News Release

Saudi Attacks Syrian Regime, While Repressing Its Eastern Province


TOBY C. JONES, tobycjones at, @tobycraigjones
Jones is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book “Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia.” He said today: “Saudi Arabia is an unlikely champion of humanitarian causes. Indeed, the kingdom’s support of the armed opposition in Syria and its calls for military action against the Assad regime have little to do with principle or support for a democratic transition there. Instead, Riyadh seeks to alter the regional balance of power away from Iran, Assad’s most important patron, and in its favor. Syrian lives are pawns in this regional game. Just as important, Saudi leaders are also using the crisis in Syria to direct both foreign and domestic attention away from its own internal problems, most notably ongoing protests in its oil rich Eastern Province and the government’s brutal handling of them.”

JESS HILL, jess.hill at, @JessRadio
Middle East correspondent for the Global Mail, Hill just wrote the piece “The Growing Rebellion in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s King has been unusually outspoken against Syria’s regime. But what about the rebellion in his own Kingdom? And what kind of ruler will his heir apparent be?” The piece states: “On Saudi Arabia’s much-anticipated ‘Day of Rage’ last year, government minders drove a BBC crew into the center of the capital, Riyadh, to film the ‘no-show’. Police had locked down the capital, and they were confident nobody would show up.

“Imagine their shock, then, when Khaled al-Johani, a teacher and father of five, walked straight up to the BBC crew, and said: ‘The royal family don’t own us! We have a right to speak.’ As government minders closed in on the group, he grew more emphatic: ‘If you speak, they will put you in jail after five minutes!’ When the BBC reporter asked him what would happen to him, he replied, ‘I will go in the jail with a big smile — because I am already in a jail!’ (Al-Johani was arrested that day, and has been in prison since March. He stood trial in a closed court on February 22; the verdict has not been made public.)

“Al-Johani was outspoken, but he was just one man. The world’s investment community breathed a sigh of relief. Why were we so worried about this ‘day of rage’? Saudis don’t protest. Most of them are too comfortable, and internal security is too effective. The Arab Spring won’t come to Saudi Arabia.

“But they were wrong.

“Saudis are protesting. They’ve been protesting for over a year. Their numbers are growing. And there’s no sign of them stopping.”