Michael Burleigh On Why Saudi Arabia Is In More Peril Than It Has Been For Years; And Why Kingdom Is Covertly Cooperating With Israel, And A Likely Has An Under The Table Nuclear Deal With Pakistan
Michael Burleigh, writing in the January 23, 2015 edition of London’s, The Daily Mail, warns that the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, “comes at a time when the Desert Kingdom, a key ally of the West, looks more vulnerable than it has for years, in the Middle East struggling to cope with plummeting oil prices, rekindled sectarian hatreds, and terrifying jihadist violence.” Mr. Burleigh paints a very sobering picture of the sate of things with respect to Saudi Arabia; and, the frightening potential of a nuclear Iran, dominant throughout the Persian Gulf region.
According to Mr. Burleigh’s Wikipedia biography, “he was awarded a first class honors degree in Medieval and Modern History, from the University College London. After receiving a Ph.D. in medieval history in 1982, he went on to hold posts at New College, Oxford, the London School of Economics, and the University of Cardiff , where he was a Distinguished Research Professor in Modern History. Among his many literary accomplishments, Mr. Burleigh won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2001 (The Third Reich: A New History); and frequently writes for The London Sunday Times, The London Daily Mail, and the London Daily Telegraph.
“In the arcane succession process of the Saudi Royal family, power has passed to Abdullah’s 79yr.-old half brother, Crown Prince Salman. But, Salman is himself unwell,” Mr. Burleigh writes, “and suffering from dementia. There is already speculation about his successor — and, this only adds to the sense of apprehension, and uncertainty.”
The greatest worry is not about the collapsing price of oil, Mr. Burleigh contends; but, “how any new ruler would react to the escalating tension in the Middle East — caused by the rise of the Islamic State and other extremists groups — and, by the increasing influence of Saudi Arabia’s mortal enemy — Iran.”
Saudi Arabia is the “custodian of the two most holiest places in the Sunni branch of Islam, Mecca, and Medina, where the devout make a pilgrimage of a lifetime called the hajj (and where the facilities, incidentally were built by the billionaire bin Laden construction empire, one of whom was the former al Qaeda leader). Given such an influential role in Sunni Islam — as opposed to the Shia branch of the faith followed by Iran’s government — the Saudi Royal family is in many ways beholden to the strictly authoritarian Sunni clergy, that exert huge influence in the country. Indeed,” Mr. Burleigh argues, “Saudi Arabia’s very survival rests on a perverse compact with these ferociously conservative ‘Wahhabi’ clerics.” “The Kingdom not only pays the clergy’s salaries; but, has also allowed them to become increasingly dictatorial.”
“In return [for the Kingdom paying their generous salaries],” Mr. Burleigh writes, “the clerics turn a blind eye to the many excesses of the royal family. It is not uncommon,” for example, “to find Saudi Princes availing themselves of forbidden alcohol and prostitutes, outside the Kingdom, without any sanction from the religious radicals back home. To keep the clerics sweet,” Mr. Burleigh wrote, “the Saudi dynasty has funded the global diffusion of this benighted version of Islam, mainly for paying for madrassa-style establishments where children learn the Koran by rote — hatred if Christians, Jews, and Shia; and, almost nothing that might fit them for life in the modern world.”
“From northern Nigeria, to north-west Pakistan, and many other countries besides, these Saudi-backed schools have shaped the bed from which brainwashed, ready-made terrorists have been recruited to such organizations as Boko Haram, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State. We must never forget either,” Mr. Burleigh emphasizes, “that 15 of the 19, 9/11 hijackers, were Saudi nationals.”
