August 28, 2017


Saudi suppression of Shiites threatens Canadian arms deal (Bruce Riedel August 15, 2017, Al Monitor)

In 2011, King Abdullah had deployed the National Guard, equipped with an earlier generation of Canadian armor, to prop up the Khalifas, Bahrain's minority Sunni royal family, which faced a majority Shiite population demanding profound political changes that would have made the island kingdom the first democratic government in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudi intervention was the first instance of an Arab Spring rebellion being stymied and underscored the Saudi royal family's determination to lead the counterrevolution against reform in the Arab world. [...]

Trudeau's government has portrayed itself as more inclined to promote human rights than its predecessor. It also governs a Canadian public that, like those in most Western countries, is more skeptical about Saudi Arabia and is more inclined to question the wisdom of supporting an absolute monarchy that propagates Wahhabism, a uniquely intolerant brand of Sunni Islam. The war in Yemen only added to Canadian concerns about the wisdom of backing Saudi Arabia. After 2½ years, the Saudi campaign is a quagmire and has had and continues to have horrendous consequences for the Yemeni people.

Under King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia has become more sectarian than ever. Shiites in general and Iran in particular have been branded enemies of the state. A long-simmering conflict with the kingdom's minority Shiite community in the oil-rich Eastern Province has escalated under Salman. The epicenter of the conflict is the oasis of Qatif, especially Awamiya, an old city with a historic core from the Ottoman Empire that was built before the Saudis conquered it from the Turks early in the 20th century. It was the hometown of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whom the government executed in January 2016 for allegedly supporting Iran and violence. His execution led to the rupturing of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

The old city has since been all but destroyed after fierce clashes between the Saudi Arabian National Guard and Shiite activists this year. Video shows widespread damage and destruction. Riyadh does not dispute the intensity of the clashes. The Saudis have promised to rebuild the area with a modern urban environment. The Shiites are understandably skeptical. Successive Saudi kings have failed to improve life for the Shiite population.

Posted by at August 28, 2017 8:12 AM