Later in the spring of 2015, media sources quoting Al-Manar’s news site said the Al-Khalifa regime canceled Sheikh Isa Qassim’s nationality of prominent Bahraini Shiite clerics.
In a statement issued by the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior, it was stated that according to paragraph (c) of article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Act, the citizenship of Ayatullah Isa Qassim was based on the following: expulsion from citizenship duties and peaceful coexistence; deepening the concepts of tribalism; opposition to the constitution; and Government institutions; creation of divisions in society; as well as efforts to establish clerical rule and religious lawyers. Earlier, Bahraini judicial authorities dissolved Al-Wefaq’s largest population and closed its offices across Bahrain. Bahrain authorities also increased the sentence for Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq Assembly, from 4 years to 9 years. This action of the Al Khalifa regime has led to a wave of dissent and protest reactions inside and outside Bahrain, which is still ongoing.
Who is Sheikh Isa Qassim?
Ayatollah Haj Sheikh Isa Ahmad Qasem al-Durazi al-Bohrani was born in the village of Daraz, from the villages around Manama, the capital of Bahrain, and pursued elementary education in the same village. He started his religious studies in the 1960s under the leadership of Sheikh Alavi Al-Gharifi, and later he went to Najaf and went to the school of Ayatollah Shahid Seyed Mohammad Bagher Sadr. After the formation of the Bahraini nation, people called for the return of Sheikh Qasim and his presence in parliament for the constitution and the establishment of a parliament. He was able to win a high vote by participating in the elections, and along with the Islamist movement that came to the parliament to contribute to the formulation of the Islamic constitutions of Bahrain. In 1971, Sheikh Qasim once again managed to win the confidence of the Bahraini people and make way for the National Assembly, and until his dissolution, the mandate is to act on its behalf. He was previously a founding member of the Islamic Awakening community in 1971.
In the 1990s, another stage in his scientific life begins, and this time he went to the city of Qom to complete his secondary education, and lecturers such as the great verses of the late Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi and Seyyed Kazem Haeri learned religious lessons. He stayed in Qom until 2001, and this year he went to Bahrain and pursued the political efforts of Friday prayers. A set of comments by the great Shi’i scholars such as the Supreme Leader, the great verses of Sayyid Kazem Husseini Haieri, Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, Sayyid Abdullah Al-Gharifi, and Hojjat Islam Sheikh Ali Salman about Ayatollah Shaykh Isa Qassim indicate his high scientific and moral status among the scholars of the Basin and is religious and now Bahraini Shiites consider him the most popular cleric among the people of this country.
The history of Islamic awakening in Bahrain
The Shi’ites of Bahrain started their protest movement at the same time as the wave of Islamic awakening in the Arab countries began. On February 14, 2011, Bahrain was the scene of the peaceful protests of the people against the ruling dynasty and claims for self-determination.
The history of the protest of the Bahraini people to the governing body, of course, goes back to the years ahead. The majority of the people in the country, including the crisis, the Ajams and the Hoolis (Bahrain’s Tunis), do not have a role in the country’s administration and key positions of the country are largely in the hands of the Al-Khalifa family. Despite the fact that these protests became more widespread during the wake of the wave of Islamic awakening, and given the fact that in many countries they were involved in violent protests, but in protest with peaceful means, only through civil disobedience They were trying to pursue their demands, and the adoption of such a procedure, of course, was the result of the Ayatollah Shaikh Issa Qassim’s expedient leadership. While at the 2012 sermon on Friday prayers in Bahrain announced that the Bahraini people needed reform, he repeatedly emphasized that the Bahraini people’s revolution began peacefully and would continue to be peaceful. During these years, he led the Bahraini protests. His sermons during the Friday prayers of Bahrain were always monitored by al-Khalifa media and security agents. But at the same time, he never encouraged his supporters of violence and always emphasized the use of peaceful means to pursue their wishes.
The ruling system in Bahrain, but instead of hearing the demands of the protesters, did not crush any violence against them, and so far in response to the protesters more than 150 of them were martyred and hundreds more wounded. Al-Khalifa’s other strategy for suppressing popular protests was the issuance of a decree of renunciation of revolutionaries and clerics. Reports stating that since 2012, 280 have been abandoned, and many have been exiled, of which only about 200 have become estranged in 2015. However, in line with Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to be a citizen and no one can be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality. As stated in the 1963 Bahraini Constitution, “Every Arab citizen who is 15 years old and a non-Arab citizen who has been resident in the country for 25 years will be granted Bahraini citizenship. Apart from the contradiction in the declaration of the denial of Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim’s Bahraini constitution, it should also be noted that these allegations have not yet been proved in any independent tribunal and equal to the reports of independent human rights institutions such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch , Cases of denial of citizenship and trials in this country regarding political and religious leaders are unequivocal in contravention of international standards and fair grounds, or the grounds for denying citizenship have not been objectively determined.
