Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
ON more than one occasion, this columnist has visited US Senators as well as Members of the House of Representatives in the US Congress. That country ensures secretarial assistance to its legislators, not to mention impressive offices within the stately buildings housing them. However, stone and mortar cannot substitute for brain matter, and interactions with several lawmakers are an exercise in futility, unless their staff have already been apprised of the views being expressed by the visitor to the US Congressman or Senator. Almost all the time, the views of these worthies are exactly what members of their staff have briefed them on, and to change the mind of a legislator away from the advice he or she has been given by key staff is as difficult as a block of ice surviving in hellfire.
There is a gargantuan network within Washington DC (as in other capitals of NATO’s three Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, such as London or Paris) that has for more than three decades been lavishly looked after by what may be termed the Wahabbi International. These include think-tank and university staff who interact frequently with aides of US legislators, besides serving and retired officials. This powerful network has been looking for an opportunity to seek to create diplomatic pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to replace Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with another royal who does not share the young royal’s determination to wean his country away from Wahabbism into the modern era. Women being allowed to drive or movies being screened may seem inconsequential to many across the world, but in Saudi Arabia,they are a giant leap forward into modernity. Given the age and less than perfect health of King Salman, it is an existential matter for the Wahabbi International to get Crown Prince Salman replaced with another member of the Al Saud family, who is almost certain to roll back the de-Wahabbization campaign of the Crown Prince. It is this determination to effect regime change in Saudi Arabia that is behind the frenzied campaign in media across the world to persuade King Salman to replace the Crown Prince with another member of the ruling family.
The lack of familiarity of US legislators with anything not connected with their political futures has been helpful to the Wahabbi International in its “Oust the Crown Prince” drive. Rand Paul, a US Senator, is an example. He has tweeted about how Saudi Arabia has been (in his view) promoting radicalism for years, and hence has made itself undeserving of remaining a US ally. Rand Paul has apparently got staff who do not know the difference between the Middle East and the Midwest of the United States. Else they would have pointed out to him that it is precisely to roll back such support to radicals that the de-Wahabbization drive has been launched by Crown Prince Mohammad, and that his exit would result in the collapse of such efforts. Yet another instance of jumping to conclusions based on unproven premises is shown by Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican who claims that he is as close to President Trump as the 45th US President’s own family. In the matter of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Senator Graham waxed loudly and often about how his Democratic Party colleagues were jumping to conclusions about the accuracy of the allegations levelled against him by Christine Blasey Ford. But he seems unaware that he is himself jumping to conclusions about the complicity of the Crown Prince in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. Clearly, his reliance on the principle that a person is innocent unless proven guilty is shaky at best. It is not obvious that Senator Graham is the Administrator of Saudi Arabia, the way Paul Bremer was once Administrator of Iraq, a country that he must have been familiar with only through comic books, so scant was his understanding of Iraqi or indeed Arab society. However, this did not stop the self-appointed Overlord of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from demanding that King Salman dismiss the Crown Prince.
Such insulting behaviour to leaders in countries outside NATO is commonplace within the major capitals linking that always failing alliance, but it would appear that none in Graham’s staff has any concept of treating sovereign nations differently from the way slaveholders treated their chattel in Senator Graham’s state before a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, put a stop to such barbarity. Of course, the NATO doctrine is that none of the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed by that alliance in just the 21st century is worth any regret or punishment on the perpetrators King Salman made an inspired choice when he appointed the Crown Prince, given the de-Wahabbization movement begun by the young heir to the Saudi throne.
Islam is a peaceful and progressive faith, and only such an approach can ensure that the global Ummah develop to the full the potential that Almighty has given it in the form of ability and intellect. For the future success of his country, Crown Prince Mohammad’s drive for modernisation needs to be pressed forward with greater speed rather than torpedoed through the regime change demanded by self-appointed colonial-minded politicians in countries whose own historical record is in several patches less than perfect. The tone and content of Senator Rand’s tweet shows only ignorance of the history of Saudi Arabia. However, the comments of Senator Graham show the same contempt for Asia which led US policymakers to seek to maintain French colonial rule in Vietnam.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.