Saudi protesters continue staging demonstrations against the violent policies of the Riyadh regime despite the crackdown by the Kingdom’s security forces.
Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.
However, the demonstrations have turned into protest rallies against the Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province.
Similar demonstrations have also been held in the capital, Riyadh, and the holy city of Medina over the past few weeks.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.”
Press TV has conducted an interview with Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official, to further discuss the issue.
The program also provides the opinions of two additional guests: former US Intelligence officer, Bob Ayers and also Fuad Ibrahim, author of “Shiites of Saudi Arabia.”
The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
How do you look as an observer, how do you look at what is happening in Saudi Arabia? Is it much different than the other revolutions or other protests that are taking place across the Arab world?
Well, I think it is beginning to develop over time. There is a ground swell of protests and for very good reasons and an immediate response of course has been a crackdown by the monarchy that we saw it also in Bahrain and we are seeing it again, we saw it in Yemen certainly and we are seeing it now again in Saudi Arabia.
The interesting thing is how quiet the United States has become over these developments not only in Bahrain but also in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Maloof, it seems that even the reports coming out from Human Rights Organizations are not well accepted or spoken of by Western countries especially the United States?
Well that is true and I think that for the most part, Western media does not quite understand what the ground swell of opposition is and yearning for democracy that people are seeking.
The people in Bahrain as well as the people in the Eastern Province have been very oppressed and I think one of the problems for the Saudis is that they saw what happened in Bahrain as a prelude to what could be happening within their own Eastern Province and as a consequence they introduced troops into Bahrain and now they are squelching and they are taking violent action against the demonstrators and it is actually creating greater opposition as a consequence.
United States is having a problem dealing with this kind of reaction. They on the one hand support democratic principles, on the other hand it is difficult for them to give up their strategic or jeopardize their strategic interest as was the case in Bahrain and it is the case now in Saudi Arabia.
So does Saudi Arabia feel like it is immune because it knows that the United States has interest both in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and therefore it can protect its reign?
I think it gives it a certain Teflon coating if you will from the major criticisms from the United States and the West that we saw them exercising towards the Syrians.
The reason I think that the Saudis have really begun to branch out and take on their own initiatives is that they just have not trusted the United States any longer as a result of the experience with Mubarak and as a consequence they are really conducting their own policies now and the United States is sort of being caught off guard I think once again because if this thing really kicks into our heavy ground swell as the potential is there, the United States is going to have to deal with this sooner than later.
They might be quiet now but I am sure that there is a lot of discussion going on behind the scenes.
Mr. Maloof, your comments.
Let me just add that you are not going to see a lot of criticism openly from the United States right now towards Saudi Arabia simply because the Saudis are playing the US foreign policy card towards Syria.
And I think as long as that is going on and that the ground swell of protest from within has now reached a crescendo that really grabs attention. I think the United States is going to continue along with its foreign policy because their goal, US goal is to oust Assad principally because the United States is taking the decision back in Saudi Arabia against Iran.
Mr. Maloof, do you agree with this analysis? How do you look at it especially when it comes to the issue of dependence on the United States? Are they dependant when it comes to the issue of Iran because they fear this going influence?
Well I think the United States is perhaps one of their major supporters in opposing Iran at this point and of course they are absolutely paranoid at this juncture about Iran and as we have seen in Bahrain you have a virtual proxy war going on, you have a proxy war between Shia and Sunni going on and basically in Syria at this point and I think we are going to be seeing it shortly in Saudi Arabia.
Yes, they are not really dependent upon the United States for protection but of course when you combine all the [P]GCC countries, the [Persian] Gulf Arab countries combined militarily will not be able to oppose Iran militarily and I think that is why you still have Bahrain sponsoring United States and the Fifth Fleet there and I think that they are very comfortable with that type of security blanket but on the other hand the Saudis do not fully trust the United States any longer as far as guaranteeing security because of what happened in Egypt.
Mr. Maloof, from where you look at it, does it look to you as a sectarian movement when it comes to protests in Saudi Arabia or do you think that all the Saudis agree that there has to be reform in the kingdom?
Well I think there has to be reform in the kingdom as you pointed out earlier in the program there is dichotomy of wealth, a polarization of wealth and I think people are not benefiting from the billions of dollars at the kingdom takes in every day and effectively you have the kingdom trying to buy off protesters sending out billions of dollars for reform just to placate but that is a very temporary measure.
What they want is more democratic say in the politics. They want to lift some of the very stringent conditions that exist on them now from above and I think the only way that they can do that is by genuine protest.
It is sectarian in the sense that it has been Shia who have been oppressed for so long in Saudi Arabia who are saying we have had enough.