When Riyadh suppresses Bahraini protesters
Al-Khalifa’s campaign against his political opponents has prompted some analysts to consider some countries, including Saudi Arabia, as the main actors in recent events in Bahrain. According to analysts, Riyadh has played an active role in suppressing the oppressed Shiites of Bahrain, and has had behind-the-scenes hand in denial of Ayatollah Shaykh Isa Qassim. The presence of Saudi troops in suppressing the Bahraini protestors is not a secret, and on the other hand, the regime is suppressing the violence of the Shiite popular protests in the eastern part of the country, and the neighboring Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have created this fear in the hands of the Saudi rulers who have launched a wave of popular Shia protests Bahrain may also include Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, the history of the execution of Ayatollah Nemir, a senior Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia, is an experience facing the Al-Khalifa family. It is therefore unlikely that Saudi officials would play a role in dispossession of the great Shiite major in Bahrain. In this regard, the reaction of the February 14 Bahrain Movement is also interactive. After announcing the denial of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship, the movement, in response to such a decision, issued a statement announcing the move as a political decision that officials from the Saudi regime, whose occupying forces continue to crack down on the Bahraini people, dictated to the authorities of Al-Khalifa.
Global response to human rights abuses in Bahrain
Such a course, of course, was met with numerous reactions in the domestic and foreign arenas. The Bahraini people protested in a protest against the abolition of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship in al-Daraza district, western Manama, in the capital. Also, mosques in al-Daraza district, west of Manama, called on the Bahraini people to gather in front of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s home. The process has continued so far, and whenever news of the efforts of Bahraini regime officials to arrest Sheikh Isa Qassim is presented, the Bahraini revolutionaries gather for a few days at the house of this prominent Shiite cleric. Bahrain’s Human Rights Center, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran and our country’s political officials condemned the move. The US State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned the prominent cleric, claiming that the action of Manama’s regime was Washington’s worry, even the State Department responded to the Bahraini regime’s reluctance to become a Shiite leader. “We continue to have deep concern about the actions of the Bahraini government to arbitrarily abolish the citizenship of its citizens,” the statement said. In addition to the lack of provision for the defense of Sheikh Isa Qassim against the allegations and the issuance of a sentence through non-transparent legal procedures, the statement Concerned
The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region has always been based on the lack of interference in the internal affairs of countries, including Bahrain. However, the adoption of such a procedure has never prevented Ahl al-Khalifa from taking a ruthless and peaceful demonstration of the Shiite people of Bahrain Stay silent and not protest. The al-Khalifa family, which is currently facing increasing levels of objection, has always been accused of accusing the Islamic Republic of Iran and accusing our country of interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs, but the positions of Iranian officials indicate that, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran, That changes in Bahrain come from within.
In this regard the leader of the revolution emphasized in the sermons of Friday prayer in Tehran in the 2010: “Bahraini rulers claimed that Iran intervenes in the cases of Bahrain. This is a lie. No, we do not interfere. We are explicit when we interfere. We intervened in cases of anti-Israelism, which resulted in the victory of the Six Day of War and the victory of the Twenty-fifty war. Thereafter, every nation, any group will fight the Zionist regime, we will be behind it and help it, and there is no reason for anyone to say that. This is the truth and reality. But now, the ruler of the island of Bahrain comes to say that Iran intervenes in the cases of Bahrain, no, that’s not true; it’s a real offense. “If we intervened in Bahrain, things would be different in Bahrain.” He also emphasized in the meeting with the families of the 7th martyrs of martyrs and a group of families of the martyrs of the shrine at the 19th Ramadan: “Look today in Bahrain! The issue of Bahrain is not a Shi’a-Sunni war; the issue of the ferocious sovereign rule of a selfish domineering minority is on a large majority. A small minority is seventy percent, 80 percent of the Bahraini people rule; now [this] Mujahid world has violated Mr. Sheikh Isa Qassim; this is their stupidity, which shows them their stupidity. Sheikh Isa Qasem was the one who, until today and as long as he could speak with people, prevented the armed movements of the people. Not knowing who they were with someone, they do not understand that the attack on Sheikh Isa Qassim means removing the barrier against the passionate young Bahrainis who, if they fall, will not be able to silence them in any way other than the ruling system. ”
In this way, the repression of the people in Bahrain does not only help to stabilize Al-Khalifa’s position in the country, but also lead to an upsurge of protests against dictatorship in this country and the protests could lead to a massive change and a real spring in Bahrain.
