him or her to be an exemplar of liberal values, and it reveals a gap in the planning of Al Qaeda that the organisation did not seek to somehow get Osama bin Laden installed as a columnist for that venerable (and it must be admitted, eminently readable) newspaper. Had it done so, the ageing fanatic may have secured a tenured post on the Harvard faculty as an expert on the sociopathology of violence, rather than get his existence snuffed out by a frenetic bunch of SEALS at Abbottabad, a location that the Al Qaeda chieftain clearly felt safe in. The facts are that Jamal Khashoggi is (or was) a cold-blooded Wahhabi ideologue. The followers of Abdul Wahhab inculcated a century ago the conviction within substantial segments of the Arab population that the Sufi Turks were infidels and therefore worthy not of respect, but of instant annihilation. With the consolidation of power by President Recep Erdogan, Wahhabism has replaced Sufism as the de facto official theology of the Turkish state, a change that must have made Khashoggi feel very much at ease in a context where his own country, Saudi Arabia, is moving away from Wahhabism into the gentle and compassionate creed revealed through the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,500 years ago. Prince Turki, the royal patron of the Saudi Washington Post columnist, is known for his generous backing of groups across the Middle East that regard the beheading of Christians and Shias as the surest path to paradise. All such activities took place under the approving guidance of Khashoggi, who called for retribution in Libya and Syria to those regarded as apostates by Wahhabis (i.e. those who sheltered rather than executed Shias and Christians). Ever since the oil price hikes of the 1970s, the Wahhabi International has been gifted hundreds of billions of dollars, especially by Al Sauds such as Prince Turki. Some of that money went into the pockets of scholars, media persons, politicians and officials in the more prominent member states of NATO, principally the US and the UK. This extensive and well funded network has now been activated to ensure that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) of Saudi Arabia get weakened enough to be removed from his current job. The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, after he was spotted entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, has become the trigger for a frenzy of lobbying from the many who have over the years fed at the trough of Wahhabi generosity to seek the downfall of the Saudi Crown Prince, who is the successor to King Salman.
Khashoggi was working along with some members of the Saudi Royal Family to oust the Crown Prince, and was active in the dissemination of lurid information about the Crown Prince, who is the first member of the Al Saud family to recognise the existential danger posed to his country by Wahhabis and work to eliminate their influence in the way General Al Sisi (another target of the Washington Post) has carried out against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brotherhood makes little secret of the fact that it promotes religious supremacy, the “right” of Wahhabis to impose their control and preferences over the rest of society in any country run by them. Khashoggi must have seethed at, among other actions, the granting of permission by the UAE to set up a temple in that princely union. Were any other Post columnist to suggest that a church be set up anywhere in the Middle East, it is certain that the DC Beltway-certified Saudi exemplar of liberal values would have been horrified, indeed angered, at such effrontery. His passionate views on Israel are known to intimates, including President Erdogan, and it is a sore point with such minds that Crown Prince Muhammad has opened the door to normal relations between the country that hosts the holiest of Islamic sites and the tiny sliver of territory that is the only Jewish state in the world. Certainly the circumstances surrounding the case of the vanishing Wahhabi seem unsavoury. If Khashoggi was done in within the consulate, the amateurishness of the operation must be generating derisive laughter within the Russian FSB, Israel’s Mossad or the CIA. It would have been child’s play for a “double” with Khashoggi’s build to have ambled out of the consulate in a few hours’ time in his clothes, thereby providing Saudi officials with an alibi. Instead, surveillance cameras that have never malfunctioned in years suddenly went dark. All this is indeed an outrage, and possibly a crime. However, success for those seeking the removal of Crown Prince Muhammad from power would be a catastrophe for Saudi Arabia.
The only way that country with its youthful population can face a future in which Saudi oil will earn a smaller and smaller premium would be to develop the Kingdom as a knowledge and innovation hub, something possible given the natural talent of the Arab mind. The fetters placed on Saudi society by Wahhabis need to be taken off, and this is what the Crown Prince is doing at considerable personal risk. Jamal Khashoggi was engaged in a coup attempt against MbS, an effort covertly funded by a few members of the Al Saud family, who seek thereby to ensure that Wahhabism remains all-powerful in their very consequential country. This plan has not yet succeeded, but the hubbub around the disappearance of the Wahhabi columnist is being fuelled to ensure that public opinion in the US and within the EU impels politicians there to work towards the ouster of the Crown Prince. Any reversal of the MbS-led effort now taking place within Saudi Arabia to de-Wahhabise the country would have harmful consequences for global security. The Crown Prince is clearly no saint, as some of the materials about him that have been passed around by Khashoggi demonstrate. But Muhammad bin Salman’s continuance in his present office and an avoidance of dilution of his internal authority are needed for success in the ongoing effort within Saudi Arabia to end that country’s role as a prime mover in the spread of the Wahhabi International and the numerous side-effects of such growth. The “baby” of de-Wahhabisation should not be thrown away with the “bathwater” of longstanding and regrettable Saudi tactics against those openly working to overthrow a Saudi King or Crown Prince.