Arab Spring in new Saudi Arabia!

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THE Lebanese journalist exclaimed: “You have occupied the media world, Saudis!” Most headlines in newspapers, TV channels and radio stations, beside the social media, have been allocated to you for two years now. Take, for example, these three mega issues raised in one day: The war on corruption, the Iranian missile on Riyadh, and the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation, being announced in Saudi Arabia!”

“I have postponed my vacation, repeatedly, because of you guys! Finally I am allowed to take it next week. Could you please take some rest and let me have my much-awaited and needed break,” she added, laughing.

She called again, less than 48 hours later, to ask for my comments on Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s interview with The New York Times! I joked: It seems your vacation will be postponed, once more!

The NYT’s famous writer, Thomas Friedman, was right when he commented on his meeting with the Prince that for the first time an Arab leader wore him out. After being flooded for four hours by information and ideas, he felt unable to continue!

The new Saudi Arabia is witnessing a successful Arab spring because, as the Prince explained, the change began from the top. The leadership took the initiative to reform the system, reshape the government and fight corruption starting from the elite downward. The Arab revolutions have failed because they arose from the bottom up.

I would add that this is not new. It started with the first Saudi state, three centuries ago, to unite the country, reform the regime and develop society under the reign of Imam Muhammad Bin Saud. The same occurred in the second and third Saudi state, during the reign of King Abdulaziz, who placed it on the path of development at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, under the rule of the seventh king, of the third state, King Salman, and his heir, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the fourth Saudi state is being built. Radical reforms continue the march of the nation to join the Superpower Club of the second millennium.

The interview of MBS (as the crown prince is now known in the international media) included several issues. The most important was the chronic disease, corruption, which had to be treated promptly and effectively, if the Kingdom wished to stay in the league of the world’s top 20 economies (G20), and to successfully implement its Vision 2030.

The depletion of resources by 10 percent per year for four decades has been accompanied by fraudulent projects, faulty plans, under incompetent management, supervision and implementation. All the above has been demonstrated by Jeddah floods that have been drowning us over and over again in the last 50 years, up to the recent disasters of 2010, 2014 and 2015. The first project for the disposal of rainwater and floods was announced after the 1970 flood, and has been included in the first five-year development plan, and every development plan since. However, according to Jeddah Municipality, only 18 percent of this project was completed, most of which are dilapidated, despite all the billions of riyals spent over the last five decades.

What I liked most in the interview is how the Crown Prince, as usual, called things, events and people by their real names. Apart from corruption, he described Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as the world’s new Hitler. It is an apt description. Adolf Hitler, too, led an aggressive, expansionist war to achieve world domination. He was driven by Aryan racism and Nazi ideology that eventually destroyed much of the world and his country. He also called for death to Jews and the rest of his enemies. The policy of containment and appeasement failed, forcing Europe and its allies to confront him after he became stronger and more dangerous.

Today, history is repeating itself with Iran and its Safavid dictator. The world has offered the Grand Mullah a profitable nuclear agreement. US President Barack Obama turned a blind eye to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and destructive behavior. Europe is falling over itself to make profitable business deals with the rogue nation. If this policy does not change soon, we will pay a hefty price after the mullahs complete their nuclear program few years down the road, besides the present nuclear-carrying missile project. The Revolutionary Guards are already threatening Europe with their new, longer-range ballistic missiles, exactly as their North Korean partners are threatening their neighbors and the United States.

Thank you, our Crown Prince. We have been thrilled with your vision and determination to complete the historic project of the Fourth Saudi State without hesitation, reluctance or postponement.

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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