The fact that the Saudi monarchy is among the most corrupt regimes in the Muslim world, and remains in power only because they serve the interests of the US rather than because of any legitimacy among Muslims, has long been generally accepted throughout the Ummah. It is only the enemies of Islam and ignorant Western commentators who imagine that they have any meaningful standing or influence because of their Islamic pretensions and the fact that they control the territory in which the Haramain are located. Nonetheless, the US in particular seems to think that Saudi support or involvement can bestow some degree of credibility on American plans; hence the pressure on the Saudis to sponsor a plan by which troops from Muslim countries would be sent to Iraq to support US troops there.
The plan, described as a Saudi initiative, was announced by US and Iraqi officials on July 29, after meetings between US secretary of state Colin Powell and Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi in Jeddah. Although Saudi officials tried to play the idea down, saying the plans were at an early stage, they were heavily talked up by US officials, eager to create the impression that their occupation of Iraq was endorsed by other Arab states. It quickly became clear, however, that the plans were not practical. For one thing, the Saudis were only sponsoring the plan, but the troops were expected to come from opther countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Bangladesh, none of which was particularly anxious to get involved. There were also differences about what the troops’ role would be. While US officials insisted that they would operate under US command, doing jobs that US troops did not like to do, such as patrolling Iraqi cities where they were both highly visible and vulnerable to attack, Saudi officials — trying to put the proposal in as positive a light as possible for Muslims — suggested the plan would be the first step of a US withdrawal. Little wonder, then, that the plan came to nothing; perhaps few slightly positive Iraq-related headlines was all that the Bush regime really expected from it.
For Muslims, however, the fact that the Saudi government is so beholden to the US — and perhaps to the Bush regime in particular, given the close business and other links between the Bush family and Aal-e Saud — that they can be forced into such posturing is yet another sign of their irredeemable illegitimacy.
Cosmetic political reforms, by which the Saudis and their US allies hope to make the kingdom appear more ‘democratic’, cannot change this. The Saudi authorities announced on August 9 details of the municipal elections to be held later this year, the first in the country since the 1970s. The elections will be held in three phases, beginning after Eid al-Fitr and continuing after Eid al-Adha. The polls, which will elect half the members of municipal councils — the other half will continue to be appointed by the government — will hardly dent the Saudis’ total hold on real power; the phenomenon of al-democratiyya al-shakliyya — ‘facade democracy’, behind which the powers of authoritarian regimes remain undiminished, is well established and widely recognised in the Arab world.
Muslims around the world know, and the Saudis know that they know, that only the removal of the regime will truly liberate the Haramain and the heartland of Islam.