Overnight Modernization of Saudi Arabia Will not Work: Expert
International relations expert Fereidoun Majlesi believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman faces paradoxes in realizing his goals, domestic or extraterritorial, and thus cannot have much hope. According to Majlesi, bin Salman wants an Arab empire, of which other Arab states do not want to be a part. “Saudi Arabia is in a complicated situation. It is as if it has been thrown into the 21st century from the medieval ages with an emergency parachute,” Majlesi told Fararu in an interview published on Sunday.
Speaking about the recent cultural reforms launched in Saudi Arabia, he said many of the people, particularly those educated abroad, are inclined to adjust themselves to the new situation, but they are still carrying medieval characteristics with themselves. “You can’t easily change culture because it cannot be learned overnight. A cultural revolution is rooted in birth, childhood, upbringing, historical knowledge, and issues injected in one’s soul,” he explained.
“The Saudi Crown Prince has been educated abroad and knows English very well. However, he acts just like the kings and heirs of the medieval ages who massacred their family members. In fact, he is applying violence not only to strangers and subordinates, but also to his own blood,” Majlesi added.
Majlesi finds a photo of bin Salman recently published a symbol of his medieval behavior. In the photo, bin Salman is among members of the royal family, but the caption reads all have been arrested except Mohammad bin Salman. These arrestees are those who were before him in line for succession.
“Bin Salman practically became the crown prince with a coup and he is in another coup to prevent resistance and other future issues that may come up after his father’s death. Using a medieval method, he wants to push the society into the 21st century all at once. His target year is 2030, when, he claims, Saudi Arabia will be on the brink of a big civilization through wealth,” the analyst said.
Giving women the right to drive or become members of the country’s councils, Majlesi said, will force bin Salman to fight in several fronts. “On the one hand, he wants to propel the country quickly toward global development, which means a society like those of Europe or the United States. On the other hand, he views others arrogantly, which is inconsistent with civil requirements, and wants to rule like a dictator. Moreover, royal muftis of Saudi Arabia are used to speaking to please the king and maintain the classic, conservative conditions, at the same time,” Majlesi added, according to quotes published by Fararu.
“The aspiration of the progressive youths and women for cultural development is inconsistent with Saudi Arabia’s inclination toward royal dictatorship and the country’s elites will not throw support behind these ideas. A daeshite, bin-Ladenish, or Talibanite mindsets, encouraged by the teachings of Saudi muftis, are still popular in the society. It has taken years for a progressive group to emerge in the country but the majority still follows the ideology preached by the muftis. It is true that Saudi women are educated but a large portion of their education is of the Wahhabi type, which can only add to conservatism and backwardness. These women disapprove of social participation and wish to remain under the same restrictions,” the expert elaborated.
According to Majlesi, eighty percent of the Saudi population, who lived like primitive until 30 years ago, is now living an urban life. “Those who rode camels until recently are now driving modern cars. However, the shift is nothing but a shift in place. They have brought their primitive culture to the cities. Of course, this does not mean that the Saudi culture cannot be modernized, but I believe that the modernization is not possible in the quick pace bin Salman wants to implement with dictatorship,” the pundit reiterated.
Majlesi then dismissed comparisons between Reza Shah’s modernization and bin Salman’s recent moves, saying bin Salman lacks the abilities of Reza Shah, an ordinary soldier who rose from masses and was not as arrogant as bin Salman. Even Reza Shah, Majlesi noted, fell into corruption of power half way through his reign. “When he gained power, Reza Shah did not own and govern the society,” Majlesi quipped.
Majlesi then called the paradoxes inside the Saudi society one of the reasons for bin Salman’s warmongering. “He wants to divert the public from thinking about the legitimacy of his government, push them into a war, to make them back him for a while when racist and nationalist sentiments are created,” Fararu quoted Majlesi as saying.
“Saudi Arabia is trying to convince Arab states to work with it to win an empire. However, bin Salman’s very aspiration is paradoxical. He has huge accumulated wealth inside the country. While the wealth is on the threshold of rotting in the country, it has given them a sense of superiority.”
Majlesi concluded his remarks by reviewing the situation in other Arab states:
“The government in Iraq has turned into the government of the majority. The majority is Shiite, with an unfavorable attitude toward Saddam, Saudi Arabia, and their supporters. Syria is now on the defensive in order to be able to purge the remains of Salafi Wahhabis. Qatar, ethnically the most Wahhabi country, managed to adjust itself with the new social situation due to a small population and abundant wealth. It did not want to see itself as part of the Saudi empire. The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council did not accept Yemen, as a separate historical entity, because the member states did not want Yemen’s poverty to pull down the council’s wealth average. These states did not even let Yemenis to work in their countries. One reason for the Saudi-Yemeni war was the Council’s failure to accept Yemen as a member. Thus, Yemen too declined to become part of the empire. Oman is also the only country in the peninsula that has acted more independently. The country has skillfully maintained a balance. Saudi Arabia has not been able to increase pressure on Muscat like other countries in the peninsula. Kuwait and the UAE have had border and ideological differences with Saudi Arabia and will soon be worrying about increasing Saudi power and losing their independence. A day will come for their separation too. In fact, the only country remained for Saudi Arabia is Bahrain, which has no choice, due to its small area and population, and the gap between the government and the nation, to have Saudi support.”