Middle East Instability to Overshadow Future Global Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts
The Middle East fragile situation in which contradicting aspirations of states and non-states’ actors that are involved in shaping the regional balance of power would most likely overshadow the global nuclear nonproliferation efforts in the near future. Factors such as the United States withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal last May, and the polarization of Middle Eastern rivals-allies’ relations in recent years, also encompass lack of trust, weakening on norms and increased uncertainty in the region that ultimately undermines existing multilateral arms control arrangements.
Most of the public debate on the Middle East instability, so far, has been focusing on issues such as the implications of intensified subsequent U.S sanctions, or the reaction of the global markets, as well as ongoing polarization in international relations. While this debate is important, attempts to figure out how to best deal with this situation often ignores the context of the overall global efforts to reduce proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their implication on global security stability. A regional stabilization would be more practical by emphasizing the link between the regional WMD challenges to the Treaty on The Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that already encompasses most of these challenges. Developments in Iran’s nuclear actions and the continuing stagnation in the Arab League’s demand to advance negotiation on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free-Zone (WMDFZ) are significant issues that have already taken a toll on the NPT and has already eroded the treaty member states obligations to it.
The above argument is also supported by a recent Russian official statement and by a draft resolution that the League of Arab States have submitted on the Middle East WMDFZ to the United Nations General Assembly. On September 28, 2018, the Russian News Agency published a statement by the Russian Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov. According to Mr. Yermakov, the establishment of a WMDFZ in the region is not feasible today, but it is urgent to advance it since current stagnation would “undermine the foundations of the NPT.” The League of Arab States on their part, presented on October 11, 2018, a new draft resolution to the General Assembly, calling for the Secretary-General to take responsibility on convening a conference to establish a WMDFZ in the Middle East no later than June 2019. This draft resolution takes into consideration the limited time frame before the convening of the 2020 NPT review conference and the 2019 Preparatory committee to the conference.
So far, Five out of nine NPT review conferences that were held quinquennially since 1975 have failed to conclude with a final document, which symbolically shows a unified position and the commitment of the state parties to adhere to the treaty. Legally, the authority of review conferences is to clarify and interpret the treaty clauses, and not to amend them, to improve the treaty’s implementation. This conduct makes the review conference political in nature since adopted decisions are based on political consent and are not legally binding. This political nature has often brought different issues of major controversies, such as the nuclear weapons states’ obligations under the NPT to denuclearize or the Middle East WMDFZ, to overshadow other issues on the agenda, such as the emergence of new technologies, or suggestions to increase transparency that could affect the treaty’s implementation.
In order to strengthen the NPT review process and to promote a constructive dialog among the parties, the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference have decided to include a Preparatory Committee support mechanism to improve the function and the outcomes of their subsequent review conferences. Nevertheless, the attempts to utilize preparatory committees for this aim by ultimately formulate significant recommendations for discussion at the treaty review conferences have failed to meet expectations, so far. Manifested political gaps between the nuclear member states and the non-nuclear member states that frequently appeared in previous review conferences have reproduced to their preparatory committees. These political gaps have practically obstructed improvements and mutual understandings between state parties on nuclear issues, which prevented the formulation of a consensus- based final document in the review conference of 2005 and 2015. This in turn, significantly undermine the strength of the NPT and makes preparatory committees merely a preamble for their consecutive review conferences’ dynamics.
The first sign for the possibility to maintain and improve global cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation, in light of the Middle East tensions, would be given at the upcoming NPT review conference that is expected in April 2020. Positive outcomes of this conference would be achieved once a unified position (or at least the widest possible) of the state parties on their commitment to adhere to the NPT would be formulated and agreed upon in the final document of the conference. As the 2000 and 2010 review conferences showed, a unified position that is brought together with an adoption of some practical steps to promote the treaty goals (with an emphasis on the Middle East WMDFZ) could enhance the significance of the NPT to deal with future nuclear weapons challenges.
