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Isolated Abroad, Hated At Home: House of Saud Faces Uncertain Future

The House of Saud, which numbers upwards of 20,000 people and has had the kingdom in its grip since the 1920s, is held in suspicion by nearly everyone who is not a member of it.

For the moment, the monarchy remains in almost complete control. Nearly every senior government post is held by a prince of the family. They control most of the ministries. But many of the younger princes are frustrated with the older generation, whom they consider sclerotic, corrupt and slavish to the United States and its interests, despite the withdrawal of American troops from Saudi soil, ending a presence that began after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.

"If an election were held today ... Osama bin Laden would be elected in a landslide," Robert Baer, a former CIA field director and author of The Fall of the House of Saud, has suggested. "Saudi oil is controlled by an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional, and out-of-touch royal family that is hated by the people it rules and by the nations that surround its kingdom."
Isolated abroad, hated at home: House of Saud faces uncertain future

By David Usborne in New York
01 June 2004


When the terrorists who have identified themselves as members of al-Qa'ida took their hostages in Khobar last weekend, they were meticulous in choosing their targets. Muslims were allowed to leave; only foreign "infidels" were held and some were killed.

But the killers had another target: the ruling royal family. The House of Saud, which numbers upwards of 20,000 people and has had the kingdom in its grip since the 1920s, is held in suspicion by nearly everyone who is not a member of it. Even the Americans have rumbled its failures in combating terrorism since September 2001.

But more important is the hatred of the ruling clan among many Saudis, who are denied anything approaching democracy. They consider the family corrupt and to a large degree, infirm. King Fahd is incapacitated since suffering a stroke in 1995. The regent, Crown Prince Abdullah, who represents Saudi Arabia abroad and essentially rules it, is almost 80.

The monarchy remains in almost complete control. Nearly every senior government post is held by a prince of the family. They control most of the ministries. The Interior Minster, Prince Nayef Abdul Aziz, belongs to the family. So does Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister. Even ambassadors abroad are royalty, including Prince Turki al-Faisal, the ambassador in London who, until 2001, was head of the Department of General Intelligence. Prince Bandar is the country's envoy in Washington.

But the House of Saud faces multiple threats. Many of the younger princes are frustrated with the older generation, whom they consider sclerotic, corrupt and slavish to the United States and its interests, despite the withdrawal of American troops from Saudi soil, ending a presence that began after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.

And then there is the shadow of Osama bin Laden. A Saudi national and scion of a powerful business family, but not related to the royal family, he attracts support for his disdain for the rulers from across Saudi society and even in the younger ranks of the royal household. Bin Laden is the voice of those who believe that, as the land of Mohamed, Saudi Arabia should be an Islamic theocracy.

"If an election were held today ... Osama bin Laden would be elected in a landslide," Robert Baer, a former CIA field director and author of The Fall of the House of Saud, has suggested. "Saudi oil is controlled by an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional, and out-of-touch royal family that is hated by the people it rules and by the nations that surround its kingdom."

The monarchy has promised steps towards democracy, but little action has been taken. There are doubts that promises of elections in 14 municipalities this year will be honoured. This is a country that has been without electoral democracy for nearly a century and critics remain sceptical.

Saudi Arabia operates only by the skills of expatriates, most of them non-Muslim and Western. But the terrorists are instilling such fear that eventually every expatriate will flee. But when they are gone, who will keep Saudi Arabia working? And if it becomes dysfunctional, what will the House of Saud do?
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SEE ALSO:

'Liberating' Saudi's Shi'ites (And Their Oil)
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/03/283306.shtml

homepage: homepage: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=526960
address: address: The Independent

What next for Saudi oil? 01.Jun.2004 01:41

Lucy Jones

bbc: