Friday, January 05, 2007

A Saudi "liberal" recants

Arabs in the liberal and even Iran-leaning camps have been warning about fallout from the Saddam execution, for instance Fahmy Howeidy wrote that it is important for Iran to explain clearly what its position is in Iraq so that if some of the rumors aren't true they can be countered; and for another instance leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan are worried about American or sectarian exploitation of any critical remarks they might make about the Iranian position in Iraq.

Somewhat in the same vein but more starkly, here is a Saudi writer by the name of Ali Saad al-Musa, who explicitly singles himself out as a liberal, and and says what he hears and sees on his mobile phone from the execution chamber has caused him to revise his views entirely. Here is part of what he wrote today in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan:
The bluetooth [messaging devices] we carry around in our pockets remind us of the disgraceful sectarian slogans [that were chanted] at the moment when Saddam fell to the rope, and I have to ask, doesn't this require us to revise our neutrality with respect to the Safavid-sectarian play [in Iraq]? I know this is a provocative thing to ask for someone like me who is counted in the ranks of the liberals, but still I have to invite the question: Didn't those sectarian slogans really cause a change in [that kind of] classification, and after today can we still take the same position of tolerance and flexibility?
Al-Musa says he has a whole list of further questions, dangerous, he calls them, and he fears bringing them up all at once, but he will raise them little by little as time goes by. For now, he says, addressing the bluetooth message: "Thank you, you have removed the veil".

The veil was "democracy". Here is how Al-Musa puts it:
I admit that I excessively celebrated democracy in the new Iraq, and I confess that I believed it was the ballot-box that brought about a Kurdish president, and a Shiite prime minister, and a president of parliament of the same sect. Until the astonishing record in the seating panorama for the enjoyment of the last supper on the eve of al-Adha, which was an astonishing record: Fifteen sectarians, and not a Sunni or a Kurd among them, except for one man who was brought in so that he could help with the shahada....
And with all that we can learn from the event, the seating, the chanting, the mobile-phone recordings, still there are those who say the whole thing was a coincidence.
And by the say (Al-Musa adds) this is a completely unrelated observation, no connection whatsoever to what we are talking about, but the UN said in a report yesterday than in the year just past, the country with the largest number of its people requesting political refugee status was Iraq.
And here Al-Musa drops his allusive, liberal-sounding style and before our very eyes takes on his new form and style.
And which sect do you suppose this is, (he writes in conclusion) if not the one that is targeted by the ugly tide from the East, which aims to separate them into thirds, one-third for extermination, one-third for relocation, and one-third to remain in servile submission. And here we see in a clear picture why they hurried the sacrifice [of Saddam]: The simple reason was to celebrate the victory which for them has been delayed for a thousand years; and [another] reason was to silence [Saddam] because his appearance in future court proceedings might have lifted the veil.


Anonymous Vladimir said...

Ok it seems that the Muslim Brotherhood which has been historically loyal to the Hashemites even backing the King when he allied with Saddam in Gulf War I is worried that the threat of Iran will be used by Sunni despots to crush Islamists who are the only ones who have been given any free space within the politcal framework of most Arab states. "Liberals" like the one you're quoting here seem to be part of the public campaign preparing the way for the coming crackdown.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vladimir Its seems you know nothing about the middle east ?

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latent, or not so latent "ugly tide from the East", Saddams execution/martyrdom is a beacon call to arms, or dancing to americas fiddle music.

anna missed

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've probably read it but here's Marc Lynch:
"It's very, very interesting that a big chunk of the Arab media and political discourse is currently venting its anger over the nature of the Saddam execution against Iran. What began as calculated sectarian anger with the Iraqi government, the Sadrists, or Iraqi Shia has quickly - and largely without explanation - morphed into anger with Iran.

...This perfectly serves the interests of the Saudi/Egyptian/Jordanian axis of pro-American dictators moderates which has been pushing the "Shia threat" at every opportunity this past year. Their main interest in this has been to prepare the ground for a possible confrontation with Iran, and to check growing popular interest in Iran; their secondary (but very important) interest has been to undermine popular support for Hezbollah after last summer's war. Both comfortably align with American interests as understood by the Bush administration, of course, which is convenient. Much of the pushback against this growing sectarian "fitna" is coming from those casting it as an American agenda to be resisted - in essence recreating the partisan lines which divided the Arab world for the first week and a half (at least) of the Hezbollah-Israel war. "


1:11 PM  
Blogger badger said...

right, or as anna missed puts it, this plays out with much dancing to america's fiddle music. The only thing I would quibble about in ML's post is whether the opposition "morphed" into anti-Iranian sentiment, or whether what "morphed" is our understanding and appreciation for the underlying fear-of-Iran raw materials in the Arab world. Actually it was in a much earlier post where a commenter noted (as I interpreted his remarks) that anything that smacks of racism/xenophobia or anything like that is something that we hate so much that we turn the other way and we don't see it, until we're faced with it in a crisis. I think there might be some of that going on here.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous GJ said...

The Iran "phobia" came to the surface after the US congressional elections faced the Saudis and Sunnis with the real prospect of an American withdrawal from Iraq.

Also, I suggest the Sunni Arab states fear of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons should not be underestimated?

10:45 PM  

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