Despite the relative success in the 2000 and 2010 conferences, failing to fulfill commitments on the agreed practical steps to promote the Middle East WMDFZ have raised frustration in the League of Arab States. Led by Egypt, the League of Arab States have been calling to promote a WMDFZ since 1974 (together with Iran), and with great extent since the ‘Resolution on The Middle East’ was adopted in the 1995 NPT review and extension conference – a resolution that in practice included the issue within the NPT framework. This issue was ultimately one of the main reasons for the failure of the NPT 2015 review conference due to a disagreement between the US and Egypt. The US-Egypt wrangled over the WMDFZ and accused each other on inflexibility, lack of interest and the use of this topic for political purposes. These direct accusations can only reflect on the overall undermining of the NPT in recent years. The same goes with the Iran Deal, where current inability to reach equilibrium that would suitable the interests of Iran and Russia on one side and the US and other moderate Sunni states on the other side (Israel is not member in the NPT) would eventually pervade to the 2020 review conference negotiations and negatively impact the conference’s outcomes.
Nevertheless, achieving a positive outcome in the 2020 review conference depends not only on what would happen during the conduct of the conference, in terms of dynamics and the convened parties’ will to compromise, but also on the states parties’ ability to cooperate and reach at least principle agreements in the current time frame – prior to the conference’s due date. All the more so, any gains achieved regardless of the NPT context are also likely to negatively impact the 2020 NPT review conference. The treaty’s framework is the most relevant to comprehensively deal with the most crucial aspects of WMD nonproliferation in the Middle East while bringing most of the parties involved together to the same table.
The existing alternatives to gain a progress in the Middle East security situation relays on the ground that the NPT provides. Such alternatives are ranged from convening a regional arms control and regional security conference, as the League of Arab states asserts, through a direct cooperation and involvement of the NPT depositories – Britain, Russia, and the US that could provide guarantees to mitigate regional tensions. Failing to provide a pragmatic prospect for regional negotiations prior to the 2020 review conference would not only deepen the current deadlock and increase instability and frustration but would also undermine the relevancy of the NPT when it is most needed to regulate nonproliferation.
Mohammed bin Salman: For better or for worse?
Embattled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could prove to be not only a cat with nine lives but also one that makes even stranger jumps.
King Salman’s announcement that Prince Mohammed was put in charge of reorganizing Saudi intelligence at the same time that the kingdom for the first time admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed in its Istanbul consulate signalled that the crown prince’s wings were not being clipped, at least not immediately and not publicly.
With little prospect for a palace coup and a frail King Salman unlikely to assume for any lengthy period full control of the levers of power, Prince Mohammed, viewed by many as reckless and impulsive, could emerge from the Khashoggi crisis, that has severely tarnished the kingdom’s image and strained relations with the United States and Western powers, even more defiant rather than chastened by international condemnation of the journalist’s killing.
A pinned tweet by Saud Al-Qahtani, the close associate of Prince Mohammed who this weekend was among several fired senior official reads: “Some brothers blame me for what they view as harshness. But everything has its time, and talk these days requires such language.” That apparently was and could remain Prince Mohammed’s motto.
Said former CIA official, Middle East expert and novelist Graham E. Fuller in a bid to identify the logic of the madness: “As the geopolitics of the world changes—particularly with the emergence of new power centres like China, the return of Russia, the growing independence of Turkey, the resistance of Iran to US domination in the Gulf, the waywardness of Israel, and the greater role of India and many other smaller players—the emergence of a more aggressive and adventuristic Saudi Arabia is not surprising.”
Prince Mohammed’s domestic status and mettle is likely to be put to the test as the crisis unfolds with Turkey leaking further evidence of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi or officially publishing whatever proof it has.
Turkish leaks or officially announced evidence would likely cast further doubt on Saudi Arabia’s assertion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a brawl in the consulate and fuel US Congressional and European parliamentary calls for sanctions, possibly including an arms embargo, against the kingdom.
In a sharp rebuke, US President Donald J. Trump responded to Saudi Arabia’s widely criticized official version of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi by saying that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”.
A prominent Saudi commentator and close associate of Prince Mohammed, Turki Aldakhil, warned in advance of the Saudi admission that the kingdom would respond to Western sanctions by cosying up to Russia and China. No doubt that could happen if Saudi Arabia is forced to seeks alternative to shield itself against possible sanctions.
That, however, does not mean that Prince Mohammed could not be brazen in his effort to engineer a situation in which the Trump administration would have no choice but to fully reengage with the kingdom.