‘Saudi Arabia Today — Is In Real Peril’
“Saudi Arabia today, is in real peril,” Mr. Burleigh argues. “Sandwiched between an aggressive Islamic State in the north, and al Qaeda as well as the Saudi’s Shia enemies in Yemen, to the south. A week ago, the Kingdom suffered its first cross-border incursion from Iraq, which resulted in the death of a police general, following hard on an Islamic State bomb attack (on the officially persecuted) Shia minority in the oil rich eastern province.” The Kingdom has now decided to build a 650-mile complex of fences, with watchtowers, sensors, and mobile patrols, to keep the Islamic State away,” something I wrote about and posted on this past week.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, Mr. Burleigh notes, the “Shia Houthi rebels have finally taken over the capital area, Sanaa, ejecting the President who the Saudis have spent $4B in trying to keep in place. The Shia Houthis are clients of Iran, which already has a de facto client in power in the parts of Iraq controlled by Baghdad. This is a nightmare for Saudi Arabia, since it means being ringed by Sunni terrorists, who loathe the royal family, and by allies of Iran, whose revolutionary regime Riyadh fears most of all. The Saudis have also watched in horror, as the U.S. shifts its position away from outright hostility to Syria’s, Shia-supporting President Bashar al-Assad, to a point where it now regards him as a useful partner in combatting the Islamic State. “Worst of all,” Mr. Burleigh says, “the Saudis fear the U.S. is reorienting itself towards a grand rapprochement with Tehran, which could be cemented by a nuclear deal that leaves Iran with the ability to make a nuclear bomb — relatively quickly.”
Saudis So Fearful, They Have Increased Covert Cooperation With Israel; And Have Probably Done A Deal With Pakistan — To Get Their Own, Off-The-Shelf Nuclear Warheads To Fit On Chinese Supplied Ballistic Missiles
“So fearful are the Saudis,” Mr. Burleigh warns, “that they have increased their covert cooperation with their own arch-enemy, Israel, and have probably done a deal with Pakistan, to get their own, off-the-shelf nuclear warheads to fit on Chinese supplied ballistic missiles. WikiLeaks cables have revealed that the Saudis have repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran — to put an end to its nuclear weapons program.”
“Domestically,” the Kingdom faces problems as well. “About half the population is under the age of 25, there are no where near enough meaningful jobs for young Saudis, and the decision to allow Saudi warplanes to join the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, is deeply unpopular.”
“These are the shifting sands with which the 79-yr. old King Salman must contend,” Mr. Burleigh concludes. “His dementia means the appointment of a Crown Prince to shadow him is vitally important, and various factions among a total of 7,000 Saudi princes are already on maneuvers trying to influence the succession. In the meantime, a deeply concerned West can only look on from the sidelines.”
Covert Cooperation With Israel, As Well As An Under The Table Nuclear Agreement With Pakistan Are Likely Both Ongoing
Mr. Burleigh’s observations that the Kingdom has likely stepped up covert cooperation with Israel; and, made a secret nuclear deal with Pakistan — are not new theories. The Saudis have long been suspected of having some type of covert intelligence sharing with Israel; and, the suggestion that Riyadh and Islamabad have some kind of handshake with respect to nuclear weapons — has long been rumored.
In December 2013, The Hacker New’s, Swati Khandelwal reported in a Dec. 3 online article that “representatives from Israel’s Mossad and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan Abdulaziz al Saud met in Vienna, Austria on November 24, 2013 in the aftermath of learning the details of the Iran nuclear deal. The two sides reportedly agreed to increase intelligence sharing and spying on Iran’s nuclear program, as well as providing $1M in funding the development of a Super Stuxnet cyber virus aimed at destroying Tehran’s nuclear IT/software infrastructure.”
And, this week, a veteran Israeli defense writer said that Saudi Arabia may have provided Israel’s Mossad with intelligence regarding the presence of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard General officer in the convoy with Hezbollah operatives that was taken out by an Israeli airstrike in Syria last weekend.
With respect to nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, David Albright, the President of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector, has previously written that “the Saudis are thinking through how do you create a deterrent through capability.” Mr. Albright said he has heard concerns expressed by a European intelligence agency that Saudi Arabia in recent years has quietly been developing the engineering and scientific knowledge base to one day master the nuclear fuel cycle, or produce the fuel indigenously for the reactors it’s trying to build. He said Saudi Arabia was hiring the scientists and engineers needed to build the cascades of centrifuges needed to produce nuclear fuel. “We don’t worry about the Saudis learning to operate a reactor,” he said. “I worry that they will learn the skills needed to master the fuel cycle.”
Late in 2013, the BBC reported that Saudi Arabia invested heavily in the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and could easily acquire nuclear technology or even weaponry if the Iranians cross a threshold. Albright, however, said he did not think Saudi Arabia would likely try to acquire a weapon from Pakistan.” But, maybe if they can have some kind of nuclear assurance from Pakistan — they may not physically need to possess the weapon. Course, if you are Riyadh, you could never be totally sure the Pakistani’s would follow through. V/R, RCP