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Apr 25, 2005 3:10 pm


Democracy and Saudi Arabia



I've had a lot to say about Saudi Arabia, and about the Bush administration's Adventures in Mideast Democracy.

Well, in Episode #2,345 of this Quixotic Political Saga, the Saudi royal family, which has been a trusted US"ally,""has been under pressure from Washington to engage in political reform at a time of social tension and a two-year campaign against the state by militants associated with al-Qaeda." Today, the news tells us:

Candidates on an alleged"golden list" backed by religious clerics have swept the final round of Saudi Arabia's first nationwide municipal elections. Islamist candidates won all the municipal council seats contested in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. They also fared well in northern towns as well as the comparatively liberal port of Jeddah, according to results released on Saturday. Women were barred from the polls, which were presented as a step towards more popular participation in public life.

Of course, the regime itself will pick"roughly half" of 1,200 councillors, which might"dilute" the power of Islamicists. Not that the Saudi regime is all that liberal by comparison. After all, this election news comes on the heels of another news story that the Saudis had detained 40 Pakistani Christians who were caught"attending a service in Riyadh" in a private home. The police also found (horrors!!)"Christian tapes and books." Since one cannot practice any religion other than Islam in Saudi Arabia, this is a crime, in case you were wondering.

I get exhausted pointing out the obvious. This is a regime that is allegedly a"friend" of the United States government. Let's put aside the prospects for democracy among"unfriendly" regimes. Of what use is procedural"democracy" when a"friendly" regime schools its citizens in a fanatical ideology of intolerance, when it marginalizes and criminalizes women, non-Muslims, and freedom itself? Of what use is"democracy" when the dominant culture would bring about a political condition that might make the current Saudi regime appear"moderate" by comparison?

Cross-posted to Notablog.

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More Comments:


William Marina - 4/27/2005

For a cartel to function, at least one of the entities has to be willing to give up a competitive market share. The Saudis have been willing to do this since the early 1970s. 'Nuff said!


Brian Radzinsky - 4/26/2005

The Saudi regime is no friend of the US in on-face terms. Rather it's more of a crony, a regime established and protected by the US to gain access to its plentiful deposits of black gold. The House of Saud is right to insist that without US protection its regime will fall to regimes <em>more</em> extremist then they. It's no democracy in any sense of the word. In fact it can be said to be the opposite, demanding nothing of its citzens in exchange for nothing but oppression.

The sad truth is that the US has no use for Saudi Arabia other than to use them as a spigot to keep up our state-sponsored economy of the gas pump. The moment oil ceases to be Saudi Arabia's dominant export is the moment when then Saudi government loses its lifeblood. It's at that moment that true civic stability can begin to emerge.

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