Anti-regime protesters stage rally in Saudi Arabia’s coastal town of Qatif on July 8, 2012.
Recent months have provided the world with a grotesque spectacle of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the other reactionary Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf pretending to take the lead in the struggle for democracy and human rights in a number of countries, most recently Syria.
Now, there are numerous signs that a revolutionary upsurge may soon be on the agenda in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, with Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Oman possibly not far behind. The successful overthrow of the oppressive monarchies of these nations would be an event of world historical significance, and would represent a victory for world peace and a grievous defeat for the imperialist world domination of Washington and London.
The reactionary monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula on the shores of the Persian Gulf are all members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which was formed to support Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. Jordan and Morocco, the two Arab monarchies outside of the Persian Gulf, have been invited to join the GCC, which would make it a kind of self-defense league for endangered royals. The GCC has also talked of making a transition from regional bloc to confederation; Saudi Arabia advocates this idea, while the other monarchies fear being swallowed up.
The Arab monarchies that emerged under British auspices from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire have always represented an anachronism, in sharp contradiction to the whole direction of modern history and human progress elsewhere in the world.
The last hundred years have seen a nearly uninterrupted catalog of monarchies which have become extinct. The Chinese Empire ended in 1911. At the end of World War I, monarchies were falling like bowling pins. This included the Habsburg Emperors of Austria-Hungary, the Romanoff Czars of Russia, and the Hohenzollern Emperors of Germany and Kings of Prussia. The Sultan or Caliph of the Ottoman Empire was also deposed. These were soon followed by the Spanish monarchy. The Japanese tried to create a new empire in Manchuria, but they were unsuccessful. At the end of World War II, additional monarchies became extinct in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. In July, 1952, King Farouk of Egypt was overthrown by Colonel Nasser and the Free Officers movement. The British had installed King Idris as Libyan ruler in 1951, but he was ousted by a military coup led by Colonel Qaddafi. The Hashemite rulers of Iraq were ousted in 1958 by the coup led by General Kasem. In the 1970s, Spain swam against the tide by restoring its royal house. But around the same time the Greek monarchy came to an end. The Islamic Revolution in Iran overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in February 1979.
Only in the Arab territories of the former Ottoman Empire could monarchy make a comeback, due largely to the influence of the British Empire, and then increasingly to the support of the United States. The current monarchy of the House of Saud emerged during World War I under the sponsorship of the British, who through Lawrence of Arabia had incited the Arabs of Hijaz to rebel against the Turkish Sultan. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British tried to put Syria and Iraq under a monarchy of the House of Hashem, and the Hashemites hold the Jordanian Crown today.
Saudi Arabia is still an absolute monarchy. Few people in the West have any comprehension of what this means. Under the House of Saud, there are no guaranteed rights, no separation of powers, no checks and balances, no guarantee of due process. There is no written constitution. The monarch is considered to be the owner of the entire country and of all the people in it, over whom he exercises a theoretical - and sometimes grimly practical - power of life and death. Representative bodies are sometimes chosen or nominated, but they are purely consultative: they can offer advice the crown, but they have no power to block or implement any policy.
Absolute monarchy also prevails under the Thani family in Qatar, the home of the Al Jazeera propaganda channel. After World War II, Qatar was one of the poorest countries in the region, with a pearl industry in decline. The Thanis, like the Sauds, are members of the militant Wahhabite sect, and for a time they were in danger of being absorbed into the Saudi kingdom. The Thani royals were saved by the discovery of oil, and by their Exclusive Agreement with Great Britain. There is a tradition of coup d’état by disgruntled factions inside the royal family, and there may have been an attempt of this type in the spring of 2012.
Another absolute monarchy is that of the Sultanate of Oman, which is subjected to the rule of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who overthrow his own father in a palace coup in July 1973 and sent him to live out his days in Claridges Hotel in London. The Saids have been in power since 1744.
Bahrain, since 1783 under the rule of the Khalifa family, claims to be a constitutional monarchy, but the events of the last 18 months have shown that the monarchical power is practically totalitarian. Bahrain was a British protectorate until 1971. The Khalifas are Sunni Muslims in a majority Shiite country, and nevertheless they monopolize the most important posts in the government. Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932, before any of the other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and oil production has been in decline. As a result, the standard of living here is lower than in the neighboring countries. The monarchy was saved from possible overthrow by a mass upsurge on March 14, 2011 thanks to the Peninsula Shield Force of Saudi and Emirati personnel which crushed the protest demonstrations. Demonstrators have been subjected to draconian jail sentences, while censorship and electronic surveillance remain the order of the day.
The United Arab Emirates, the old Trucial States, are a confederation of seven absolute mini-monarchies, of which the most important are Abu Dhabi under the Nahyans and Dubai under the Maktoum family. These were under British rule until 1971. Along with Qatar, the UAE has been at the forefront of attempts to destabilize Syria. The UAE also took the lead during the attack on Libya, and now hopes to play a prominent role in the looting of Libya’s oil wealth under the new regime.
Kuwait is ruled by the Sabah family, who were restored by US in the first Persian Gulf War. During that conflict, it was revealed that the Sabahs, like their monarchical colleagues, still practice household slavery, which the US under George H. W. Bush, was thus supporting. During the Iraq war, Kuwait was turned into a US garrison state. Kuwait has a parliament, but the government is appointed by the Sabahs. The opposition is pressing for full parliamentary democracy, while the Sabahs are trying to hold on to power by changing the voting law.
All of these monarchies fear their own populations. They therefore rely on the support of the United States and the British. In addition, they also cooperate closely with the Israeli Mossad.
The hedonistic Persian Gulf monarchs need to contemplate the sad fate of Louis Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, in the French Revolution. Descended from the younger branch of the French royal House of Bourbon, he thought he could ride the tiger of revolutionary agitation and gain more power for himself. He called himself Philippe Egalité, and organized the 1789 storming of the Bastille which set off the revolution. He voted for the death sentence for his relative, Louis XVI. But in the end, the forces Philippe Egalité had unleashed turned against him, and he died on the guillotine in November 1793 at the height of the reign of terror which he had helped to unleash. The Persian Gulf monarchs pretending to support revolutions should take note.
To qualify as a real revolution, a political upheaval needs to create an important and lasting institutional change. This can be the overthrow of the monarchy, the ouster of a foreign colonial power, a land reform capable of breaking the power of latifundists, the abolition of slavery, or other achievements of the same magnitude. By this measure, the French, American, Russian, Chinese, Egyptian, and Iranian revolutions fulfill the necessary criteria.
By contrast, the events of the Arab Spring have so far fallen short. In Egypt in particular, it was clear that the seizure of power by the Army in the wake of Mubarak’s departure meant that a second revolution would be needed - just as the Russian Revolution of February 1917 was followed by the October Revolution of the same year. Whether Egypt gets a second revolution remains to be seen.
But the overthrow of the House of Saud, likely followed by the toppling of its satellites in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, would send positive shockwaves around the world. In addition to lifting an oppressive yoke from the populations involved, it would accelerate the transition from the unipolar world domination exercised by the Anglo-Americans after 1992, and would speed the transition towards world normalization on a multi-polar basis. Because imperialism would be significantly weakened by the fall of these kings, the future of national states would become brighter all over the planet.