Despite pundits’ suggestion that Mr. Trump’s Saudi Arabia-anchored Middle East strategy that appears focussed on isolating Iran, crippling it economically with harsh sanctions, and potentially forcing a change of regime is in jeopardy because of the damage Prince Mohammed’s international reputation has suffered, Iran could prove to be the crown prince’s window of opportunity.
“The problem is that under MBS, Saudi Arabia has become an unreliable strategic partner whose every move seems to help rather than hinder Iran. Yemen intervention is both a humanitarian disaster and a low cost/high gain opportunity for Iran,” tweeted former US Middle East negotiator Martin Indyk, referring to Prince Mohammed by his initials.
Mr. “Trump needed to make clear he wouldn’t validate or protect him from Congressional reaction unless he took responsibility. It’s too late for that now. Therefore I fear he will neither step up or grow up, the crisis will deepen and Iran will continue to reap the windfall,” Mr. Indyk said in another tweet.
If that was likely an unintended consequence of Prince Mohammed’s overly assertive policy and crude and ill-fated attempts to put his stamp on the Middle East prior to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, it may since in a twisted manner serve his purpose.
To the degree that Prince Mohammed has had a thought-out grand strategy since his ascendancy in 2015, it was to ensure US support and Washington’s reengagement in what he saw as a common interest: projection of Saudi power at the expense of Iran.
Speaking to The Economist in 2016, Prince Mohammed spelled out his vision of the global balance of power and where he believed Saudi interests lie. “The United States must realise that they are the number one in the world and they have to act like it,” the prince said.
In an indication that he was determined to ensure US re-engagement in the Middle East, Prince Mohammed added: “We did not put enough efforts in order to get our point across. We believe that this will change in the future.”
Beyond the shared US-Saudi goal of clipping Iran’s wings, Prince Mohammed catered to Mr. Trump’s priority of garnering economic advantage for the United States and creating jobs. Mr. Trump’s assertion that he wants to safeguard US$450 billion in deals with Saudi Arabia as he contemplates possible punishment for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi is based on the crown prince’s dangling of opportunity.
“When President Trump became president, we’ve changed our armament strategy again for the next 10 years to put more than 60 percent with the United States of America. That’s why we’ve created the $400 billion in opportunities, armaments and investment opportunities, and other trade opportunities. So this is a good achievement for President Trump, for Saudi Arabia,” Prince Mohammed said days after Mr. Khashoggi disappeared.
The crown prince drove the point home by transferring US$100 million to the US, making good on a long standing promise to support efforts to stabilize Syria, at the very moment that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week landed in Riyadh in a bid to defuse the Khashoggi crisis.
A potential effort by Prince Mohammed to engineer a situation in which stepped-up tensions with Iran supersede the fallout of the Khashoggi crisis, particularly in the US, could be fuelled by changing attitudes and tactics in Iran itself.
The shift is being driven by Iran’s need to evade blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog. Meeting the group’s demands for enhanced legislation and implementation is a pre-requisite for ensuring continued European support for circumventing crippling US sanctions.
In recognition of that, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dropped his objection to adoption of the FATF-conform legislation.
If that were not worrisome enough for Prince Mohammed, potential Iranian efforts to engage if not with the Trump administration with those segments of the US political elite that are opposed to the president could move the crown prince to significantly raise the stakes, try to thwart Iranian efforts, and put the Khashoggi crisis behind him.
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of parliament’s influential national security and foreign policy commission, signalled the potential shift in Iranian policy by suggesting that “there is a new diplomatic atmosphere for de-escalation with America. There is room for adopting the diplomacy of talk and lobbying by Iran with the current which opposes Trump… The diplomatic channel with America should not be closed because America is not just about Trump.”
Should he opt, to escalate Middle Eastern tensions, Prince Mohammed could aggravate the war in Yemen, viewed by Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration as a proxy war with Iran, or seek to provoke Iran by attempting to stir unrest among its multiple ethnic minorities.
To succeed, Prince Mohammed would have to ensure that Iran takes the bait. So far, Iran has sat back, gloating as the crown prince and the kingdom are increasingly cornered by the Khashoggi crisis, not wanting to jeopardize its potential outreach to Mr. Trump’s opponents as well as Europe.
That could change if Prince Mohammed decides to act on his vow in 2017 that “we won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia Instead, we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”
A gruesome murder bares world powers’ flawed policies
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder raises fundamental questions that go far beyond Middle Eastern geopolitics.
