Over the last two decades the Western World has rolled into the middle east again and again, each time with some high and noble intention. To overthrow a Tyrant, to capture weapons of mass destruction, to bring Democracy, to protect oppressed minorities.
Tyrants who had been running police states where people were killed and tortured regularly for the crime of speaking out against the regime have faced opposition, political action and finally tanks and bombs. Libya is a battleground controlled by warlords, Syria is a battleground controlled by extremist fanatics who are worse than the Tyrant the West wanted overthrown when it armed and funded the extremists. Iraq is hardly a shining beacon of democracy and its expensively trained and equipped army ran away leaving vast quantities of US weapons and equipment for ISIS to take and use.
But there is one major Middle Eastern Tyranny that the west does not oppose, a nation where those who dare to oppose the oppressive regime in charge vanish, are tortured or simply publicly killed. A nation that operates under a system that is the very opposite of democracy, a nation where women may not vote or drive or own property and in fact are treated as property, a nation that practices religious intolerance, treats its foreign workforce like slaves all to often and which does not even bother paying lip service to free speech or freedom.
For those who haven’t worked it out yet I am talking about Saudi Arabia.
Last Friday something happened that barely made the news, the mainstream media didn't bother to cover it, only online could you find it mentioned.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tyranny, police state, religiously justified terror state, decided NOT to flog a man publicly on medical advice. Or more correctly not flog him again.
Raif Badawi is a young blogger whose online activities were seen as opposing the Feudal Tyranny of his home nation, he was accused of insulting Islam which is the usual charge, found guilty and sentenced to a decade in prison and 1000 lashes, that is ONE THOUSAND LASHES. Fifty a week after Friday prayers so the faithful could finish their weekly indoctrination and come out to enjoy the spectacle of a non believer being tortured.
The sentence started the week before last in a public square usually used to carry out the public executions that happen more than once a week.
Last week he was not dragged out to be tortured for the amusement of the baying crowd, the official explanation was on medical advice from doctors. Was this the result of online and behind the scenes activity to stop this barbaric practice, perhaps, perhaps not, after all the Saudi’s beheaded a woman a few days ago which most of our media also ignored.
So why does this backward barbarian kingdom get away with the same sort of behavior that led to western calls to crush other tyrants and terrorist funders?
Saudi Arabia has influence far beyond its size and power for three reasons.
Firstly it is the 'KEY' western and US ally in the area and is seen as a force for stability in a fractious region AND a bulwark against IRAN which is allied to Russia. This is very much a cold war hangover for the west that tended to ignore the reality of Shia / Sunni hatred and war.
Secondly Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading provider of oil and gas (both itself and through its control over OPEC) allows the kingdom to pressure anyone, oil shortage, gas supply a bit slow etc.
Three all that oil money makes them fabulously rich and they have been using this money not just to pay lobbyists and buy assets but also to fund and support projects the US is in favour of such as arming groups to fight Assad.
Now why I think this is changing (I hope).
Firstly While the west is still in a cold war with Russia and while Iran is an ally of Russia the realities in the region are slowly seeping through to even the most blinkered and conservative US politician. The wheel has turned a lot and it’s no longer Iranian sponsored terrorists attacking the west, instead it is Saudi sponsored ones who are either still being funded or who are now out of control overthrowing vast areas, launching attacks across the world and causing the problems while Iran is being seen now as a potential ally and friend of Iraq in the war against ISIS / IS.
9/11 was funded by money that came from the kingdom.
That the US is even speculating about working with Iran is a huge change from a few years ago when the speculation was on bombing them to destroy the nuke program.
The Saudis have been very reluctant to move against or even verbally oppose ISIS / IS. While the West is gathering support against the self called Caliphate the Saudi's are keeping silent which is being noticed.
If the US doesn't want or need a military ally to oppose Iran and comes to see that the Saudi's are NOT a force for stability in the region but are in fact the very opposite, then the need to support the Kingdom vanishes and it starts to look like just another bunch of Savage Tyrants oppressing the people.
Secondly Lots of oil and gas now outside of the middle east and outside of OPEC. The US is capable of exporting rather than importing, Europe is stuck between the rock and hard place and more or less force to choose between Russian oil and gas or Saudi.
China is all over the world 'helping' oil rich countries trying to develop its own supplies. So essentially three of the four power blocks are either now or looking to soon become independent. Just Europe left going cap in hand to the king of Saud.
The loss of influence and power may be starting to be noticed, remember the official Saudi statement that they are not in control of oil prices anymore.
Alternative power sources are becoming more capable, science and technology is challenging the dominance of oil and gas. Those nations whose wealth is based on supplying what is steadily becoming a smaller and smaller market will start to lose that wealth and with it their control on the world stage.
Which brings us to the Third point. All that money being spent. Lobbyists, buildings, campaign contributions, school books, building projects etc.
Problem is that we live in the 21st century, the main stream media may be quiet but the alternate and online media isn't. Does anyone have the time to find out who owns the buildings some of our major media rent? Anyway we see what looks like corruption, our politicians don't lie us seeing that and anyway as the Saudi influence wanes (see above) the risk becomes more than it’s worth.
Those mosques do seem to become hotbeds of trouble, those free school books seem to edit history in ways people are noticing. The Saudi export of extreme interpretation of faith is also seen and commented on. The US asked the princes and kings to fund and train what became ISIS / IS but at the same time the funds somehow went to the most extreme groups, those who followed Saudi ideals of the faith. That worked well.
Saudi Arabia is a very small and weak nation that by an accident of history ended up sitting on fabulous wealth, they have been using that wealth to buy a place among the world powers and gained a lot in return. Things seem to be changing though.
I have covered some of the international reasons why above, but friends who know the region tell me that significant parts of the local population are at odds with the tyranny and religiously inspired intolerance. Saudi's who have been educated in the West and been exposed to Western freedoms are not happy with the way things are at home. An entire generation is growing up having seen life outside of the grip of the Tyrant.
At present though it comes down to which does the King and his government fear the most, internal rebellion or loss of external influence.
I think they are more afraid of losing their place on the world stage, they seem to think they can use terror to keep their own population in line hence the lashes for blogging and the very public death sentences for anyone who speaks out against them.
Internally we are not seeing tanks and troops on the streets so the King seems to think he is still in control and sadly reports of crowds bringing their children to see a man being tortured for the crime of expressing an opinion says that religious indoctrination and hence loyalty to the ruling class is still strong in the population.
As long as the West continues to support the Barbarians who run the Kingdom, as long as our governments turn a blind eye to savage and cruel behavior that would not be tolerated in any nation worthy of being called civilized then the King and the royal family will remain in power.
Sadly I don't see the situation changing anytime soon or in any way that is easy and avoids bloodshed. The west has to move away from blindly supporting the tyrant before anything can happen and that will most likely take time.
But that would require our political leaders to care about something other than their own pockets.