They go to the risks of support for autocratic regimes by democratic and authoritarian world powers, the rise of illiberal democracy in the West, increasing authoritarianism in Russia, and absolute power in China in which checks and balances are weakened or non-existent.
Mr. Khashoggi’s killing is but the latest incident of hubris that stems from the abandonment of notions of civility, tolerance and plurality; and the ability of leaders to get away with murder, literally and figuratively. It also is the product of political systems with no provisions to ensure that the power of men like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is restrained and checked.
Mr. Khashoggi was an advocate of the necessary checks and balances.
In his last column published in The Washington Post posthumously, Mr. Khashoggi argued that “the Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”
Mr. Khashoggi’s words were echoed by prominent journalist and political analyst Rami Khouri. “We are heading to the law of the jungle if big power and Mideast state autocracy is not held accountable,” Mr. Khouri said.
In a similar vein, a survey by the Arab Barometer survey concluded that public institutions in the Arab world, including the judiciary enjoyed little, if any, public trust.
“Part of the lack of trust comes from the disenfranchisement felt by many, especially youth and women… The lack of alternative political forces is adding to the fatigue and lack of trust in institutions. Citizens in the region struggle to find an alternative to the ruling elite that might help address the issues of ineffective governance and corruption,” said a report by the Carnegie for Endowment of Peace.
“Citizens are increasingly turning toward informal mechanisms such as protests and boycotts, and focusing more on specific issues of governance, such as service provision, particularly at the local level. Furthermore, with democracy under threat across the globe, calls for broad democratic reform have been replaced by more basic demands,” the report went on to say.
What puts the price Mr. Khashoggi paid for advocating controls of absolute power in a class of its own, is the brutality of his killing, the fact that he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul rather than, for example, by an unknown killer on a motorbike; and the increasingly difficult effort to resolve politically the crisis his death sparked.
Beyond the support by world powers of often brutal autocrats facilitated by a lack of checks and balances that in the past three decades has destroyed countries and costs the lives of millions, Mr. Khashoggi’s murder is also the product of the failure of Western leaders to seriously address the breakdown in confidence in leadership and political systems at home and abroad.
The breakdown peaked with the 2011 popular Arab revolts; simultaneous widespread protests in Latin America, the United States and Europe; and the increased popularity of anti-system, nationalist and populist politicians on both the right and the left.
Mr. Khashoggi joins the victims of extrajudicial poisoning in Britain by Russian operatives of people who like him may have been a thorn in the side of their leaders but did not pose an existential threat – not that that would justify murder or attempted murder.
He also joins the millions of casualties of failed policy and hubris caused by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s gassing of Kurds in the 1980s and reckless 1990 invasion of Kuwait, support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s determination to cling to power irrespective of the human cost, the Saudi-UAE-led war in Yemen that has produced the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two, and China’s attempt to brainwash and socially engineer what the country’s leaders see as the model Chinese citizen.
And those are just some of the most egregious instances.
No better are the multiple ways in which autocratic leaders try to ensure conformity not only through repression and suppression of a free press but also, for example, by deciding who deserves citizenship based upon whether they like their political, economic or social views rather than on birth right.
Take Bahrain whose minority Sunni Muslim regime has stripped hundreds of its nationals of their citizenship simply because it did not like their views or Turkey with its mass arrests of anyone critical of the government.
The irony is that if elections in democracies are producing illiberal leaders like US President Donald J. Trump, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Victor Orban, in Asia and Africa they are bring forth governments mandated to reverse Belt and Road-related, Chinese funding of projects that primarily benefit China rather than the recipient economically and pave the way for greater Chinese influencing of domestic politics as well as the export of systems that enhance unchecked state power.
In some cases, like Malaysia, they produce leaders willing to take on China’s creation of a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state in its north-western province of Xinjiang.
It matters little what label world powers put on their support for autocrats and illiberals. The United States has long justified its policy with the need for regional stability in the greater Middle East. Russia calls it international legality while China packages is it as non-interference in the domestic affairs of others.
Said Middle East expert and former US official Charles Kestenbaum building on Mr. Khashoggi’s words: “If they (Middle Eastern states) want to compete with the globe in IT (information technology) and tech more broadly, they must encourage risk, innovation and freedom to fail. Such social and political freedom does not exist adequately in the region. The opposite in fact, authoritarian regimes repress such initiative and openness. So what do they have to compete and globally engage in the 2020’s? Nothing.”
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